Mark Raine served as Sales and Marketing Vice President at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia from 2014 to 2019. He is now the Sales and Marketing Vice President at Mercedes-Benz South Korea. This story first appeared in Prestige Malaysia September 2019 issue.
An interview with Mark Raine, former Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia, is like a masterclass in marketing. There is an energy that is infectious, plus he offers various insights that give his arguments the substance that is so often missing from “marketing talk.”
In the four years since Raine assumed his position in Malaysia, volumes have grown 90 percent, firmly entrenching Mercedes-Benz at the top of the luxury car market. The growth might even have slightly exceeded his own expectations.
“If anybody would have asked beforehand, I would have signed up to 75 percent,” he says with a laugh. “At the first dealer meeting I said we were going to go for 10,000 cars that year and they looked at me like ‘you are out of your mind’.”
Just 33 when he took on the role as VP, Raine came into Malaysia with a specific goal – that Mercedes-Benz was going to be the number one premium brand. The next four years was going to be spent pursuing that aim with a clear and strategic road map. “I made the organisation turn around and be hungry and really focus on the essentials, ensuring that we deliver the promise of best cars, premium service and always pursuing our vision of modern luxury or best or nothing,” he explains.
Part of his strategy, early on, was to change the way the brand was perceived. “Mercedes Benz is a luxury brand,” he says. “But I always wanted the brand to be more human. It is supposed to be exclusive and elegant but not aloof and arrogant.” To achieve this, Raine made it a point to integrate and involve all stakeholders. To achieve this, he travelled the length and breadth of Malaysia, establishing a strong relationship with dealers while holding customer events at various dealerships.
“It didn’t matter if it was Batu Pahat or Sungai Petani. I have been to many cities in Malaysia that others have not been to. It was important to me,” he says. “I don’t like an approach where you only focus on a certain group. I made it a point that we visit the dealers every couple of months and do the Yam Seng. I really enjoy it.”
For Raine, it was essential to engage with the dealers, and ensure that they were on board with what he was trying to accomplish. “We can never be successful alone,” he says. “We can only be successful together. A big part in my view was the trust element. I went to the dealers and told them that we need to step up our game. Give me your trust and I will give you a direction.”
The dealers, he admits, did challenge him quite a bit but they also trusted his vision. Case in point was in May 2016 when Mercedes-Benz introduced the C-Class Coupé. “Everyone said it wouldn’t work, Malaysia is not a coupé market,” he recalls. “But I believed that Malaysia has a growing affluent youth who want more emotional cars. They don’t want to drive dad’s E-Class but they probably have the same amount of money to spend on a car.”
As a show of commitment, Raine went to virtually every dealership to present and launch the car, even Sungai Petani, where the number of customers for the C-Class Coupé is limited. “They probably hadn’t seen a lot of white executives coming to present a car but I wanted to show the dealers that I am in it for the greater good.” Dream cars, he adds, are brand shapers. And while the brand may not be selling thousands of them, Raine believes that they add excite the market. Last year, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia also made the move to assemble AMG models locally.
“I was convinced,” explains Raine, “because there is a big cult following of performance cars. Last year, we sold 550 AMGs in Malaysia which shows that if you approach something correctly, you can drive to be successful.” These strategies, he says, have boosted the desirability of the brand. “It has really gone through the roof,” he says, adding that over the past four years, Mercedes-Benz has become “a lot more appealing and youthful.”
With a track record that includes 50 launches in a single year, it must surely be said that Raine reinvigorated the local automotive industry, introducing activation programmes that included bringing in artistes like Craig David, Hoobastank and Black Eyed Peas, which some would argue have very little to do with cars.
“I just wanted to show that there is a different way of going about things,” he says. “Maybe customers should be more demanding about what they should get from brands. The speed and urgency in which I and the team hit the market was completely unexpected and many other players in the market were completely overwhelmed.”
Some may have the intention but not the stamina to execute. For Raine, an avid runner, this has never been a problem. “It has to do with mindset, mentality and character,” he says. “I get up in the morning and have urgency. It is about never growing complacent. Maybe it is because of my sports background but I always want to go further and quicker. It is about challenging yourself and being ambitious and it is important that you install that mindset into your organisation.”
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Delivering all-time high performance in history, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia remains the No.1 luxury lifestyle brand in Malaysia. Announced yesterday at our 2018 Full Year Press Conference, a total of 13,079 vehicles were delivered to customers, capturing a market share of 2.4% and unmatched customer services with 148,800 vehicles serviced and a solid servicing portfolio of MYR2.7 billion. This reaffirms the Mercedes-Benz brand’s commitment to the Malaysian market and customers to deliver the Best Products and Best Customer Experiences.
But his time in Malaysia isn’t just defined by career milestones. It was also a time of personal growth. Having never been to Southeast Asia prior to his appointment, Raine didn’t really know what to expect when he received news of posting. He was, however, aware of Malaysia’s rich and diverse culture, the importance of which he had learnt growing up in South Africa during the era of Nelson Mandela. It is perhaps because of this that he found it particularly meaningful to be in Malaysia last year, witnessing the change in government.
“I was watching Mahathir’s speech. I didn’t understand the language and was just reading the comments but for me it was an amazing happening to be present during one of the most iconic and peaceful revolutions. These are experiences I will also carry with me.”
It is also through living the most “un-expat” lifestyle, Raine came to appreciate the nuances of Malaysia, even frequenting dimsum restaurants in corners of Puchong that locals don’t know about. “Malaysia is very accessible and the people are very welcoming,” he observes. “I have lost my heart to Malaysia. I would love to stay longer but unfortunately my services are required elsewhere.”