Damian Kulash @ SXSW 2019

Plug into Your Stress

How a commissioned artwork changed the way we think about energy.

On behalf of Mercedes-Benz EQ, neulandherzer challenged OK Go frontman Damian Kulash to create a piece of art with the potential to change the world. His idea? The Stress Inversion Transformer: A machine that takes away tension and turns it into pure, positive energy. The public artwork premiered at SXSW 2019 and served as an outlet for people to scream, shout, and let out all their feelings. On the marketing side, it also served as a way to help people associate Mercedes-Benz EQ with an innovative, emotionally intelligent, and human-centric means of creating energy.

Let. It. Out.

The new product and technology brand Mercedes-Benz EQ champions the intelligent use of energy. neulandherzer wanted to bring the EQ mission to life in a fun, interactive way, so we approached the Grammy-award winning OK Go frontman. After consulting on concept and landing on an art piece that fit the vision of both client and artist, we coordinated with Damian’s production team for over six months to ensure a SXSW 2019 premiere, secure promotional assets from Damian, and create website and Mercedes-Benz EQ social media content before, during, and after SXSW 2019.

From start to completion, this was an ambitious, high-profile endeavor with a lot of risk involved… Could an artist and a major corporation see eye to eye? Would the machine work? Would people understand the connection to EQ? In essence, from a marketing perspective, would this commission be worthwhile?

No Need to Worry… We’ve Got This

We believed it would. Mercedes-Benz EQ is not the only car company pursuing electric mobility — we wanted to build something tangible, emotional, and fun to set the Mercedes-Benz EQ apart. Tangible because so much of the electric mobility industry is still abstract talk about the future: we wanted something people could touch and feel. Emotional because people remember emotional experiences, and because EQ stands for emotional intelligence. And fun because… why not? Most electric mobility brands’ communication strategies are only serious, even dire. Why not focus on relieving stress for once, instead of provoking our collective anxiety further with yet another piece about the urgent need to combat climate change? It was time to get creative.

Enter the Stress Inversion Transformer

And so, the Stress Inversion Transformer was born. It works like this: festival-goers enter a soundproof booth where custom designed piezoelectric transducers capture participants’ sound pressure and kinetic energy and convert it into sustainable electricity. Of course, the actual logistics of creating and setting up a machine that turns tension into usable electricity was something our team had never done before. Operational difficulties arose, i.e.: How could we arrange for such a large machine’s travel and safe delivery? How could we capture festival-goers inside the machine for usable content?

Together, though, we met perceived obstacles with … energy! The machine was a big draw at SXSW, and its ability to “recycle the upset” (as communicated in Damian’s promotional video) was an undeniable novelty. We recorded 30+ hours of footage featuring people losing their minds inside the machine, and festival-goers had a blast. Moreover, the artwork truly made users think about energy in a new way, and it made people think about Mercedes-Benz EQ in a new way, too. Damian Kulash and Mercedes-Benz EQ made a machine that turns bad vibes into good… now don’t you want to drive a machine that turns bad vibes into good?