"There are just a few guys - Luca Del Monte, who used to be at Ferrari, Bill Baker, who used to be at Land Rover - who are so powerfully authentic that they make you believe in the brand because you believe in them," Dan Neil, automobile columnist for the LA Times, says vie e-mail. "Geoff [Day] is one of those people."
Day, who has been communications director for Mercedes-Benz USA since January 2004, has a personality that gets him noticed, with a credibility that makes him trusted. He is known for his personal style in communication, as well as attire.
"He's magic in front of an audience," adds Neil. "Warm, funny, prepared, but not rehearsed, which is a far more delicate balance to strike than just being massively educated on product."
"Geoff is passionate about [all] he does, or he doesn't do it," says Michael Ramah, partner at Porter Novelli, which has worked with Mercedes since November 2005. "He doesn't want second-rate; he wants to play with winning teams."
And with Mercedes-Benz USA having sold more cars in July than BMW and heading toward its 13th year of record sales, notes Day, he's found such a team.
Born and raised in Scotland, Day began his career as a journalist in radio and in newspapers. "I then acquired a level of debt that as a journalist was getting very difficult to service," Day jokes, explaining his move to the media team of Scotland's Secretary of State, then working under Margaret Thatcher's former press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham.
Day also worked for the Buckingham Palace press office in Scotland. It was during his tenure there that he says he received some of the best advice he has ever had, from Martin Gilliat, the Queen Mother's private secretary.
Gilliat told him that his glamorous job would quickly become mundane, like any other. "But for the people that [the Royal Family] are meeting, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you must make that special," Gilliat told him. "Every day you must make sure you are authentic and relevant to the people you are talking to."
Day decided to parlay his experience and contacts into an entrepreneurial venture. He established GD Consulting, working with such clients as BBC Television and Radio, and Mercedes-Benz in the UK. Day joined DaimlerChrysler UK just as the company was being forged from the Mercedes-Benz UK-Chrysler Jeep Imports merger. It was a chance to build a new group entity, but still maintain the power of the individual brands.
"Employees had a very loyal and deep sentiment about the name that was on the door," Day says. "We had to say, as a group, we are all one. As you go out and face the world every day, you represent the brand you carry. Our role was to make sure that was then done in the context of a bigger world."
After nearly five years, Day moved to the Montvale, NJ, headquarters of Mercedes-Benz USA. Over the previous years, the brand "had some knocks over quality and model proliferation," he admits. "In the media, there were question marks about where the brand was going. I wanted to be part of the challenge of changing that."
The automotive media world is "a close-knit family," notes Dutch Mandel, editor of AutoWeek. Mandel says Day is "one of the ethical practitioners of the PR discipline. I won't get lied to by him, like so many in the PR world feel compelled to do."
"There's a consumer momentum the brand has had," says Day, who is passionate about cars and drives a G-class wagon. "We've worked hard to bring back the media momentum."
Communications director, Mercedes-Benz USA
Communications director, DaimlerChrysler UK
Principal, GD Consulting