Promoting "The Ultimate Driving Machine"
Careful targeting, consistent positioning, and a good match between message and media have all helped Bayerische Motoren Werke (better known as BMW) to accelerate sales revenue on a relatively small advertising budget. The company, based in Munich, Germany, markets such well-known global brands as BMW, Mini Cooper, and Rolls-Royce, as well as BMW Motorcycles. Although other multibrand automobile manufacturers offer a range of vehicles for mass-market and upscale segments, BMW has followed a different route to profitability. The automaker focuses exclusively on highend vehicles, targeting drivers who are affluent, successful, demanding of themselves and their cars, and interested in the time-saving convenience of automotive technology.
BMW uses television and magazine advertising to reinforce its brand image and to give the target audience a feeling for what the company calls "The Ultimate Driving Machine." Because its advertising budget is not as large as those of its competitors, BMW looks for ways to stand out in the crowd. For example, it likes to air television commercials supported by bursts of newspaper advertising; more than once it has signed on as the lone sponsor of television programs favored by its target audience. "TV advertising plays a vital role for us in building brand awareness, image, and desirability among members of the general public," notes a BMW marketing executive. "Without that type of broad appeal, a brand such as BMW would have less desirability within its target consumer groups."
The aim of every commercial is to help viewers picture themselves on the open road behind the wheel of a BMW; the car, not the driver or the scenery, is the star of the advertisement. The camera lingers on the vehicle's sleek lines, comfortable interior, high-tech features, and the familiar blue-and-white brand symbol. While the vehicle and the scenery may change from commercial to commercial, the ultimate objective is to motivate consumers to test-drive a BMW.
Movies have played a key role in BMW's promotions. The company has garnered huge waves of publicity from having the Mini Cooper featured in The Italian Job and for arranging for James Bond to drive new BMWs. To reach Internet-savvy car buyers, BMW also hired top directors to make short films especially for Web viewing.
Although the films ran online for only four years, they were viewed more than 100 million times, won numerous awards, and were later issued on DVD for free distribution to prospective buyers. BMW's sales promotion efforts also include samples-in the form of extended test drives-as well as participation in major automotive trade shows. Eye-catching point-of-purchase displays in dealer showrooms support the overall integrated marketing communications effort by echoing selected images from the company's advertising.
Price promotions are rare, although the company held its first end-of-year clearance sale on select U.S. models not long ago. The company also has offered special leasing deals to spark sales of its X3 model. After a long stretch as head of marketing for BMW of North America, Jim McDowell switched jobs with Jack Pitney, who directed marketing for the company's Mini brand. Pitney has begun infusing BMW's marketing with some of the Mini's most successful promotional ideas. He plans to retain "The Ultimate Driving Machine" slogan for BMW's marketing communications because it resonates with the target audience and differentiates the brand from other premium competitors. BMW's worldwide positioning will not change, but with the launch of new models every year, the company will continue refining the promotion mix to attract new buyers, maintain brand image, and keep profits high.
Questions for Discussion
1. Evaluate BMW's use of movies in its integrated marketing communications program.
2. What types of objectives is BMW attempting to change through its television commercials?
3. How does BMW's extended sampling facilitate the personal selling efforts when customers visit a BMW dealership?