Bavarians, if you ask them, are stubborn, proud, defiant and like to eat pork in all its forms, and swill beer and enjoy life. They are the Italians of Germany. They waltz to the beat of their own drum and frankly most other Germans either despise them or are jealous of them. Or both. The Bavarian Motor Works company, or as most people call it BMW, is perhaps the spiritual-industrial embodiment of that unique, southern Germanic folk. BMW does its own thing on the automotive front and as a result BMW has been leading the premium pack for a while now, either in terms of image, sales volume at the high-end, or technological advancements (although Mercedes and Audi might dispute that).
There are countless examples of BMW doing its own thing in terms of two and four-wheeled motoring. Just look at the 2002tii, the Isetta, their M-division, Chris Bangle’s car designs (now there was a risky move), and now the sub-brand called ‘i’ meant to revolutionize the premium car market by going electric and lightweight with mass produced lightweight materials. BMW is, pun intended, driving the upscale market for cars.
But there are lots of BMW fans, or shall we call them purists, who question BMW’s direction. They think they have lost their focus and have abandoned their principles in pursuit of mass sales. The 5-Series GT and X6 may be proof of that in some peoples’ eyes. In fact, there is a superb opinion piece that I read a couple of weeks ago that makes this point. BMW used to be a luxury performance car company. However, now more than ever, they are a mobility company. Just see what their marketing chief, Ian Robertson had to say a few days ago about a car-sharing idea BMW is pushing. Car-sharing? BMW? Don’t the upwardly mobile and the outright rich aspire to anything that doesn't involve being within 1000 feet of the masses?
I won’t comment on their cars, or their strategy. BMW knows what they are doing. But I will comment on their ads as a message to convey what the cars, and equally important, the brand is all about. Watch the following ads, and see what they have in common.
BMW Happiness Is the Corner
BMW Joy of Driving (I)
BMW Joy of Driving (II)
They have evolved from The Ultimate Driving Machine, perhaps one of the best taglines ever, to the Joy of Driving. That’s a subtle but crucial difference. Since BMW decided they want to sell a boatload more vehicles to maintain their independence (oh those independent Bavarians), they knew they couldn't just sell performance. They had to expand the range of vehicles and thereby the brand. Hence SUVs, crossovers, bloated convertibles, slapping an M symbol on even an X6. And electric cars too
But all the while their ads have remained top notch, laser-focused, and they have moved their brand from one of many luxury car brands to the top (right there with my favorite soon-to-be VW sub-brand Porsche). As they have evolved their message, they have managed to keep the premium image very much intact and make more people than ever want their cars. Through a savvy combination of Web films, Websites and plain old TV ads, BMW has pushed their image beyond just the Ultimate Driving Machine to that of the Premium Mover of Wealthy People.