Every automaker has a Web site. People go there to look at cars. People go there to check what they can put on their cars. Sometimes they go there to find out where they can buy the car they like. More and more, however, OEM Web sites are becoming brand personality sites, with video, content, social media, and personality.
For BMW's Mini division, MiniUSA.com and the digital strategy supporting it is the maypole around which its marketing strategy orbits. "It was a low purchase-funnel site, but that's changing," says Tom Salkowsky, marketing manager for Mini U.S.A. "Now it's more of a branding site. "It's the digital spine of all our marketing communications." He says the site gets 20,000 to 30,000 hits per day, with the majority of hits involving people configuring their ideal Mini, and then sharing it with their social networks.
While that may seem like a fundamentally bottom-funnel behavior, Salkowsky tells Marketing Daily that it's as much about the brand, since Mini's personality is all over encouraging people to personalize a Minis, then sharing it with friends and saving their vehicle "It's central to all the dialogue we have with consumers; when you look at the main function, of course lets us tell the story of Mini -- communicate our values and heritage, and of course show all of our product offerings now that we have six Mini models , but it enables us to continue a dialogue with those who have built and saved a Mini," he says, adding that people configure something like 5,500 cars per month on the site.
On Dec. 7 the site also took on the look and feel of the new global "Not Normal" campaign that launched this quarter. The splash page launches a video made by Mini's European marketing arm that elaborates the "Not Normal" idea with montage shots of people doing outrageous and quirky stunts, including with Mini cars.
Salkowsky says that video has been dispersed to all of Mini's social sites, and is getting national exposure at 1,800 cinemas this month, "when a lot of Americans are going to movies. He hints that in the first and second quarters next year Mini will roll out the first of a roster of 2013 efforts touting the brand, and such new vehicles as the new Paceman (first shown at the Paris Auto show, with next month’s Detroit auto show marketing the U.S. launch), the Mini Clubman and the black-and-gold Bond Street edition Mini. "And then we will have another big product launch in the fourth quarter.
And, per Salkowsky, starting this year, Mini's U.S. AOR for the past seven years, Sausalito. Calif.-based Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, will take on a role in the brand's new global marketing communications plan.