BMW Marketing VP Discusses 'Joy' Strategy

BMW has just launched what the Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based company says is its biggest brand campaign to date, and maybe the first that puts as much focus on the drivers and their pleasure in driving as the cars themselves. It's part of a big-media strategy the company is doing to raise its profile worldwide with a more emotional, optimistic voice. Jack Pitney, VP of marketing for BMW, takes Marketing Daily for a drive.

Q: How different is this campaign, thematically, from what BMW has done in the past?

A: I don't think the "Joy" campaign is a tremendous diversion. We remain the "Ultimate Driving Machine" and would never move away from that. If there is a change in how we are communicating on behalf of BMW, it's in the way we are doing it. In the past we focused primarily on the cars themselves and the technological innovations under the skin.



Now what we have chosen to do is focus on the end result of all that: it's the way the cars make you feel. Really, the "Ultimate Driving Machine" is about bringing the joy of driving to life. We thought if we could tap into the enthusiasm people have about our products, that might be a good way for us to expand the story of BMW.

Q: Why this focus on the emotional quality of the brand? What insights led to this?

A: The idea for the campaign was born about 18 months ago out of the observation that not just the U.S. economy but the global economy was going into a bit of a recession. All of our research says in a recession, brands that do the best are those that are authentic, purpose-driven brands that have defined themselves over decades as being true to their core purpose.

We thought if ever there has been a time to remind people what the BMW is about, now would be the time. So we challenged ourselves to think about ways to bring that promise to life in an emotionally compelling way. What we landed upon was, well, maybe it's really about what our products do -- how they make you feel. That's why people keep coming back to the brand, and why we have the largest car club in America and the world.

We thought we should shine a light on those folks and let them tell our story for us. That was, in essence, the idea: If ever there was a time when we should remind people what we stand for, now is the time, and we also thought a joyful, hopeful, and optimistic message would be well-received right now.

Q: This is BMW's largest campaign to date. Is that because the media buy is so big during the Olympics, where the ads debuted?

A: Our approach -- not just in the U.S. -- is to find a suitable "big bang" platform in which to launch the campaign. We looked at the Super Bowl, but we thought if ever there is a platform that epitomizes joy and was more than a one-day flash like the Super Bowl, it's the Olympics.

Because of the duration of the Games and what they are all about, it's a perfect opportunity for our big-bang launch of the campaign. But this campaign is not a one-time splash and then it goes away. You will hear us talking about the story of joy not just this year, but in 2011 as well. We think there are legs here, and we are already working on the next chapter of the story.

Q: And what is next for the effort?

A: It's called "BMW Unscripted," which I'm really excited about. It acknowledges that it's our customers we are celebrating here, and we are going to focus in on some rather interesting owners and their stories, but letting them tell their stories in their own words. And it will manifest in both above-the-line and below-the-line activities worldwide. What makes it work so strongly is, it rings so true to what we are all about.

Q: Post Olympics, what is BMW's media strategy?

A: We are really taking the philosophy of "do it right or don't do it at all." That means making sure the programming we buy is indeed TiVo-proof. We are going to try to focus in on real marquee live events that people just do not want to miss. So the Olympics are a great jumping-off point for us.

You will see us have a strong presence with the Academy Awards; we'll roll into March Madness with a strong presence there -- and, as the year unfolds, we will continue to focus on high-profile TV opportunities. The Internet, by anyone's estimation, has grown tremendously over the last decade in terms of importance -- not just in lower purchase funnel activity, which it has been historically viewed as. But the Internet is an opportunity to build your brand as well.

So we are investing much more with our online activities. For 2010, we will have some print, but it will be very, very micro-targeted. What we are not doing, which we have done in years past, is out-of-home. You are not going to see lots of tier-one dollars going toward out-of-home. It's TV, Web and secondarily, print.

4 comments about "BMW Marketing VP Discusses 'Joy' Strategy ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Deepali Bhatti from Infosys, February 24, 2010 at 1:35 a.m.

    BMW's shift from a communication strategy based on product features to emotional connect is the decision of the hour. The company does base it on the results of their research. But to me, it is a much anticipated move from a legendary brand like BMW, having already established it's product superiority. It is the time for BMW to move to the next level of marketing by connecting to it's customers and sharing their experiences with a larger audience. It is the best move to create Brand Advocates and not just loyal customers. The track is right and intentions are wise; success should follow.

  2. Cameron Mcnaughton from McNaughton Automotive Perpsectives, February 24, 2010 at 11:05 a.m.

    I agree with the objectives of this campaign. The notion of connecting more emotionally and personally with consumers is undeniably a good idea. Virtually walking away from "The Ultimate Driving Machine" in favor of a less leverageable global idea is another matter entirely:

  3. Brent Bouchez from Five0, February 24, 2010 at 1:21 p.m.

    As someone who loves BMW's, has spent a great deal of his career marketing cars (including 5 years as creative director on the BMW business) I can say from experience that BMW NA and GSDM have been and continue to seriously dilute what was once a strong, admirable and highly desired brand. "The Joy of Driving" can be said of almost any vehicle on the market given the right circumstances. A Chrysler Sebring convertible rented from an airport lot can be a joy with the top down and the sun shining, it has little to do with the capability of the automobile. A Camaro, a Mustang or a Beetle can all be joys to drive. This is why agencies like Ammirati & Puris and Fallon avoided the constant pressure to adopt the German BMW line "Freude am fahren" which loosely translates to "The joy of driving" means nothing here in the US. where every car maker from Chevy to Kia has espoused the joy of the wind in your hair and the sun on your face for decades. The Ultimate Driving Machine set the brand apart for what was inside the car, what made it go fast, turn well, stop well and protect it's occupants like no other car in the world. Perhaps more importantly, The Ultimate Driving Machine and the advertising that truly supported it, gave the buyer a reason(s) to pay a very premium price. Better brakes, better suspension, better seats, better technology...these are the "whys" of paying more for a car. "Joy" is enigmatic, defined differently by every consumer, not ownable as a brand foundation and certainly not a good reason to tell your friends why you paid so much more for a BMW. Giving up the position of The Ultimate Driving Machine (which they are doing with this advertising, despite saying that is still the tagline...there is nothing Ultimate or definitive about Joy) also opens the door even wider for competitors. And suggesting that BMW has already established it's product superiority is a head in the sand buyers are less and less brand loyal and have increasingly short memories these days. In addition, when any brand abandons a position, another brand quickly fills the void. Audi is rapidly taking the place of BMW as the performance oriented german carmaker. They tout performance and true points of difference at every turn and with every message. Perhaps that's why Audi sales were up last year while BMW's were down nearly 20%. In an era where the consumer is more informed and has more data points at his/her fingertips, suggesting that joy is the reason I should pay 50% more for a BMW 550i over a fully loaded Hyundai Genesis is an incredibly weak strategy. As a friend of mine (a self-labeled "car guy") who recently bought the Genesis said, "I get just as much pleasure and satisfaction driving my new Genesis as I did driving my BMW, and then there's the bonus of knowing I saved over $20,000." In the new economic world, that's real joy.

  4. Dave Woodall from fiorano associates, February 24, 2010 at 5:27 p.m.

    I couldn't have said it better Brent. "Joy is BMW" must have come out of the same focus group that brought us Ford's "We Speak Car" or Pontiac's "Pontiac is CAR". All three are ridiculously inane tag lines that in no way, shape, or form differentiate or accentuate the brand's core attributes. "The Ultimate Driving Machine" is, in my opinion, The Ultimate Tagline. It is so good, other companies plagiarize it ('s hatchet-job "The Ultimate Automotive Marketplace").

    Perhaps BMW is abandoning it because they no longer feel it applies to them.

    In any case, my guess is that "Joy is BMW" is intended to pander to women, as well as some newly defined psychographic class of consumer that has risen in the wake of the current recession. The problem for BMW as I see it, is that by engaging in this lowest-common-denominator approach, their messaging (and thus differentiation) will be lost in a sea of sound-alike pablum. Commenter Deepali Malhotra was right: This is a decision of the hour, not one of long-term vision.

    The modern BMW is an aspirational brand. "The Ultimate Driving Machine" is likewise an aspirational tagline. It not only defines a vehicle, but a company's committment to constantly improve that vehicle. As much as BMW may want to deny it, "Joy" is not the primary driver for many of its customers (iDrive anyone?); status is. I can go outside right now and get just as much joy out of my 30 year-old sports car as I can the newest BMW. But would I call my 30 year-old sports car the Ultimate Driving Machine? Hardly.

    I may be wrong but I just don't see "Joy" leveraging the brand equity developed under 40 years of "The Ultimate Driving Machine"; or of it resonating with BMW's core customer. Time will tell I suppose...

    Oh, by the way Brent...friends don't let friends drive Hyundais. 8^D

Next story loading loading..