Among the talking points at Tuesday’s meeting of the International Motor Press Association, which hosted BMW USA’s marketing VP Dan Creed, was whether or not consumers would scoff at BMW’s decision to put four cylinders -- rather than six or eight -- under the hood of its 3 Series and some other models. After all, BMW is the Ultimate Driving Machine. Wouldn’t the response of affluent, performance-oriented prospects be something like, “Okay, thanks, oh, can you point me to the nearest Mercedes dealership?”
Creed’s response: Not only do people -- especially the next generation -- not care much about whether a car has four cylinders, they will care about that even less once they get behind the wheel -- as long as the brand lives up to its street cred, it’s a moot point. He added that fuel efficiency and a car’s impact on the environment will become a lot more important. So it’s much more likely, he noted, that if they are interested in drivetrain technology it will be mechanics that decrease emissions and increase efficiency. And this upswing is already happening.
Though the automaker is coming out with its first front-wheel drive hybrid electrics this year, “we are not redefining the brand. We have been the Ultimate Driving Machine for 30-plus years,” he said. “We are in a huge generational shift today, with huge differences in mindset and outlook. For people under 40, fuel economy matters. It’s not just about cost but social responsibility.” So, he said, Ultimate Driving Machine also has to mean most efficient, and clean and advanced.
There’s also a media challenge. “The media landscape is getting more fragmented, and in the social space, as fragmented as it is, marketer budgets aren’t growing at the same rate as the digital landscape.” But where marketers have seen success is on their own shopping platforms, he notes, adding that BMW is, in fact, getting its best leads from its own Web site. “We are seeing a lot more traffic [from social sites] to our own Web site,” he said. “We have 2.5 million uniques to BMWUSA.com, per month, and that’s where the best leads to our dealers are coming from.”
Creed said BMW is staying away from doing sponsored posts on Facebook, adding that since Facebook’s marketing play is still evolving, “right now we don’t really have it dialed in that well.” On the other hand, he said BMW doesn’t have to worry all that much buzz generation. “We have the wonderful luxury of not having to force the conversation because fans want to talk about the brand. They want to talk about anything and everything BMW.”