Mini is lining up its ducks for its first global campaign. Actually bulldogs is probably a better metaphor here, given that the canine sluggo is the company mascot. You may remember a Mini spot back at launch, in which a bulldog stares at the grill of a Mini, and the Mini "stares" back. Then the bulldog goes behind the car and, you know, sniffs the Mini's behind. A skateboard-riding bulldog named Tillman actually appears in the new campaign.
Tom Salkowsky, head of Mini Marketing at the Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based U.S. Mini doghouse, actually named his own Mini "Rufus," which speaks to the still-quirky zeitgeist.
The new campaign, leveraging the "Not Normal" brand badge created last year, launches Monday on TV, with a 60-second anthem now running in about 1,000 Screen Vision theaters, online and on Virgin Airways media. Digital elements include a buy on Flipboard focused on digital versions of titles like Vanity Fair, Huffington Post and Rolling Stone. There will also be a takeover on Hulu starting on July 22, and a presence on BuzzFeed.
The campaign -- via the BMW unit's AOR of eight years, Sausolito, Calif.-based BSSP -- got a big huzzah from the retail side, says Salkowsky. "When we shared the idea with dealers who breathe the brand every day, they got it immediately. They know how our customers personalize their cars. The differentiating point between driving and 'motoring' is the relationship drivers have to Mini."
Running through September, it kicks off with the long-form ad that suggests that there is a Mini for every stage of life. The timeline starts with a Mini careening into a hospital parking lot and a pregnant woman and her husband getting out and heading in. After different stages of life and different Minis to match each one, we’re back at the clinic, with an elderly man pulling up in a Mini, to the nurse's chagrin.
Another spot has four different Minis pulling up to a four-way stop, listening to the track, as each group of Gen Y passengers listen and pull away. As one car pulls away, the driver sees Tillman on his skateboard.
There is also a grassroots program on deck in which fleets of Paceman cars will chauffeur people to various nightspots in major markets like Chicago.
The brand, which started with one vehicle, now has seven nameplates from the hardtop to the Countryman -- the first four-door in the lineup. Does the expanded lineup obviate Mini’s niche appeal? Salkowsky says no. "Last year was our best-ever for volume, and we celebrated when the 500,000th person became an owner. But it's a premium small car with go-cart handling, and we only sell 66,000 per year, while the market is 14 million. It's still niche."
The brand also gets permission -- in terms of brand identity -- to do eccentric out-of-home: one execution was a mini on a light pole facing down with headlamps on flanked by two regular light poles; a Mini in a peep show; and soon -- via a partnership with Miracle-Gro to tout the Countryman -- an installation in several cities in which an immense bag of the fertilizer seems to have been poured about the base of the vehicle, with the idea that the garden fertilizer has made the car grow from the diminutive hard top to the four door. The installation includes the information post with growing instructions, but in this case car specs.
"It's brand appropriate, memorable. It's fun, engaging, and it's what Mini is all about. It's not heavy-handed," he says.