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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

 

BMW's Advertising Changes Lanes

After forever and a day, BMW's abandoning "The Ultimate Driving Machine." I think it's a mistake...a big one. BMW's entire brand DNA is based on building the best handling small, midsized, large luxury cars and trucks. So, why change it? According to Al Ries, a changing of the guard at BMW (a new Exec. VP) means it is finally time for a new ad slogan.

A business associate of mine once said...it's really easy to change the "image" of something that has little or no image...because you're starting from scratch. Sure you will need PR and an Ad budget. But try to change the image of Oldsmobile? Now that is going to take some work...because Oldsmobile stood for something for a long time. As most of us know...Oldsmobile failed and is now on the heap of dead brands, having lost its way as it attempted to change it image and products.

I'd say the same is true for BMW. The new campaign makes me think that BMW is chasing someone else's business...maybe Lexus or Infiniti or Mercedes. But, in changing its ethos, BMW is likely to alienate its core owner base...the people that identified with BMW's obsession to building great handling luxury performance cars. For the past 20-30 years, in the US, BMW has delivered driving machines in spades, passing Mercedes in luxury sales in the process. What, did everyone suddenly decide they don't want the Ultimate Driving Machine? BMW's US sales say otherwise. I think the old saying, "be careful of what you wish for...you just may get it" applies here.

If BMW isn't the ultimate driving machine...then what is it? According to the new folks in charge (and Al Ries), BMW is now,

"A company of ideas"

I don't want a car that is full of ideas. I want performance and luxury in a nice looking package.

Comments:
In the August 7 edition of Advertising Age, columnist Al Ries claimed that in an upcoming advertising campaign, BMW would be dropping its legendary slogan “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Ries was significantly off-base. First of all, BMW has no intention of dropping, altering or in any way moving away from that great line. In the development of the latest ad campaign, the first from BMW’s new advertising agency GSD&M, the issue wasn’t even discussed. Ries took some bad information and then compounded the problem by making poor assumptions based on comments that he did not even try to verify.

The “upcoming” campaign to which Ries referred actually began running more than three months ago, on May 5, in print, TV and online. “The Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan is prominently featured in all of the ads. There was also quite a bit written about the campaign launch in print and online. It appears that Ries was confused by a mention of the overarching theme of the campaign, “A Company of Ideas.” That’s not a slogan, and those actual words don’t appear in the ads in any way that would be confused as a replacement for “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” In the marketing business, it’s known as a positioning statement.” It represents a way of talking about the company, as opposed to a specific slogan that identifies the brand.

BMW is a remarkably innovative company. Their corporate culture, specifically their independence and encouragement of creative thinking and problem solving is what allows them to produce the ultimate driving machine. They are very much a company of ideas and they have the chops to prove it. The ad campaign so misinterpreted by Ad Age gives consumers a look at some of the ways BMW backs up that claim. The two things, a positioning and a slogan are very important but also very different things. The former is a broad theme, the latter a very specific word or phrase. Separate but complimentary. It’s a distinction that any marketing student knows. Al Ries and Ad Age certainly should have too.

To get a better look, check out the “Uniquely BMW” section of www.bmwusa.com.

Eric Webber
Communications Director
GSD&M
 
In the August 7 edition of Advertising Age, columnist Al Ries claimed that in an upcoming advertising campaign, BMW would be dropping its legendary slogan “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Ries was significantly off-base. First of all, BMW has no intention of dropping, altering or in any way moving away from that great line. In the development of the latest ad campaign, the first from BMW’s new advertising agency GSD&M, the issue wasn’t even discussed. Ries took some bad information and then compounded the problem by making poor assumptions based on comments that he did not even try to verify.

The “upcoming” campaign to which Ries referred actually began running more than three months ago, on May 5, in print, TV and online. “The Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan is prominently featured in all of the ads. There was also quite a bit written about the campaign launch in print and online. It appears that Ries was confused by a mention of the overarching theme of the campaign, “A Company of Ideas.” That’s not a slogan, and those actual words don’t appear in the ads in any way that would be confused as a replacement for “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” In the marketing business, it’s known as a positioning statement.” It represents a way of talking about the company, as opposed to a specific slogan that identifies the brand.

BMW is a remarkably innovative company. Their corporate culture, specifically their independence and encouragement of creative thinking and problem solving is what allows them to produce the ultimate driving machine. They are very much a company of ideas and they have the chops to prove it. The ad campaign so misinterpreted by Ad Age gives consumers a look at some of the ways BMW backs up that claim. The two things, a positioning and a slogan are very important but also very different things. The former is a broad theme, the latter a very specific word or phrase. Separate but complimentary. It’s a distinction that any marketing student knows. Al Ries and Ad Age certainly should have too.

To get a better look, check out the “Uniquely BMW” section of www.bmwusa.com.

Eric Webber
Communications Director
GSD&M
 
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