The Mini has been around in various forms since 1959, but it seems awfully contemporary with its attention to both taking up as little planetary space as possible while also serving the consumer with a variety of personalization methods: racing stripes? Bluetooth-ready? A U.S. flag roof graphic?
You want it? You got it, buddy.
One thing that is true about the modern BMW MINI is that it likes to give off a sense of fun and is very much able to poke fun at itself. For example, last summer the company’s U.S. CEO, Jim McDowell, challenged the U.S. president of Porsche, Detlev von Platen, to a race since it had never actually been proven in a head-to-head matchup whether one was faster than the other.
The course was designed in such a way that the Porsche ended up only beating the MINI by seconds, but the company got a slew of interest online as great videos that went viral were produced of race day: Try and not stop watching the nervous twitching of the Porsche driver before the race begins.
Just after the Christmas holiday, MINI ran hilarious commercials that were simply people walking by leftover holiday rubbish on the street, empty boxes, torn-up ribbons and wrapping paper, that sort of thing. But one of the boxes was the size of a MINI and had the image of one of the cars on its side; it looked clearly like someone had found a MINI under the tree fairly recently. Passersby are clearly bemused by the massive box and the idea of some lucky recipient somewhere.
The MINI may be small, but it’s got a big attitude. And it may be a whole lot of fun in a tiny package, but it is serious about design. In 1999, the Mini was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century behind the Model T in an election process overseen by Global Automotive Elections Foundation.
This year, the company wanted to showcase that it had more cars in its lineup so it started things off with a big bang on the marketing side with an awesome 3-D short film featuring six of its models: the convertible; the four-door, four-wheel-drive; the classic two-door; the station wagon, etc.
The film, entitled MINI vs. Monster, debuted in movie houses before moving to TV and can be found online (including on MINI’s YouTube channel). It featured the six MINIs at a Monster Truck rally being jumped by a massive purple truck with “No Mercy” painted on its backside, its huge wheels spinning powerfully in mid-air only a few feet above the adorably proud MINIs. The film cuts between the jump itself and the responses of numerous fans, none of whom want to see those sweet little MINIs crushed: a large man who squeezes his hot dog a little too tightly, a slack-jawed Asian family at home, a mascot chicken throwing up wings and falling to his knees, a painted-faced man who resorts to beating on his belly, a woman vacuuming at home who likely nearly kills the cat when she drops the couch in surprise at the image of all the MINIs being jumped, and so on.
The brand’s marketers behind this one clearly try to serve a variety of markets with the fascinating array of characters. The viewers, though, are left hanging as to what happens to the MINIs when the film closes out. The spot was created by ad agency BSUR while Renegade Media was responsible for devising and delivering the campaign’s seeding strategy. The actual film was premiered in private screenings at the massive 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 9-11.
Then a trio of teasers appeared on the brand’s Facebook page that featured characters from the film and exactly what they were doing during that moment the jump occurred. Upon launch, the “characters” were also on FB and responded to readers’ reactions and questions. Then the actual film launched both online and in movie houses across the U.S. As of the start of February, it had appeared in more than 1,000 cinemas and viewed by an estimated 5 million moviegoers. After it was all over, a “making of” video was posted that kept the story alive. (The answer to what happens to the MINIs is in that “making of,” by the way.)
The video teasers alone received more than 20,000 views each, the Facebook postings received hundreds of comments, hundreds of tweets and retweets about the subject reached thousands of people.
Another aspect of the effort was a blog-outreach program that resulted in more than 200 blogs writing about the film within days of it launching. The film itself had more than 100,000 views in less than two weeks. Not too shabby.
MINI has close to 729,000 people who like MINI on Facebook. While there are plenty of videos and photos of MINI action, the Facebook page is also a great chronicle of all the fun and outrageous things MINI has gotten involved in.
One post reads as follows: “As we speak, a Rally Replica Classic Mini Cooper 1275 S is being piloted from Marrakesh to Monte Carlo by none other than the legendary Rauno Aaltonen - chased by a team of 3 highly-equipped ALL4 MINI Countryman. Stay tuned for an epic changing of the guard here.”
And another: “23 creatives made designs for the MINI Thailand Design Celebration 2010. See the artistic interpretations they came up with to celebrate 50 fabulous years of MINI design.”
It is highly encouraged throughout the site that you “Like” the page so that you can access things such as taking part in a poll. The whole thing serves as a great meeting ground for the MINI set.
MINI isn’t hurting on the Twitter front, either. With more than 3,300 followers, it has enough to engage in all sorts of fun ways. The company uses the site to show off the fun things it’s involved in, such as sponsoring snowboard events, or roping consumers into photo contests. The folks behind the Twitter and Facebook efforts for MINI have a good sense of how to engage consumers and make them just feel good about the product. It’s not all about gaskets and fuel lines. This is about hitting the slopes and hanging out.
The MINI Website is also highly engaging with lots of rollover content popping up. The most fun part of the site is probably the Build section in which consumers can not only pick and choose whatever attributes you want on a MINI and watch it evolve onscreen. This section’s visitors can also get a glimpse at how actual MINIs are constructed as well.
Buying a MINI is sort of like reliving the VW Bug heyday. When you buy one of these cars, you become part of this big tribe of sorts. At one point, MINI had a slew of gatherings across America for MINI owners and gave each a transponder to put in his or her car so that when they passed certain billboards, it could send them personalized MINI-related messages. To some, it may seem a little Big Brotherish, but the idea is to make MINI owners feel part of something much, much bigger no matter how small the actual car.
Mark J. Miller writes a daily sports column for Yahoo! Sports and is a contributing writer to Crain's BtoB's Media Business magazine. His work has appeared in National Geographic Adventure, ESPN, The Washington Post, Salon.com, I.D., and Glamour, among others.
*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.