In advertisements that began in the U.S. market last weekend, BMW launched an attempt to move its brand definition beyond traditional notions of "performance" to a more holistic positioning that depicts the company's entire model range as offering the "ultimate driving machine" for someone, depending on their wants and needs. And at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, BMW executives explained what they mean.
"We want to set in motion a platform that defines what 'the ultimate driving machine' means in 2012 and beyond," Dan Creed, CMO of BMW of North America, told brandchannel. "Twenty years ago, it was all about visceral horsepower, handling and going fast. But now we have four, six- and eight-cylinder engines; we have diesel and gasoline and EV [powertrains]; we have 'i' [electric vehicles for urban setings] and still our strong involvement with motorsports. Those last two are extremes. What we're saying is that, no matter the vehicle, we're delivering an ultimate driving machine."
The timing couldn't be better, with BMW having just won the 2011 crown for luxury auto sales in the U.S., pipping Mercedes-Benz and Lexus for the title. But there's no evidence of schadenfreude for having won the race against a highly competitive Mercedes-Benz, and succeeding Lexus, which had held the crown for 11 years.
Instead, the new campaign aims to dimensionalize its slogan, "the ultimate driving machine," which now has evolved into more of a complete brand identity and replaces the "joy" positioning of the past two years.
The description on the new commercial, at top, reads: "While some vehicles try to be all things to all people, BMW only wants to be one thing to all people. No matter the shape or size, series or model, we only make one thing so you can feel one thing—pure, unbridled exhilaration. The kind you can only get from the Ultimate Driving Machine.®" Just as important, it is only the beginning of a 2012 campaign to launch 14 new or improved vehicles in the U.S. market.
One of the first ads, aired during NFL playoffs last weekend, shows an M3 Coupe on a track, then an X5 crossover in sand, then the planned BMWi8 plug-in hybrid on a bridge, and finally, in a tunnel, a 7 Series, followed by a montage of various BMW vehicles. "We don't make sports cars," the voice-over says. "We don't make SUVs. We don't make hybrids, and we don't make luxury sedans. We only make one thing, the ultimate driving machine."
Soon, BMW will refine the campaign by focusing on the new version of its important 3 Series nameplate being introduced this year.
Creed said that BMW's continuing positioning of "efficient dynamics" helps explain that, whether it's a race car or an EV, driving a BMW guarantees the appropriate kind of performance. "You can go around" the floor of the Detroit auto show "and see all kinds of electric cars," he said. "But how do they drive? ... Does everyone want to drive it? But when you have our i3 [electrified vehicle], you want to drive it again.
"We're Apple-esque," Creed explained, "in that Apple delivers an Apple experience across all its products. We do the same sort of thing."
Here's how BMW positioned its 'BMW i' initiative at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show: