BMW Films: Branded Content Light Years ahead of its Time

Twelve Years Ago…

As marketers are abuzz with Content Marketing, my challenge is to push yourselves to do great content you love, not just ok content work you like.  While BMW_logobeing part of the community and targeting unique users is the right strategy, creating bad content might do more damage than good.   It looks cheap.  When you forget to entertain, when you don’t put in the quality in execution, or where your brand is too obviously jammed into a piece of content that has nothing to do with your brand.  When you don’t astonish and delight the consumer, you fall flat.  So, don’t just do content, do content that you and your consumer will love.

In 2001, BMW launched BMW Films, light years ahead of the industry.  While everyone was still worried about producing 30s and 15s and newspaper ads, most brand leaders were still thinking whether they could afford to put 1% of their budgets into the Internet.  From a brand point of view to that point, BMW had always used traditional media like TV and Print to sell their cars.  But they saw that things were changing, especially seeing that the role of the internet on the purchase cycle.  Roughly 85% of BMW purchasers used the Internet before purchasing a BMW.  BMW knew that the average work-hard, play-hard customer was 46 years old, with a median income of about $150,000. Two-thirds were male, married, and had no children.  In general, we see that Brands move along the Love Curve, going from Indifferent to Like It and Love It before becoming that Beloved Brand for Life.  Competitively, BMW had a lot of love but it was still battling traditional rival Mercedes who had the most love of all Luxury Car Brands.  Everyone else was compared to Mercedes.  Also, brands like Lexus and Infiniti were gaining some emotional support from consumers and gaining share.   BMW needed something to show consumers what makes a BMW truly a BMW.   They needed to put their stake in the ground to push to be the Most Beloved Luxury Car brand.  They needed something that the consumer would love and in turn love the BMW brand.

Integrated Content at it’s Best

The idea of BMW Films was to cast the BMW car as a hero into the starring role of a movie, and in fact many movies.   BMW assembled a cast of A-list directors (Guy Richie, Tony Scott, Ang Lee) and A-list actors (Clive Owen Forest Whittiker, Madonna, Mickey Rourke), and developed scripts within the basic framework of having a central character that helped people through difficult circumstances using deft driving skills—in a BMW. The car became the star. Each director who chose a script was then given complete creative control over content and direction, something they would be hard-pressed to find in Hollywood, and something that BMW ordinarily wouldn’t allow if filming a traditional advertisement.

BMW used traditional media with mock movie trailers on TV and on-line advertising to surround their consumer and drive traffic to the website.  The end results were staggering: the series had been viewed over 100 million times in four years and had changed the way products were advertised.   BMW has had a great decade of sales, recently surpassing both Lexus and Mercedes as the #1 luxury brand.

BMW Films was out there.   It took risks, and was an incredible production.   To me, it’s still the benchmark for Content Marketing.  To me, it’s like Bob Beamon surpassing the long jump record by 2 1/2 feet when everyone else was measuring in inches.  It’s like Babe Ruth hitting 60 home runs when the next guy had 17.  The love for a brand normally comes when we love the work we do on that brand.  The love permeates through our work and onto the consumer.  However, if we don’t love the work, how do we expect our consumers to magically love the output of our work and then love our brand?  Not likely.  My challenge to you:  push yourself to love it, don’t just kinda like it.  Don’t settle.

Since BMW Films, I have seen some great viral work like T-Mobile, incredible integrations which make me stare and say “wow, I wish I did that”.  But in the past 10 years I’m yet to say “Now that’s better than BMW Films”.  

Hey Marketing Community!  My challenge to you:  Beat This!!!

 

 

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

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Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

 

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

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9 thoughts on “BMW Films: Branded Content Light Years ahead of its Time

  1. Thanks for the article. I have been following BMW’sGuggenheim Lab for a while and did not know about the BMW Films series.
    It’s assuring to see that is pays for companies of to invest. How often have I heard: “What’s the ROI?”

  2. Excellent post! I have often referenced BMW Films efforts when speaking about Branding, Marketing and Digital Video Cotent. I am a BMW enthusiast and evangelist (I have owned 5 so far) and think that theirs is the strongest brand due to their willingness to continually look forward into marketing/communicating with their intended targets (customers). Thanks again

  3. I remember when that launched – my friend installed the site’s proprietary media player just so we could watch it in high resolution, at the time a slow process – this was not just web, it was a true cinematic experience. I can still remember the plots of several of the stories, such as how to teach a bitchy star (Madonna) a lesson in the most joyful way and at the same highlight the hard cornering capabilities of a BMW M5. Or the abused look of Adriana Lima’s character, wife of apresumed wife-beater played by Mickey Rourke. Strong acting, but also brave plots for a big brand to put out there. Great creative ideas, executed with real artfulness and budgets to match have allowed BMW to carve out a lasting spot in the history and cultural iconography of the Internet.

  4. nice write up. I think the only other thing that comes close or better is Ford’s Fiesta Movement – that used an innovative approach of introducing the car to opinion leaders/influencers – so they could try it out and find out the brand promise for themselves and then evangelise the brand – after they were sure of it and believed in it. The campaign was a huge success and resulted in the car being sold out nationwide. The campaign used social media and UGC to have consumers talk to other consumers, since C2C communication is most compelling and credible.

    • Thanks for that example! The seeding of new products is a must these days. Sampling, briefing the major bloggers, having your own team tweeting and interacting with influencers is crucial.

  5. Initially I was tempted to think that most brands could never hope to rival such an impactful campaign simply because it was the budget which allowed for such a major effort, but I knew I was being lazy. Further reflection reminded me of a recent instant classic which proves humor and “going viral” can be achieved for very little and have tremendous results: http://youtu.be/ZUG9qYTJMsI

    Have you seen this little gem? Smaller scale, for sure, but the execution is flawless and as such this short film is a beautiful extension of the Victornox (Swiss Army Knife co.) brand: http://youtu.be/n2XJg_Hmceg

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