Brand building, BMW style or…how to make your community go crazy with desire

I really, REALLY want an M3

I am well-known to be car crazy. And BMW is well-known as one of the most desirable brands in the world. So, it’s no surprise I draw many lessons from them and try to apply them to high-technology marketing in general. Trust me, this brand has enthusiasts (“a community” in Web 2.0-speak) to die for.

What the marketing whizzes who will “teach” you how to have a brand like BMW don’t get is the flawless head-fake BMW’s marketing machine routinely executes by producing the exact kind of propaganda their hard-core community wants to consume while at the same time officially ignoring that community.

Two examples. First, this document describes in numbing detail the innovations and design philosophy of the then-new 2006 BMW 3 Series. Ostensibly, it’s for internal use only. But this document “leaked” into the enthusiast community and how many times do you think I, for example, have read this document? (Answer: too many. Most obscure thing I learned? That the interior door pulls for the left and right front doors are different, a point BMW makes to stress that real design takes into account things like the location of the window switches. Now, go look in your car. Are the pulls mirror images of each other? Hmmmm?)

How many times do you think other enthusiasts have read it? Now think about how many times its target audience — salespeople in BMW dealerships — read it. Brilliant marketing: write something “exclusive” for an audience that could care less, but make sure it gets out — as a leak — to the people who really care.

Today, the BMW world community is all a-titter…just freakin’ shakin’…with excitement over the new M3 (pictured above from the BMW USA web site in “European trim”…another nod to the dreams and aspirations of hard-core BMWphiles).

How to keep the excitement at fever pitch? Simple: issue a 93-page press kit on the car. Make sure it leaks so the enthusiast sites can post it. Fill it with an rich mix of over-the-top hyperbole (“…the BMW M3 has ranked alone as the epitome of ultimate dynamism derived directly from motorsport, a car offering powerful and superior aesthetics, as well as a truly incomparable driving experience…”) and ennui-inducing technical detail (“…electronically controlled power screwdrivers [are used] on all critical bolted connections…”). Then, in the most brilliant move possible, delay introducing the product into your largest market until the propaganda has generated intense longing in the community. The link above is for the UK introduction. Convenient, ain’t it?, that the US and UK markets share a common (OK, nearly mutually-intelligible) language.

I don’t have the words to describe how astonishingly successful BMW is at managing (or is it “manipulating”?) its community. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go re-read all 93-pages…






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