BMW Films: Branded content light years ahead of its time

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Examples

Can you do something as great and as big as BMW Films from 2001?

As marketers are abuzz with content marketing, challenge yourselves to do great content you love, not just ok content work you like.  While being 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. 

Integrated content at it's best

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.

 

Make the BMW car the hero

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
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BMW took risks

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 20 years of content marketing, I’m yet to say “Now that’s better than BMW Films”.

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