BMW, Audi show how to beat the downturn

31 December 2009

The automotive industry has suffered particularly heavily during the recession, but companies like BMW, Audi and Mini have provided widely-read examples of how to beat the downturn in 2009.

Mini's launch of the Clubman faced the dual challenges of differentiating the new model from the more familiar Mini Cooper in the US, and connecting with influential consumers in the category.

Research revealed that the Clubman had a polarising effect on current customers and owners of cars made by competitors, suggesting that a disruptive approach to communications could prove particularly effective.

Having adopted a more edgy tone than was typically associated with the brand, the "Zig Zag Zug" platform both generated considerable "buzz" and delivered pre-orders over and above expectations.

The North American arm of BMW, the German luxury automaker, wanted to broaden its customer base to include a younger demographic, and create life-long brand advocates in the process.

In promoting the new 1 Series to members of "Generation X", the company used print executions in a number of key "pop-culture print titles" which specifically appealed to this cohort.

Moreover, it ran "homepage takeovers" on Yahoo, MSN and Facebook, and built an application for the latter of these sites, allowing members to graffiti the "walls" of their friends on the service.

Audi, which also operates in the premium segment, used a similarly innovative approach in the UK, developing its strategy in various ways from 1999 to the present.

This has included attempting to make its cars into "icons", creating a bespoke issue of GQ magazine linked to its RS 6 model, curating an exhibition and developing a 24-hour a day TV channel.

Rather than emphasising its own brand, Toyota aimed to drive interest in the Prius, its hybrid vehicle, by creating social media tools that consumers could use as a forum to discuss environmental issues.

Such a strategy resulted from the insights that people who championed the vehicle were more interested in a cause than a car, and regarded the Prius as being "emblematic" of their concerns.

Data sourced from Warc