INTERNATIONAL ISSUES: BMW breaks new ground to take its unified message around the world

The arch-conservative car manufacturer has broken the mould. By Karen Yates.

The arch-conservative car manufacturer has broken the mould. By

Karen Yates.

Which is the odd one out: Coca-Cola, Rolex or BMW? All three are

aspirational brands, and all are well known internationally, but only

one - BMW - has never had a global branding campaign. Until last week,

that is, when the arch-conservative German group became the first car

manufacturer to run truly global advertising.

Auto makers have been left behind as other industries have stampeded

towards global rather than localised advertising. But now, one of

Europe’s most traditional groups has decided to break the mould.

What triggered the move, according to BMW’s manager of international

advertising, Peter Weil, was a piece of research carried out a few years

ago which showed that 70 per cent of the reasoning behind any purchase

of a BMW stems purely from its brand values.

’People don’t say, ’I must have a BMW 3 series,’’ he explains. ’They

say, ’I must have a BMW - now, which one can I afford?’’

So, it became imperative to reinforce those values, and ensure BMW’s

mobile target market of ABs found the same message in each country that

they visit.

However, fully globalised marketing is particularly difficult to


This is because car groups are by necessity decentralised - each market

has to be allowed to have its own head and be its own profit centre, or

it would not establish the right level of technical back-up required

with such a complex product.

The net result is that each local car company has run its own


And, naturally enough, each prefers to spend cash on product-based

advertising, rather than on reinforcing brand values, because this has a

more immediate impact on sales.

To get round this problem, BMW’s Bavaria-based marketing director,

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, has spent the last three years steering his master

plan of a global advertising campaign through the company. First through

the group’s traditional head office decision-makers, and second through

the minefield of local BMW companies around the world.

WCRS, which handles BMW’s advertising in the UK, was asked to develop a

campaign to reinforce the brand with ads that could run across Europe,

Asia and the Americas, reaching an estimated 17 million target


Running in international business and general titles and selected

national titles on each continent, every country’s advertising will use

the same endline, with the exception of the US, which it was felt would

not appreciate the ’Freude am Fahren’ (joy of driving) strapline. All

copy save the endline will be in English, except in Latin America,

China, and a few ads in Germany.

Kalbfell has earmarked pounds 15 million for the project, and hopes that

for the sake of such expense, the global village really does exist.


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