BMW has long had an advantage over Mercedes-Benz and Lexus when it comes to maintenance and ownership costs that it has hardly ever advertised – free maintenance for the first four years of ownership. The secret will be no more as the company is about to unleash a major ad push behind the program known as BMW Ultimate Service.
The ads, done by BMW's ad agency, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners, which took BMW's whole ad account assignment last August, are set inside a BMW dealership and draw on comedy to depict the surprise and even incredulity that four years of free maintenance comes with every new Bimmer. In one spot, for example, a woman thinks the promise of free maintenance is a come-on, and she reminds the salesman that she is married. In another spot, a man buying a BMW thinks he has to give the salesman sports tickets in order to get the deal.
BMW's marketing chief Dan Creed says the ad campaign, for which there are 27 different possible endings to the vignettes between salesman and customer, is timed right for a market of luxury buyers, which, though seemingly fully recovered from the economic death march of 2008-2010, is still looking for value along with their luxury.
"The expectation and widely held belief that BMW has very expensive maintenance costs is still a big factor in why people bypass us when shopping, and we think we have a very efficient way of changing that perception here," says Creed. "Mercedes, Lexus, and our other competitors don't have this, and we are going to use it as a meaningful point of difference."
Scroll down below for more on BMW's upcoming ads and to watch the videos.
Creed, who came into the top marketing job at the end of 2010, is serious about maintaining the sales lead in the luxury category BMW achieved last year, as well as what he feels is the German brand's perceptual lead. "Our chief competitors [especially Audi] have come after us in various ways through advertising for a few years now... we don't go after them."
Could that change? Creed smirks and hints that he might have a few ads "in the drawer" that he can put on the air that would make his rivals think twice about poking the big bear in the luxury category. "There is one brand I can think of whose products have an awful lot of engineering and parts that it shares with its much lower priced division, [we think he is talking about Audi, though Creed stays non-specific to be gentlemanly] and I'd say that was a weakness in their competitiveness."
Don't Mess With Ultimate Driving Machine
Creed wants to make it clear that the ad direction he is leading will not stray from The Ultimate Driving Machine focus the company temporarily watered down in 2009 and 2010 when it ran advertising around the theme of "Joy."
The Canadian-born marketing director says that a recent brand ad featuring multiple BMWs should leave no question about his commitment to the theme and positioning that dates back to the early 1970s. The copy for the TV ad: "We don't make SUVs. We Don't Make Sports Cars. We don't make luxury sedans. We only make one thing. The Ultimate Driving Machine."
But Creed also says that Bimmer lovers and buyers will be seeing more ads that feature specific innovations – such as heated steering wheels, BMW Connected Drive, rear- and side-view cameras, hands-free trunk opening, and the like. "We have long tortured our dealers by introducing a lot of innovations and then not talking about them, and then after the exclusivity with our suppliers expires, Lexus or some other rival will advertise them and the innovation message we could have claimed is lost," said Creed. "We are going to hit those messages more than we show cars taking curves and twisty roads, though we will do that from time to time as a reminder of how much fun BMWs are to drive."
Bimmer lovers and buyers will be seeing more ads that feature specific innovations – such as heated steering wheels, BMW Connected Drive, rear- and side-view cameras, hands-free trunk opening, and the like.
Come August, watchers of the London Olympics will have a hard time missing BMW, an official sponsor, which has bought in excess of 200 TV spots as part of its buy.
Though Lexus, the perennial luxury sales leader is bouncing back strong after being short of cars last year after the Japanese earthquake, BMW is shooting again for the sale lead. All that Olympic exposure, plus the introduction of the new 3 Series already this year and the German company's resolve, Creed says, should be enough to keep the brand on top of the luxury car market for the second straight year.