BMW had a pretty big year in 2016. With the launch of the seventh generation of BMW 5 Series to the return of BMW Films, 2016 was an exciting year for both BMW and its fans. However, 2017 looks to be even bigger, with more car launches, debuts and exciting new changes for the Bavarian brand. So we sat down with BMW’s Vice President of marketing, Trudy Hardy, at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show to speak about last year and the upcoming year for BMW.
“2016 was a whirlwind of a year, with our centennial event and 100 years. It was great.” said Hardy. “The end of the year really started to ramp up, we launched a tribute to BMW Films, using the new G30. It gave a nice lift and nice momentum [going into 2017].” The most recent iteration of BMW Films, “The Escape” was a big deal for car enthusiasts and really brought a lot of attention to BMW.
“Without paid media, it was great to see 5 million views and each one of our viewers spending more than 6 minutes with the film. That’s a testament to the fact that if content is rich and there’s good story telling, the viewers will be there. We’ll still continue to work with BMW Films into 2017, with the film that we have. I don’t know that you’ll see one ever year, but I think we’ll use it in the right way.”
In every BMW Films short, the main character is an unnamed driver, played by Clive Owen. Yet the BMW 5 Series ad campaign will feature a different leading man. “There is a TV commercial campaign featuring Scott Eastwood, the son of Clint Eastwood.” said Hardy.
‘The Escape” should likely help the 5 Series, says Hardy. “The right balance of creating a wonderful mood piece for the brand that can live up to its expectations and making sure we’re trying to get all of the new features across in a really clever way.”
We also asked if the BMW 5 Series’ customer has changed at all over the years, now that the car has gotten so much bigger and more technology-laden. “It hasn’t changed dramatically overtime, it’s still a hard working business sedan. Someone who wants the latest and greatest technology, innovators and early adopters, will want the 5 Series first.” But overall, Hardy feels that the 5 Series still brings in the same sort of customer, for the most part.
But, moving to 2017, what’s the product lineup look like?
“It’s going to be a big year for us, especially for iPerformance. We now have the 530e, which is the fourth iPerformance vehicle. We’re now the largest provider in the premium segment. We have the 4 Series and 2 Series LCI. Most importantly is the shift to SAVs (Sports Activity Vehicles), especially with the demand with this market.” It’s clear BMW sees a need for more SAVs, what with the BMW X2 coming soon, as well an the upcoming flagship X7.
But it isn’t just SUVs (or SAVs in BMW speak) that are changing the market. We’ve seen a pretty dramatic shift if market strategy for most brands, as they all seem to be pushing more and more connected and autonomous technology. So, what’s the key for success for BMW in next 5 years?
“The future of mobility is changing so rapidly, in terms of innovation [especially after CES], things are changing so fast. It’s remarkable to see how fast some of the advanced driver and safety features are progressing.”
Hybrid technology is also a big deal, as Hardy mentioned before, with BMW becoming one of the world leaders in hybrid technology. But what about a cruder, older engine technology. What’s the future of diesel in the US?
“We’re really watching consumer demand for it and trying to adapt. I think we’ve been very smart along our lineup and its largely amongst our SAVs and sedans, only where it makes sense. We’re aligning where consumer demand is with diesels.”
And, admittedly, customer demand in the US isn’t very high, especially after Volkswagen’s diesel-gate. So don’t expect a lot of diesels.
Another type of vehicle not popular in the US is the wagon. We don’t tend to like wagons much, for unknown reasons, so BMW sells its Grand Turismo vehicles here. Does Hardy feel one will become more popular than the other? “I don’t know that I’d place my bets on one or the other.”
BMW is also looking to push data analytics quite hard. With connected vehicles and the open mobility cloud, BMW really wants to learn what its customers’ demands.
“The way the whole digital landscape is shifting so rapidly, data analytics are a critical part of it.” With this data, BMW can really learn about its customers and what they want. “I think it’s really about localizing our strategy more, knowing which products in which markets. How to reach the right person with the right message in the right place at the right time. Data is a critical part of that. Getting down to the zip code level.”
However, there are still other ways BMW can approach its customers. For instance, why isn’t BMW taking a similar approach to Tesla, promoting a car where you can take preorders? Create a lot of buzz ahead of time and gives you an idea of the demand.
“I understand people’s shopping behavior is changing. But I think we’re making really good strides to help that online experience and bring the behavior people know and love from other shopping experiences. It’s tough because you’re still dealing with a high purchase item. But we are trying to advance the way people are shopping online.”