Agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami
Client: MINI USA
Campaign Title: “Let’s Motor”
SUCCESS FOR US WOULD BE EVERY CAR COMPANY AND AGENCY LOOKING AT OUR LAUNCH AND THINKING THAT THEY ARE DINOSAURS. -February 2001
By studying car culture, analyzing iconic brands, and uncovering the unique characteristics of our brand and best prospects, we created – “Motoring” – an alternative culture of driving. And, by using non-traditional media and traditional media in non-traditional ways, we proved we’re different and stood out. MINI sold out its first year, and we have achieved measures on key metrics that are better than brands that have been around for years and outspend us 10 to 1.
The stakes are high when automotive marketers launch new brands. The BMW Group hired us in February 2001 to help them launch the MINI brand in the U.S. BMW’s mandate was to successfully launch the MINI brand and two new models and ensure MINI’s initial and long-term success. No small task considering how badly the deck was stacked against us.
When we first started working with the MINI brand in early 2001 American roads were dominated by SUV’s – the fastest growing segment – and light trucks was the most popular segment in the category. Japanese and German brands dominated the import segment and gas was $1.25. Bigger was better. Small car sales were at their lowest point in 15 years.
It was into this environment that we were asked to launch the MINI brand, and two new models the Cooper and Cooper S – the smallest cars on the American road. And, MINI’s heritage was British, which was synonymous with unreliability in the car category. And to top it off, we were asked to do it with a budget that gave us less than 1% share of voice in a cluttered category? We freaked out. We’re optimists when it comes to brand building, but even to us, the glass looked half empty.
Insights About Icons
The MINI client saw the glass half full. Their only real concern was voiced at the agency briefing.
“We know we have a cool car, but how can we keep
the new MINI from becoming a fad?”
-MINI agency briefing January, 2001
They kept reminding us that the classic Mini was an icon in the U.K. and Europe – the European car of the century. And we knew icons were the opposite of fads. But, the new MINI had no equity in the U.S. Unlike its predecessor, the new MINI wasn’t an automotive icon in the U.S. In fact, it wasn’t even a brand.
So, planning set out to answer two questions. First, how do brands become icons? And second, does the new MINI have what it takes to become an icon in the U.S.?
We did an exhaustive study of iconic brands across a variety of categories and discovered six characteristics common to iconic brands.
1. A defining signature look
2. An ability to elicit a physical or emotional reaction
3. A tendency to take on characteristics outside their category
4. A tendency to own a unique benefit within a category or create a new category altogether
5. An ability to connect with and reflect the attitudes and values of a broad user base
6. A tendency to break conventions and reinvent to stay salient
The implication? We needed to establish these six iconic characteristics for the new MINI.
Insights About Our Brand
Next, planning needed to find out what, if anything, we could do to bring those characteristics to life for the new MINI. As part of our planning efforts, we talked with classic Mini owners and put hidden cameras in a new MINI and left it out in public.
We discovered MINI’s most defining characteristic – its size and contrasting roof and body. That took care of number 1. We learned that the physical or emotional reaction MINI was most likely to elicit was a smile – MINI was a smile-generating machine. That’s number 2.
We discovered that classic Mini owners didn’t talk about their Mini as a car, but tended to anthropomorphize and refer to it as a pet or family member. They named their Minis. When they saw the new MINI, they would say things like “This car looks like the muscle-head brother of Roxy, my ’72 Cooper”. That takes care of number 3.
The new MINI is a blast to drive. A raw, exhilarating driving experience. More like riding a go-kart than driving a car. We wondered if other cars were as exhilarating as the new MINI? We thought this might be our opportunity to own a unique benefit within the category or possibly create a whole new category of car.
To answer this question, we examined dozens of cars in terms of their 0-60 acceleration and skid pad rating (a measure of a car’s ability to hold a corner at high speed). We also created a “WOW” factor by showing consumers pictures of dozens of cars and asking them to rate each car in terms of its curb appeal and head turning ability. These measures were combined to form an Index of Exhilaration, where:
Exhilaration = (0-60 acceleration) + (skid pad rating) + (“WOW” factor).
The top 10 cars with the highest Exhilaration Index score, listed by index and list price respectively were: Lamborghini Diablo (138, $275,000), Dodge Viper (136, $70,000), Ferrari Modena (130, $141,000), Plymouth Prowler (128, $43,000) Porsche 911 (128, $111,000), MINI Cooper (127, $18,000), Aston Martin Vantage (120, $140,000), Chevrolet Corvette (117, $46,000), Audi TT Roadster (115, $40,000), Ford SVT Mustang (107, $54,000).
Planning showed that what set MINI apart in the category was its high exhilaration relative to its price-point. The implication? This was MINI’s unique benefit, number 4 on our list.
Insights About Our Prospects
Initially, MINI identified their primary target as a younger, upscale male who lived in an urban market. But planning showed that MINI’s best prospect was not defined by age or gender or income bracket. It was defined by a similar way of thinking, a similar approach to life and similar values. These were people who loved to drive and wanted to be their own person and choose their own path. For them individual self- expression was key. And these similarities crossed generations and gender and socio-economic status. The implication? The most effective way to market the new MINI was not to a demographic, but to connect with a broader mindset. That’s number 5.
Insights About the Category
When we examined the automotive category, we saw a category defined by certain conventions. Television was the dominant medium, followed by print. Everyone talked about “driving” and the car’s technical specifications. You never showed a car dirty. The list goes on. We realized that with less than 1% share of voice we could never break through following these conventions. We had to break them to stand out. That’s number 6. The implication? Advertising wasn’t the answer – innovation was.
Make MINI an Icon.
We told creatives that in order to make this happen, we needed to:
Showcase the defining look of the new MINI – its size and contrasting roof.
Create as many opportunities as possible for people to come in contact with the new MINI so they could experience its smile generating magic.
Subtly anthropomorphize the new MINI.
Communicate our unique benefit – life-affirming exhilaration at an attainable price.
Emphasize customization and individual self-expression.
Use non-traditional media and traditional media in very non-traditional ways.
The Big Idea
So, we have the new MINI, a car uniquely exhilarating to own and drive. And, we have a person – a mindset – who is fully engaged in life and individual self-expression. We knew something very remarkable would happen when the new MINI and our best prospects came together. We knew this was our opportunity to push MINI further from the car category. Further away from driving. Now we could create an alternative culture of driving and do all the things that the current culture couldn’t or wouldn’t do.
We first called this new culture “going”. But “going” in your MINI sounded a lot like peeing in your MINI so we kept on thinking. Then the creatives came up with the perfect name – motoring. Motoring is different than driving, it’s more exhilarating. It’s less about getting from A to B and more about getting from A to Z – about taking a unique route. It’s a closer relationship between driver, car and road.
Motoring was the big idea that was at the heart of launching the new MINI in the U.S.. We knew motoring was something MINI could own because every other automobile manufacturer talks about driving.
We’ve built awareness and consideration for MINI.
* Total brand awareness is 80% after our first year of marketing.
* The MINI Cooper converts about 40% of awareness into consideration – which puts it in pretty good company among its competitive set. Only the Toyota Celica, Honda Civic and VW Jetta convert significantly more.
We’ve driven traffic to the website and to dealerships and sold a ton of cars.
* We’ve averaged 67,000 unique visitors to the website each week (675,000 total site visits per month) and have over 150,000 registrants – people who have given us their personal information and asked for interaction with the brand.
* MINI sold 25,000 cars in the U.S. last year – 5,000 more than projected, and MINI has surpassed its sales projections every month since the launch. One year after launch we’ve had our best two months (May and June ’03) ever.
But, probably the best measure of our success is the ROI of our marketing efforts.
* MINI spent roughly $567,000 for each percentage point of awareness. The other 12 brands in MINI’s competitive set spent an average of $5,973,000 (or more than 10 times as much) to do the same.
Agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami