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BMW: Driving Mobile Innovation
  An interview with Marc Mielau
  Innovation Manager for Mobile Marketing

bmw_car1.gifBMW is one of the world’s most recognizable brands. As part of their on-going effort to build stronger connections with consumers, BMW has established a Marketing Innovation Department, which, among other things, has responsibility for developing mobile advertising and marketing.

Marc Mielau is the Innovation Manager for Mobile Marketing at BMW. In this two-part interview Marc explains how a major brand like BMW with a large complex organization can effectively address new opportunities such as mobile advertising and marketing, and he shares several of the very interesting campaigns that BMW has run.

Five minutes after Marc Mielau starts talking about BMW, you realize that this is a company that takes marketing very seriously. And just as BMW invests to stay at the leading edge of automotive technology, they are willing to dedicate serious resources to stay at the leading edge of marketing.

BMW Innovation Department

bmw_quote2.gifOne of the key results of this investment is the BMW Marketing Innovation Department where Marc works. This department acts much like an R+D center for marketing, and is responsible for exploring and investigating marketing communications opportunities all the way out to the year 2020.

Marc explains, “while the design groups are developing models for the future, we work to setup new marketing channels and prepare the company for future marketing activities.”

The Innovation Department is a BMW Group function, so it incorporates not only BMW, but also the MINI and Rolls Royce brands of automobile. It addresses all aspects of marketing and mobile activities within the Enhanced Consumer Solutions function.

bmw_marc_170×210.gifThis marketing innovation function is also separate from the general marketing and advertising function at BMW, which is responsible for the bulk of BMW’s advertising. The innovation group supports the general marketing group, but is also able to run certain innovative campaigns for the purpose of testing, learning, and experimentation, rather than being focused solely on traditional measures like ROI.

As a result, BMW has been able to put in place some very interesting, leading-edge marketing programs over the past years that might well be of interest to other companies looking at mobile marketing.

Mobile Marketing Circle

bmw_visualizer.gifAnother way that BMW has organized itself to take advantage of the mobile marketing opportunity is the “Mobile Marketing Circle“. This is a cross-divisional group at BMW that meets every third week with the goal of building synergies across their full range of mobile activities.

All the central functions that are involved with the mobile channel get together for a discussion on what opportunities they see, what projects they are working on, what issues they are facing. These meetings include representatives not only from BMW and MINI, but also from the Financial Services and the After Sales group, as these also have very extensive customer contact.

These meetings also serve as a good point of contact for outside partners, who are often invited to present at the meeting. These might include agencies presenting portfolios or technical partners explaining new marketing capabilities.

Thanks to these meetings BMW has been able to stay very much abreast of emerging developments in mobile advertising + marketing and stay coordinated across the company.

Is the industry ready?

bmw_quote1.gifAlthough many people in the industry may still feel that not everything is quite in place to support mobile, Marc believes that in reality, the market is very ready for mobile marketing. The operators are ready, agencies are ready, the technology is there, and consumers are ready. There is just one key ingredient that is not so readily available.

He explained further, “you can buy everything these days, except new customer oriented ideas. However, our approach is that we assume that we understand our business and our customers better than an agency can. So we’ve said we should get the ideas, and then we look for the right partners to execute.”

Mobile Advertising, The Broad View

It is Marc’s view that mobile advertising really needs to be looked at in a broader context. “People took their ads from TV and moved them to online, and now they are trying to find space for ads on the little screen. This is fine, but its not the whole truth about the mobile channel.”


Marc continued, “I believe that it’s a short step from “mobile advertising” to “mobile everything”, which includes mobile advertising, mobile communications, mobile entertainment, and even mobile commerce”.

bmw-customers2.gif“A multi-channel approach to marketing will be necessary in the future, and mobile will play an important role. We think mobile marketing is about trying to reach customers with added value offers. This is the focus of the Innovation group.”

A “launch-triggered” business

Marc explained that BMW has a very launch triggered business – whenever they bring a new car to market, they decide what media mix will be best for advertising that particular model.

Across all the full BMW model range there is a high mobile usage, but some models have an especially good fit with mobile. For example the BMW 1 Series.

“For us, the BMW 1 Series attracts the youngest target group in our portfolio. And also the kind of campaigns that run for the BMW 1 Series fit perfectly with a mobile approach.”

The BMW 1 Series also provides a good example of the exploratory marketing approach of the Innovation group.

BMW 1 Series Launch

When BMW launched the BMW 1 Series 3-door version last year, it was the first white car they had introduced in a long time. So they decided to produce their advertising campaigns in black and white.


“Because the campaign was black and white, we decided to combine it with 2D bar codes, which we wanted to test.” (2D bar codes, both Semacodes and QR Codes, are also black and white). So even though 2D bar codes are not standardized or prominent across Europe, the Marketing Innovation group decided to join with the general marketing group to try them to gain experience.

As a result Semacodes were added to all the print material for the BMW 1 Series, which linked to the BMW 1 Series page on the site.

And how did it work? Marc explains.

“We weren’t really expecting an enormous usage of the 2D bar code, but the very fact that we were using the code brought us a perception we didn’t have before. It was good to have a target group that is interested in these new means of communication – just having a Semacode in the ad made it more attractive to this segment.”

He continued, “maybe they would see it but not really understand it, so they would search for information and try to decode it. We got more awareness because people were discussing it, learning what’s behind it, and actually it helped us to reach prospects in addition to customers.”


“Based on this first success, the same approach was later used with QR codes for MINI in Germany and Italy, and it was also successful there. I think this shows a good fit between communication and product launch.”

Customer Orientation: Selling Used BMW’s

Another example of how BMW is using mobile to make their customers’ lives easier is in the used car selling process.

BMW operates several very large used car centers, with sometimes up to 800 cars on display. If a customer is interested in a certain model of car, they may well find 10 or 20 cars of that model available. So helping customers effectively compare the cars in order that they can make a decision is important.


“We observed customers while shopping at these used car centers, and saw that they really couldn’t note down all the necessary information by hand”, said Marc. So BMW turned to mobile to help.

Each car now carries a unique identifying number. When a customer is interested in a particular car, they can send a SMS with that number, and receive back an MMS with the full details – price, options, color, picture, etc.


They do this for each car they are interested in, and at the end of the day they can easily take all the information home with them in their phone. This gives them the information they need to make comparisons and eventually to make a choice.


BMW has also seen that people usually ask advice and get recommendations from friends when purchasing an automobile. These informational MMS messages are a great way to share information with friends during these discussions, and to get people talking about BMW cars. “We give them a basis for their discussions,” commented Marc.


Finally, this system which was originally intended as a customer aid, is also very good for sales. “Each MMS gives the consumer an option to directly call a sales person, or to ask for a call back. For example if the dealer sees that you have taken information on a BMW 3 Series car, he can call you to arrange a test drive,” Marc concluded.


This is the end of part I of this interview. In the next part, we will look in detail at several more mobile programs from the BMW Marketing Innovation group, and hear Marc’s view of the future of mobile marketing. Go to Part II.

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