BMW is one of the world’s most recognizable brands, and is very actively engaged with mobile marketing. In the first part of this article, we interviewed Marc Mielau, Innovation Manager for Mobile Marketing at BMW. He explained the workings of BMW’s Marketing Innovation Department, and talked about the Mobile Marketing Circle which coordinates across departments.
Situation Based Marketing: Snow Tires
One of the key advantages of mobile from Marc’s perspective is that it can be very situation-based and specific. A good example of this is a campaign BMW ran concerning snow tires (i.e. tires specially designed to work well in the winter when you drive in snow).
The situation is that all cars purchased in Germany between March and September need to have winter tires installed by the end of October. Marc explains the opportunity, “usually people do not buy winter tires during the summer, so there is a time slot in October where you can be relevant”.
BMW has a customer database which includes phone number, type of car purchased, and when it was purchased. So they know who had bought cars in the March to September timeframe. Since BMW was looking for new sales approaches for their dealers, they decided to run a very customized marketing campaign to sell these winter snow tires through their dealerships.
Rather than send out a standard print campaign brochure which shows an entire range of tires, BMW wanted a very personalized message. So they used the information in the database to render for each customer an individualized picture that had their specific kind of car, their specific color, and a specific recommended winter tire on their car with a detailed price.
This rendered image was sent out by MMS, so each customer would see exactly what the proposed snow tire would look like on their individual car.
As an additional feature, the MMS included a link to a downloadable application that would let the customer test what alternate tires and wheels would look like. And in order to drive sales, it also gave the option to directly call a dealer or to request a call back from a dealer.
The final aspect in this program was the exact timing of sending the campaign. Marc recalls the day, “I was sitting in my office on October 31, I looked outside in the evening, at about 6pm, and the first snow of the season was falling. So I called our agency and said to start sending out the MMS messages.”
And how effective were these highly personalized messages arriving at exactly the correct moment?
“We generated a sales conversion of 30%. To measure this, we matched the database we used for the campaign with the database from dealer sales, and we saw that 30% of the people that were sent an MMS actually bought snow tires from the BMW dealers.”
Marc attributes this very high success rate to a number of factors. “It was a success because it was so situation based.”
Specifically, it was
• individualized – you could see what the tire looked like on your car
• localized – it was very easy to find a local dealership
• timely – the message was delivered at exactly the right time to trigger the sales process, much more targeted than standard mail.
The BMW mobile site – an Enabler
In addition to some of the more involved projects such as the snow tire campaign described above, BMW has also been working on some of the fundamentals of mobile marketing – such as their mobile site.
“We are currently in the situation where lots agencies are calling to ask if they can present a new marketing approach to us where we would build a dot.mobi site. But we started our bmw.mobi site during the “sunrise period”, since 22 May, 2006. We were actually one of the first big brands to do so.”
Marc also recounted how their mobile site developed. “When we first made the bmw.mobi site, we tried in effect to make a little version of the bmw.com site.” But the general marketing team at BMW couldn’t promote the bmw.mobi site because they already put so much information onto brochures.
Even so, without any promotion, in 2007 BMW had 3 million visits to the bmw.mobi site. “It was very successful because consumers were searching for information about BMW on their mobile browsers and they would end up at bmw.mobi.”
However, in Marc’s view, the bmw.mobi site needs to be much more than this, “for me, it’s much more important that the bmw.mobi site is an enabler for future interactive campaigns. For example, it’s an enabler for QR code campaigns, because I need to lead the people somewhere, and without bmw.mobi I can’t do it.”
What’s New: BMW Museum Tour
One of Marc’s most recent projects involves video calls and the BMW Museum in Munich.
The BMW Museum is located next to the new BMW Welt (BMW World), and it has just undergone a major renovation. Because the Museum has been declared an historical monument, the outside of the building could not be changed, but the inside was completely redone.
In order to give people a convenient way to see the renovated interior of the building, BMW ran a special marketing campaign that utilized “video call” technology.
This video call campaign was marketed in conjunction with the 850th anniversary of the city of Munich. The anniversary was the cause of numerous festivals around town, so BMW placed stands around the festival grounds, saying “Would you like to have a look inside the BMW Museum? Then call +491805013335″.
When someone dials the number, they are connected directly to a video stream – it is not a link or a download – the video just starts to play. This makes it extremely easy for the public.
Part of the video stream is a menu that they see on the mobile screen, which lets them chose different videos: a tour of the museum, historical films, a look inside the manufacturing plant, etc. There is also an option for the caller to be connected directly to a video call center which can schedule an appointment for a museum tour.
Here is a sample of the videos.
Marc explained the key relevance of this project. “For us this was a very interesting project, as we are always trying to explore news ways to have more personal contact with the customer. The beauty of this is that it is so easy, there is nothing to do wrong. Just dialing and pushing numbers - no download, no surf, just dialing numbers.”
“The big thing is that if you make it really easy and convenient, it can be for all customer target groups. 90% of customers use mobile phones, so the key is to figure out which services fit best with each customer profile.”
View of the future
Innovation in mobile marketing is clearly an ongoing process at BMW. Marc comments about growth so far, “you can see how we’ve developed. We first started with highly innovative things, and then we remarked that sometimes it doesn’t work too well, because people need time to accept new things. So then we tried to get easier again with SMS/MMS. And now we have the video call.”
In terms of how mobile marketing is viewed within BMW overall, Marc is optimistic but realistic. “It’s new, but it’s accepted. At the moment, most everyone knows something about mobile marketing and is aware of the coming importance of this channel. However, it is not yet accepted as an integral part of every campaign, it is not yet business as usual for everyone”.
In terms of ongoing evolution in the market, Marc believes that network speed, flat rate pricing, and handset capabilities will be critical.
“This will be the next step, 3G functionality in the phone with a big screen and browsing capability – this will influence the whole market. And when operators follow with flat rate offers, we will see a boom in this market”
The first time I met Marc was at the Mobile Marketing Forum put on by the MMA earlier this year in London. I think that perhaps the best way to wrap-up this interview is with the final slide that Marc showed during his presentation that day. These are key points that BMW has learned from their experience with mobile marketing. Any major brand that is interested in continuing to innovate in marketing would probably do well to consider them.