The BMW Magic of ‘Functional & Emotional’


THE Enduring Strategic Brand


In ‘THE Enduring Strategic Brand’, we were privileged to discuss with Dr. Ian Robertson on his thoughts on the Strategic Brand and notably on the importance of emotions to a brand. Dr. Robertson is a Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG since 2008, in charge of Sales and Brand BMW and Aftersales BMW Group and here is an extract of his interview.

“A Strategic Brand is what drives the company, rather than anything else. People often make the mistake of saying, ‘we have a good idea or we have a good product and then we make a brand’, but that’s not what achieves consistency and endurance.

“The DNA of the BMW brand has clear focus. It’s what we use to attract people into our company; to motivate people within the company; to design our cars and services; to communicate to our public; to guide our dealers. That’s why we have a Brand Academy, just across the street, where thousands of people every year, both within the company and our outside partners, become immersed in the brand – because it’s not easy for everyone to understand.

“Part of our message is to say that BMW is the Ultimate Driving Machine. That’s been our central focus for over 45 years, but as well as it being our message to the outside world, we have to look at the more complex issue of how you ingrain that concept in the people who come to work here. How do you ensure that, whatever they’re designing, they have the Ultimate Driving Machine in mind?

“It’s too easy to have a set of words on the wall or words in a book. What you need is an emotional context to the brand. The emotional context at the centre of the BMW brand is ‘joy’. That’s what we want our people to have. That’s what we want our customers to experience. That’s what we want our products to deliver. That’s what we want our communication to say. It’s consistent: we’ve never changed ‘joy’. Joy is always there…

“This consistent approach throughout the company is the foundation of a Strategic Brand. You start with the brand and then, ultimately, you have products, you have services, you have what you stand for. Because of this consistency, all those people behind the brand become the greatest brand ambassadors. It underpins our business and our values.

“How do you achieve this? The magic lies with consistency – our brand is something that is understood by anyone you talk to in the company, whether they are on the production lines, in the offices or in the dealerships.

“Companies have ups and downs of course but even in difficult times, we still want people to experience that motivation and excitement. You have to keep reinforcing it. So we had strategy ‘Number One’ in 2007, and we’ve just gone through the process of defining our strategy ‘Next’. Now we’re in the process of communicating and engaging with everybody in the company about what the strategy means and how we are evolving the business. Within that, ‘joy’ plays a very central role.

“Hence our core remains consistent. The way in which our products are developing, the way in which the world is changing, the way in which our business models are evolving – these things will be different. But the ultimate heart of the brand is consistent.

“I think people engage with the emotional context. I see a lot of ‘vision-mission’statements from other companies, and some of them are bland: there is nothing emotionally hooked into it. For example, when a company says: ‘We’re going to be the best in this area and the biggest and most successful in that area.’ So what?

“It is emotion that makes great marketing and provides great service. The rest can be trained. The emotional context of a brand’s core is essential. Going the extra mile becomes easier if you have an emotional context”