How many 100 year olds care about their image?

BMW recently celebrated its 100th birthday amidst fanfare and bold statements about the next 100 years in car production—including adaptive, autonomous vehicles where drivers are almost redundant.

These advances are not far-fetched, BMW can already produce vehicles that autonomously adapt to wet roads.

Interestingly, this forecast comes from a brand whose focus is on driver experience. BMW brand slogans include ‘sheer driving pleasure’ and ‘the ultimate driving machine’. Both appear to contradict BMW’s future vision—where drivers don’t need to participate. Perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy to create the Ultimate ‘Driving’ Machine—driver optional.

While this vision affects BMW’s products, will it affect the brand?

Brand Strength

In 2015, BMW ranked as the world’s eleventh best brand, with brand value of almost $40 billion. It has positioned itself as a premium producer of safe vehicles that are luxurious, a status symbol and provide the ultimate driving experience.

The brand name was initially created as shorthand for Bayerische Motoren Werke (translates to Bavarian Motor Work) which provided potential customers an understanding of the company’s offering. The colours of the logo represent the Bavarian national colours, and were later associated with spinning aircraft propellers when the company offered aeronautical products.

The logo has only changed marginally since creation in 1916, helping maintain a perception of reliability, consistency and trustworthiness—attributes that assist potential customers’ decision making process.


bmw-logo-1953 bmw-logo-2011

Building the brand

Whether consciously or otherwise BMW has built a strong brand, with significant customer loyalty, in accordance with Keller’s Customer-Based Brand Equity (CBBE) model for building strong brands. This model recommends creating an appropriate brand identity, strong brand associations, positive brand responses and forging intense relationships with customers.

A CBBE model for BMW is summarised below:


Brand identity, brand associations and positive responses were discussed earlier and include BMW’s reliability, premium status and the actual drive provided by its innovative, high performance products.

The relationship with customers is also clear with strong communities online (blogs) and offline (BMW driver clubs)—evidence of a passionate, loyal, fan base.

Branding Strategy

While BMW largely operates under the global umbrella brand ‘BMW’ it also owns and operates the MINI and Rolls-Royce brands which target different markets altogether.

Within the BMW stable each vehicle model, while adhering to the overall brand image, has differences in target markets, pricing and marketing, as evidenced in these advertisements for the flagship 7 series compared to the more affordable 3 series.


BMW-3er-F30-Leidenschaft-gewinnt-Werbekampagne-081BMW operates the performance ‘M’ arm which is also differentiated from normal product offerings in terms of marketing tactics (e.g. being the Safety Car at the MotoGP), actual products and target markets (performance enthusiasts).


Product Strategy

Linking to the overall branding strategy, BMW keeps products in their introduction and growth stages by periodically introducing new models. BMW has even said that to maintain the brand’s image, products that are in decline are withdrawn from the market.

Historically BMW models have a product life cycle of seven years before being completely overhauled. During that time, improvements are made to refresh the offering and reinvigorate the market. These are known as Life Cycle Impulses with the most recent being to the 3 series. BMW aims to have customers upgrade to better models every seven years, a clear product growth strategy to increase the length of customer relationships.


All BMW sub-brands align to the overall identity, but allow BMW to extend their reach across product lines (e.g. SUV, performance or family vehicles) and target markets (e.g. younger, older or more adventurous).


Product Offering

While BMW’s core product offer is a vehicle, it is the abstract and emotional, value-add benefits that differentiate it from competitors—including its emphasis on the driver, service provided at dealerships and brand imagery. These have contributed to the brand’s strength and customer loyalty.

The future

Over the last 100 years BMW has built a strong brand and increased product offerings to service multiple segments, with an overarching premise of luxury, premium products and the ultimate in driving pleasure. What will the next 100 years bring?




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