But BMW Mini doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.
This 50-year-old brand may know their compact, fuel-efficient cars, but they know their audience and their brand identity even better. Miniacs, or Mini brand enthusiasts, go crazy over everything Mini. They follow the unique brand on almost every social media platform around, from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Tumblr. But more often then not, Miniacs share their love without going through official channels by sharing on their own social pages to their personal followers. The brand felt like all this Mini-love was being lost in the fray during the crucial time in the industry as Chevy’s Spark and Fiat’s 500 models encroached on Mini’s market share. So to share and spread the love, Mini started the “NOT NORMAL” campaign that highlights the intense connection between Mini drivers, their cars, and the brand. Rebels, underdogs, and advertisers united and made an incredible user-generated-content non-traditional campaign happen.
The majority of the worldwide campaign took place in 2013 despite being announced in a press release from Munich in September 2012. Starting with a simple landing page on its UK site, Mini began gathering everything from Facebook pictures to Vine videos of model Minis, sporty Minis, fancy Minis, and people driving their Minis. Then an app popped up on the official UK Facebook page where you could make your cover photo ‘not normal.’ By using your profile photo or an uploaded photo, you could change the filter style and paint the photo on a Mini’s roof as it poses in one of five international cities: Tokyo, Paris, London, Berlin, or New York. (Photo 1) Otherwise, the pure social media initiatives stopped after adding a Pinterest board to their account. But that’s when the party started…
Summer 2013 should be renamed The NOT NORMAL Summer. Mini ran an extensive interactive campaign spanning at least four countries and three continents. The summer began with Mini Art Beat, where a Mini outfitted with 48,000 LED lights drove around London streaming user-generated real-time video ON the car. As more and more pedestrians and travellers saw the Art Beat car on the road, the more hashtags (#MiniArtBeat) came in. What’s most impressive, is the fact that every single photo and video that was sent via Vine, Twitter, or on the Facebook app was featured on the car. All of them, from all around the world. So then of course Mini made the experience into some pretty striking videos. The same month, Mini in Canada got in on the action. Professionals fitted roller coaster seats on top of some Minis, each room for two riders on each car. Then drivers got a few eager fans and gave them the most unique roller coaster experience ever as they toured Toronto strapped on top of a car. You can only imagine the reactions of amused Canadians – and the engagement with the brand.
So just when we thought Mini had outdone itself, they started interacting with Mini owners while they drove down the street. With the help of JCDecaux (see case study video here), they “celebrated the Not Normal relationship Mini fans have with their cars.” Well that’s a bit broad – so what happened was, trained Mini spotters were placed along the freeway leading up to the Cromwell Road Digital Gateway in London. Then the digital billboards above showed personalized messages like “Hey red Paceman – you da man!” After a few messages, they told drivers to pull into the gas station on the gateway where each Mini owner was offered flowers for their special someone, free food, and other delights while they got a free gas tank refill from the Mini brand folks. This clever move caught the commuter crowd in one of the most digitally advanced outdoor advertising areas in the world. Nicely done.
The NOT NORMAL Summer is now over – yes I know it’s sad. But the campaign is not – yay! Apparently a poll in England found “that 77 percent of Brits use ‘creative currency’ to fund purchases, with 30 percent eager to put that effort towards a new car." This is just another way of saying the British like finding ways to pay for things using bartering rather than using currency. Now this is where Mini uses its branding smarts – the cars are not the cheapest on the market in their compact, fuel-efficient class and are beginning to let competitors sneak up to their market leadership. So what do they do? They start an auction that will give away a Mini to whoever comes up with the craziest not normal thing you’d do to drive one. Suggestions included naming unborn children after the precious hunk of machinery, tattooing its shiny lines to body parts permanently, or giving up new iPhone 5S’s (because it would be unfair to have both, right)? The submissions are being reviewed currently to find a winner.
WHY I THINK IT’S COOL
Not only does Mini slyly battle its competitors Chevy and Fiat with this campaign, but they use their brand identity and hardcore fan base to encourage others to explore the wonders of Mini. Using multiple agencies and media during this year-long endeavor, Mini utilized fan enthusiasm to demonstrate its unique brand image. Though most people have seen the Mini Cooper, they may not have realized the brand’s identity before – rebellious, independent, impulsive. They started slow, so as not to scare anyone away with such an unusual phrase as “Not Normal.” Because sometimes being not normal is a bad thing – so Mini embraced people’s uncertainty and made ‘not normal’ funky and young and crazy cool. Moving on to social to grab current fan’s attention, the brand smoothly transitioned to experiential, interactive, digital, and outdoor all at once. They even took advantage of their underlying British identity by performing their last few stunts in London, the center of all the identities they were trying to showcase – techy, young, and ready to roll. So we challenge all brands to incorporate their brand identity into their advertising more often. Don’t keep trying to buy us. Because size doesn’t matter. Love does. Love your brand, love your fans.