BMW puts $40 mil effort behind its revamped Mini

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BMW is backing next year's international relaunch of the Mini, a brand icon of England's swinging '60s, with an estimated $40 million campaign that urges consumers to "Feel me."

And though the car is still small enough to "feel" it up close, the Mini is larger and more luxurious in its reincarnation, as BMW targets nostalgic baby boomers and younger, trend-conscious drivers. The Mini is the latest international car marque to rev up the retro look. That road already has been paved by Volkswagen's new Beetle and DaimlerChrysler's sell-out PT Cruiser.

Handling the new Mini's campaign is hot creative German agency Jung von Matt. Wolfgang Armbrecht, director of communication and marketing services for the BMW Group, announced the appointment of the Hamburg shop at the Paris auto show late last month.

Jung von Matt, which handles other work for BMW, won the Mini business despite being an independent, local agency lacking an international network. Mr. Armbrecht said Jung von Matt will link informally with agencies in other countries to handle the account.


The media account is about to be awarded to France's Carat, though negotiations continue and no contract has been signed. In July, BMW consolidated its $150 million pan-European media business at Carat.

The Mini hasn't been redesigned since it first rolled off the assembly line at former owner Rover's Birmingham, England, plant in 1959. BMW bought the Rover Group in the mid-1990s. In March, BMW sold Rover Cars to a U.K. consortium and Land Rover to Ford Motor Co.; BMW kept only the Mini.

BMW chose to unveil the Mini's redesign at September's Paris auto show rather than at this month's upcoming car show in Birmingham to emphasize that the brand is international and not just British.

In fact, last year Japan was the Mini's largest market, as BMW sold 14,000 of the cars globally. The car hasn't been sold in the U.S., however, since 1967.

The new Mini will be launched first in the U.K. in March 2001 and in the rest of Europe in fall 2001. The car will re-enter the U.S. in early 2002, priced at less than $18,000, slightly more than the old version sold for. Asia will follow, including Japan, where the old Mini has achieved cult status.


The Mini for the new millennium is a total redo -- bigger, more luxurious with excellent handling for driving enthusiasts, a BMW executive said.

BMW's new brand strategy is to position the Mini as a premium brand in the entry-level, small-car category, followed by BMW models and, eventually, Rolls Royce at the top, when BMW gains the rights to the brand from VW in 2002.

BMW executives said they hope the Mini will attract a customer younger than the average BMW driver. In the U.S., BMW said it expects early demand for the Mini to come from nostalgic baby boomers but hopes eventually to attract 20-to-34-year-olds.

Auto expert John Hossack predicted the Mini will sell well in Europe because it has a rich heritage. In the U.S., the vehicle is likely to be a cult car that eventually could attract younger buyers, said the VP-senior consultant at AutoPacific. The car has styling pizzazz and the BMW connection gives it a lot of cachet.

Mr. Hossack predicted BMW would initially sell a few thousand Minis annually in the U.S., but the car may sell better in the U.S. than the automaker expects. "It's not a me-too vehicle," he said. "The car does look neat, and if it's as much fun to drive as I think it will be, it has a good shot."

Jung von Matt and BMW need to make major changes in the image of the Mini, now identified with students and as a second car for British housewives.


The global campaign's "Feel me" theme communicates the experience of climbing down into the idiosyncratic little car.

There are three versions:

* "Drive me" stresses the unique sensation of driving the small front-wheel-drive car. Several top BMW executives compared the Mini to "driving a go-cart."

* "Protect me" stresses safety features such as air bags.

* "Dress me" highlights the options for car buyers to customize their Mini with exterior paints, interior finishes and music systems.

Jung von Matt adds to its BMW business with the Mini account. The agency is a BMW favorite. In a surprise move, the carmaker handed the $80 million BMW account in Germany to Jung von Matt without a pitch in early 1998. The agency later picked up a $20 million global image project from BMW.

Contributing: Jean Halliday, Dagmar Mussey.

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