Kerri Martin Helped Reintroduce BMW Brand in U.S.

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Volkswagen of North America has created a new role of director of market development and hired a former Mini Cooper marketing executive for the post, a spokesman for the automaker said.
Kerri Martin resigned her post as marketing communications manager at BMW's Mini Cooper division and is going to rival VW.

Kerri Martin, who resigned in the past week as marketing communications manager at VW rival Mini Cooper, a division of BMW of North America, where she had been since August 2000, joins VW early next month. The new role is not a replacement for the general marketing manager job, vacated last fall by the unexpected resignation of Zafar Brooks. The spokesman said VW won't fill that position.

At VW, Ms. Martin will oversee advertising, promotions, market strategies and public relations.

While at Mini Cooper, Ms. Martin was christened "guardian of brand soul" for the small-car line. She helped reintroduce the Mini in the U.S. in 2002, creating brand awareness from zilch and a personality for the Mini, along with a fun "Motoring" culture for owners -- all done with little traditional advertising.

For her successful nontraditional launch of the Mini, Advertising Age magazine named Ms. Martin one of its "Women to Watch" in 2004. A spokesman for Mini said the automaker will name a successor for Ms. Martin at a later date.

German rivalry
Like Detroit carmakers, the German automakers are fierce rivals, even though Mini only has a handful of models vs. VW's much broader lineup.

Mini sold just 36,000 cars in the U.S. last year, while the VW brand sold 256,111 units. Mini spent $18 million in measured media for the first 10 months of 2004, compared with VW's $309 million outlay, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

But VW has been struggling financially with a much-criticized move upmarket, and allowing its core, best-selling models to get long in the tooth. VW hopes the newest-generation Jetta, now in pre-launch and last redone in 1997, will bring the brand out of the doldrums.

VW's six-minute film
Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, has raised the bar on nontraditional advertising for Mini, known for its tongue-in-cheek ad messages. Keeping pace, VW's agency, Havas' Arnold Worldwide, Boston, created a nontraditional effort for the new Jetta, a six-minute short film developed for the Sundance Festival. One million DVDs of the film will be distributed in the April 1 issue of Entertainment Weekly on the newsstand and to subscribers.

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