Mini Cooper's 'Guardian of Brand Soul'

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2 of 25 > GO TO Next 2004 Woman to Watch

Kerri Martin feels lucky to have worked on three brands and products she identifies with personally: She always owns and drives the product she markets.

Kerri Martin, marketing communications manager, Mini Cooper division, BMW of North America.

Holding the title of marketing communications manager in BMW of North America's Mini Cooper division since August 2000, Ms. Martin has also been christened "guardian of brand soul" for the small-car line. She helped reintroduce the Mini in the U.S. in '02. Ms. Martin and her team, now four strong, created brand awareness from zilch and a personality for the Mini, along with a fun "Motoring" culture for owners -- all done with little traditional advertising.

Second U.S. staffer
Richard Steinberg was project manager and Mini's first U.S. employee. He says Ms. Martin was the second staffer at Mini because of her accomplishments at BMW Motorcycles, strong marketing background and eagerness for the new opportunity despite his "scare tactics" that the job could be risky. Mr. Steinberg, now product strategy manager, describes Ms. Martin as "very strong-willed and hard-working," and credits her handling of Mini's 2001 agency search, won by MDC Partners-backed Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami.

Ms. Martin's interest in marketing started when she joined a high school marketing club. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, during the 1991 recession, Ms. Martin says, she took her father's advice to "hold out for the golden opportunity." She pounded the streets for nine months before landing in 1992 what she dubs "the dream job in my own back yard" -- at Harley-Davidson as project manager on its MotorClothes unit.

Repositioned BMW motorcycles
By 1997, "I had the itch to work on the bike business," Ms. Martin recalls, and she moved to BMW Motorcycles as brand marketing manager. She led a repositioning of the brand after an agency review in 1998, moving the account to Omnicom Group's Merkley & Partners, New York.

Laurence Kuykendall met Ms. Martin six years ago working on BMW Motorcycles. "Kerri was part of the reason for the turnaround of our motorcycles," he says. She understood "we needed to embrace people who were passionate about it," says the BMW cycles marketing communications manager.

Ms. Martin's advice to young women, and men: "You have to do something you love, and if you do, you're going to be great at it."

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