23Jan 2022 by
Read the Case Study entitled, MINI: Focus on the Essential–Maximize the Experience. Then, answer questions 1-4 at the end of the case. Upload the answers in a Word Document via the assignment link above by Sunday night. Please be sure to answer the questions completely and to back up your answers with facts from the textbook. Remember, it is quality that counts so be brief, thorough, and to the point.
Company Case MINI: Focus on the Essential—Maximize the Experience Long-term brands face a balancing act. On the one hand, they must remain true to the characteristics that endear them to their throngs of loyal customers. On the other hand, the longer a brand remains, the more it must develop new attributes that appeal to new generations of customers. Maintaining this balance between consistency and relevancy is difficult. Brands that can do this for decades are truly special. Take BMW’s MINI—the modern representation of the iconic British people’s car. MINIs continue to roll off the assembly line after more than 60 years. Not only has MINI remained true to the original brand while keeping up with changing customer dynamics, it has done so despite having been owned by six different companies. A Classic Is Born In 1956, the Suez Crisis brought on a major worldwide fuel shortage. As a result, the demand for small, fuel-efficient vehicles spiked. The British Motor Corporation (BMC) gave Sir Alec Issigonis the job of designing a vehicle with a unique challenge—minimize dimensions and amenities while maximizing efficiency and utility. That challenge became the heart and soul of the MINI brand. Measuring only ten feet long, four-and-a-half feet wide, and four-and-a-half feet high, the original MINI rode on tiny ten-inch wheels. But with its wheels pushed out to the extreme corners and its 40-horsepower engine mounted sideways, the tiny car could seat four people comfortably with room in the back for cargo. It was fuel efficient and boasted a sturdy frame and suspension. The innovative design of the original MINI gave it nimble reflexes and go kart-like handing. Available in a variety of basic colors, the car offered optional niceties such as adjustable seats, opening rear side windows, rubber mats, and a heater. Customers were thrilled with the MINI and its small-on-size-big-on-function design. Those initial characteristics of the brand were soon enhanced even further through a partnership between BMC and John Cooper, the legendary Formula One driver and race car designer. Recognizing the MINI’s potential as a race car based on its small size, low weight, and stiff chassis, Cooper designed performance modifications for the drivetrain, suspension, and brakes. Cooper’s hunches were right. MINI won the Monte Carlo Rally three times between 1958 and 1962 against veteran racing brands such as Ferrari, Maserati, and Lotus. With Cooper performance modifications added to the options list, the MINI was poised to deliver more value than ever. Based on its design and options, key characteristics of the brand began to emerge. Round headlights and a “smiley face” bumper contributed to a friendly and fun brand personality. As the options offered by BMC and by aftermarket companies evolved, MINI soon became one of the most customizable car brands, giving it a strong appeal to those who wanted a car that would express their individuality. It’s not surprising that MINI quickly became the perfect blend of practical and cool that was irresistible to everyone, regardless of class and culture. MINI’s popularity really took off as iconic celebrities became fans. At one point, all four Beatles were counted among the growing body of MINI owners. Under BMC during its first decade, the MINI was sold in coupe, wagon, and van versions as a sub-brand of various marks (Morris MINI-Minor and the Austin Seven MINI, among others). In 1969, MINI became a standalone brand. But as BMC experienced financial difficulties in the late 1960s, MINI bounced from one company to another for the better part of 25 years before finding a home with BMW in 1994 where it has remained ever since. Although the MINI’s pedigree is confusing, the car changed very little during its first 41 years, staying true to the original design. But safety and emissions regulations as well as changing consumer needs brought MINI production to a halt in October of 2000. It was then that MINI number 5,387,862—a red Cooper Sport—was driven off the line and immediately parked in the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, England, right alongside the first MINI ever made—a tribute to the most popular British car of all time. Just one year before, a jury of 126 automotive experts from 32 countries had voted the MINI the runner up to Ford’s Model T as the Car of the Century. Redesigning an Iconic Brand Although the writing was on the wall signaling the end of the original MINI design, BMW was hard at work designing its replacement. The brand had far too much equity and heritage to let it die. However, BMW faced a challenge in recreating one of the most iconic automobiles ever made. Modern customers called for more of everything—more power, larger size, safer design, and more features and options. But the heritage of the brand demanded an automobile for the new millennium that was unmistakably a MINI. In 2001, the first of the new two-door MINI hatchbacks rolled off the assembly line in England and hit showroom floors. Although the length and width of the new MINI was substantially greater than the original (22 inches longer and 11 inches wider), the new MINI was very small relative to average vehicles of the time. Various engine options delivered between 75 and 245 horsepower. BMW’s modern version delivered on fuel efficiency, practicality, and driving performance. With nimble reflexes and rally-car handling, it was easy to drive and park. Yet taller-than-average occupants found plenty of headroom and legroom, not to mention superb visibility in any direction. Round headlights and a happy-face grill gave the new design a look that was unmistakably MINI. Sticking with the original MINI’s appeal to individuality, BMW provided a lengthy list of options with various wheel packages, paint schemes, and latex appliques that could be fitted to give the roof, mirrors, hood, and hatch seemingly endless appearance options. Within a few years, the two-door hatch spawned convertible and wagon variants. The goal of the new MINI’s branding was to sell “lifestyles defined by freedom, good cheer, and camaraderie.” To that end, MINI unleashed the “Let’s Motor” campaign, employing a rich mix of unconventional media, carefully integrated to create personality for the car and excited buzz among consumers. The company put MINIs in all kinds of imaginative places. It mounted them atop Ford SUVs and drove them around 22 major cities, highlighting the car’s sensible size. It set up “MINI Ride” displays outside department stores, featuring an actual MINI that looked like a children’s ride. Displays in airport terminals featured oversize newspaper vending machines showing the undersized MINI and proclaiming, “Makes everything else seem too big.” Equally creative were integrated print, online, and direct mail ads. The “Let’s Motor” campaign not only won awards, it was a smashing success in achieving BMW’s goals. Together with company-sponsored owner events, MINI developed a cult-like following of devoted owners. Although the new MINI didn’t please all purists, many were impressed. Like the original, the new MINI drew drivers of all demographics despite the fact that BMW targeted drivers between the ages of 20 and 30 who enjoyed the pleasure of driving. Sales were initially strong and steadily increased to more than 300,000 units sold in 2012—a figure that rivaled the best sales years ever of the classic MINI. The Soul of the Brand Lives On With the MINI’s popularity stronger than ever, in the summer of 2015 BMW announced that it would again reinvent the brand, complete with new designs, a new logo, and a new positioning for its cars. Many observers asked the obvious question, “With things are going so well for MINI, why was it reinventing itself?” The simple answer is, BMW was proactively staying ahead of shifts in market conditions. Keeping tabs, BMW noticed that its target customer—affluent urban dwellers in their 20s and 30s who enjoy fun, freedom, and individuality—had changed considerably. When the brand first launched in 2001, consumers were brimming with confidence from a booming world economy. But rapid technological change, geo-political uncertainty, and the financial crash of 2008 combined to fundamentally alter consumer values. MINI’s core customer had become more practical—focused on the essentials. For a brand built on a lifestyle defined by fun, adventure, and sharing good times, BMW managers none-the-less believed that MINI was better positioned than perhaps any other brand to meet this new focus on practicality. The new MINI logo was toned down from the 3D version to a more simple 2D black and white rendition. MINI also simplified its approach to advertising. Gone were the tongue-in-cheek creatives that broke with convention. Instead, new, simpler MINI ads focused on the features and functions of the cars. MINI also updated its website with videos and visuals that helped customers better understand the benefits of the car. These branding changes suggested that MINI was authentic, practical, and ready to play a bigger role in society. As part of the new branding philosophy, BMW planned to rollout complete revisions of each of its five models—now referring to them as the “Five Superheroes”—the Hardtop 2 Door, the Hardtop 4 Door, the Convertible, the wagon-esque Clubman, and the all-wheel drive Countryman crossover. All models would receive substantial technological updates. In a departure from the past, branding efforts for each new model would emphasize a unique identity, including color schemes and aesthetics tailored to each car. With this approach, MINI created a brand with five product lines that appealed to a broader range of customers. For example, the Clubman was aimed at attracting more families to the brand. Advertising focused on the car’s functionality and elegant design. And at over 14 feet in length and six feet in width, it was MINI’s largest and roomiest car ever. With this redesign, did MINI abandon its original brand values? Not according to MINI’s head of brand management. “With our five ‘superheroes’ we want to make it very clear that each of those cars has its own character. The Clubman is the most extreme example in terms of moving in a direction away from the past, but you should still expect a lot of fun from the different models as each character emerges.” Those at the company emphasize that MINI’s brand values are still in line with the minimizing, practical instincts of Issigonis on the one hand contrasted with the maximizing, performance-driven approach of Cooper on the other. “MINI has always been about new ideas, inspiration, and a lot of passion, and these things are not going to change,” said another MINI representative. Since the unveiling of the new generation of MINIs, the company continues to innovate with state-of-the-art features like MINI Connected Concierge services, wireless smartphone charging, and anti-dazzle adaptive headlights with a matrix high beam—a rarity on small city cars. In an even bolder move, buyers of new MINIs can custom design interior appointments like dashboard inserts, side scuttles, and door sills that are produced on 3D printers and installed in the car before the buyer takes ownership. In addition, MINI’s high-performance models will soon see higher performance than ever. And in the coming year, the MINI Copper SE will make its debut, the first in a new line of fully electric MINIs. Based on MINI’s recent sales numbers, it seems that the new direction is right on the money. For each of the past four years, MINI has sold substantially more vehicles than any year prior to the 2015 rebranding, moving more than 360,000 vehicles into garages around the world last year. As MINI moves boldly into the future with efforts to stay relevant in a changing world, it must also stay true to the qualities that have made it iconic for so long. The folks at MINI seem to get that. “Mini crosses cultures, class, gender, and age,” says MINI’s head of design. “Anyone who buys a MINI feels immediately younger while driving it. It just puts a smile on your face.”
1. Discuss how MINI has endured for 60 years as a brand despite being owned by various companies.
2. Does MINI have high brand equity? Explain.
3. Over the years, has MINI been positioned based on attributes, benefits, or values? Explain.
4. Do you think BMW taking MINI in the right direction with its current branding strategy? Why or why not?