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Transcending the Classic— Focus on Brand Reshaping, the Case of the Mini Cooper

Sun Lei
First Published in Marketing & Management

The author is an experienced brand consultant, who has many years’ experience in brand planning, marketing strategies and integration of communication planning and implementation. Once worked as senior manager in multi-national and local companies in marketing consulting and integrating communications fields, experienced in strategic planning. He formerly worked for CNC and was responsible for brand management. Providing brand strategies, communication strategies and

implementation and training service for many international and local clients. The brands include: FAW-Volkswagen, Jetta Cars, 263 Internet Communications, Dangdang Website, Aucma Airconditioner, FAW Toyota, Tour in Sichuan, CNC, LG, Beijing Yanli Food, and more.

He constantly ponders and develops professional settlement methods in marketing, branding and communication fields, etc. Lots of articles have been published in professional media such as International Advertising, AD PANORAMA, Advertising Pointer, China Marketing Communication Website (EMKT) and so on. You are welcome to discuss your ideas and express your opinions with the author. Tel: 13901385424 E-mail:

The more classic things are, the more difficult it is to exceed them; the more successful they are, the more difficult it is to change them. With the pace of the times, the change of consumers’ interest, and market advancement, once successful brands must struggle to keep up with the changing trends. Meanwhile, because brand images are perceptions in consumers’ minds, a single change can not achieve the pace needed to keep up. In order to achieve the goal of keeping current, clear directions and systematic approaches to updating images are a

must. Mini Coopers were once considered as the symbol of the times and trends. For BMW it was like finding a precious stone which had been covered in the dust, waiting, for many years. The year 2000 saw the undertaking of Mini Cooper by BMW. Shortly thereafter the high-end car market in the globe was dominated by the Mini Cooper, after being reorientated, redesigned, reproduced and repacked. More than 800 thousand Minis were sold in over 70 countries in the world from 2001 to 2006.

By remaking the Mini Cooper legacy how did BMW revive the brand so that it could achieve such great success? If we take a look, within there actually lays no secrets. BMW took three necessary strategic steps: Judgment, orientation and reshaping. They did the right things in the right way at the right time and place.

Evaluating Mini Cooper After BMW merged ROVER in 1994, they surprisingly retained the brand Mini Cooper, decided to invest in it and design new models. This is because BMW deeply realized the global brand value of Mini Cooper. BMW president Mr. Panke once said: For ROVER, Mini Cooper was like a diamond in the rough. When people are too close they can not see its true value. This is similar to a person who wants to throw away his old furniture; who does not know actually they are superb works of Victorian masters, which contain artistic tastes in construction, materials and design. Surely, the Mini Cooper brand possesses its own unique temperament and charm. From the launch of the first Mini in 1959 to the ceasing of old Mini models in 2000, more than five million Mini Coopers produced in England were sold. Consumers concentrated on its compactness, simplicity, unique form and affordable price. Most importantly, this brand along with this unique model became a symbol of an egalitarian ideal and a necessity for all of the fashionable youth of that time. Even if you were from a workers’ family, you could afford one. Those who come from richer families

could ask their parents to buy one for them. The only requirement for possessing a Mini was that you were a young man or lady. Like women’s mini skirts and men’s peacock shirts of that time, Mini cars were related to youth. It was inexpensive, practical and intriguing. At that time, to be young and to be British were the coolest things in the world. Mini were standing for youth and Britain.

Positioning Core Consumers It is important for the success of new Mini to truly understand its target market. If Mini was considered as a kind of clothing, who would like to wear it? BMW found, at present, the possible Mini buyers actually can not be described by statistical parameters such as age, salary, gender and profession and so on. The possible buyers may be doctors, lawyers, and people in the advertising field, billionaires, writers, and cool young people born in rich families. People of different identities, statuses and ages may like Mini for the same reason. The similarity between them is that they possess similar mentality, life styles and characters. All these consumers pursue the same interests of life. They have elegant and unique tastes. They don't associate with banality, repetition and monotony. They hope to make their life full of passion and creation. Mini Cooper to them, means a way to entertain themselves. When a Mini drives in the dusk wind on the streets by the seaside, actually the driver is fully enjoying life and entertaining himself. This is not the experience of speed or sheer sense but a manifesto of individuality. This car symbolizes unfettered free individuality and humor. Reshaping Mini Therefore, when the former ROVER design team and BMW engineers began to develop the new Mini together, their problems were very clear: What kind of new models should be designed? How to cater to, satisfy and lead the target consumers’ demands and yet remain creative while preserving the brand legacy of the Mini? The brand would lose its definition if the new cars had no relation to the former models. It was this kind of design theory that makes the front design of new mini easily recognizable to fans of the former model. Furthermore, top advanced technologies in the world adopted by BMW engineers completely upgraded the driving experience, and provided reliable quality and craftwork guarantees. “Similar to the old Mini, Mini Cooper is a kind of car full of entertainment and passion.” Outstanding individualized products communicate with Mini’s target consumers through a unique individualized means, so that “individuality” association with the brand is made.

When you enter the Mini webpage in America, except abundant interactions and splendid designs, what impresses you most? It is the proverb in the process of loading? One example of many is: NO TWO MINIS ARE EXACTLY ALIKE. Every proverb in every loading page is different, and sentence patterns, grammar and tastes are the communication methods which the target consumers of Mini like. The brand communicates with consumers in their own individualized “language”. Due to this unique communication style we witnessed when Mini was launched, it was a Ford Excursion SUV that carried the Mini Cooper into the streets. It is the uniqueness and bravery of Mini that has made it become a special audience member in the Auckland stadium. The space of 12 removed seats in the stadium is especially reserved for placing the British VIP. Systematic Reshaping Methodology The success of the new Mini Cooper was neither random nor instantaneous. BMW holds a deep understanding for high-status people, have experience in luxury brand operation and management ,and most importantly, integrate the resources above with a clear orientation and systematic approach. In the case of Mini Cooper, we can see that brand reshaping is a systematic procedure. This is because; brand image is formed as a result of all of the enterprises’ products, services and behaviors in the consumers’ mind. The more successful the brands are the deeper and clearer the impression in the consumers’ mind will be. The difficulty of changing a deep-rooted impression in the consumers’ mind is similar to removing a mountain or filling up an ocean. If Colgate supplied clothing and BMW provided food, we can imagine, because of their strong brand symbol impressions, it would change consumers’ brand

perceptions. If consumers think a certain brand is “old”, such as American consumers’ perception on “Oldsmobile”, a change cannot be achieved through communications alone. When enterprises discover consumers’ perceptions, and market development trends and behaviors have changed, it will be necessary for the enterprise to start systematic brand evaluations. Suggested in the case of Mini Cooper, the important thing is not what enterprises think but what the consumers think. After integrating consumers’ opinions, enterprise and the products’ current status, the enterprises may systemize future development trends and framework. When enterprises find their brand assets and value are adequate to support a brand development, target enterprises should clearly and exactly describe brand complete orientation through a series of strategic definitions. At this stage, enterprises are actually defining the future. They are actually defining what consumers will see, hear, taste and experience, and what will give their consumers the desire or will to buy. The difficulty to make a brand definition lies in: how to perfectly relate the past, the present and the future of brands so that brands are inheritable and creation is achieved. When all the definitions are ready, enterprises must create a chronological step-bystep implementation plan, so that brand definition can be fulfilled through different key points and aspects. Enterprises must realize this: Brands are not the problem of communications but results of all the enterprise behaviors, which form in consumers’ mind. If Mini Cooper could not make consumers experience a unique city life full of enjoyments through different details, the brand individuality will become obscure and uninteresting. If certain aspects of brands all serve specific purposes, the brand power will be very strong. Conclusion The key to reshaping brands lies in: respecting the present brand assets, i.e. respecting consumers’ present perceptions and the current trends, and changing consumers’ perceptions through a systematic means and mobilizing all the resources and factors step by step at full capability.