BMW: From Automobile Manufacturer to Lifestyle Branding

Think about your life as it is. Now think about your life as you want it to be. What steps would you take to get there?

Perhaps you want to get in better shape, so you’ll look up healthier recipes of your favorite meals (Is it possible to make chicken and waffles “healthy”?) and commit to working out at least three days a week. You may need to sign up for a membership at your local gym, or perhaps you would rather work out at home, so you decide to purchase some basic exercise equipment. Oh, but you also need some new workout clothes like gym shoes, shorts/leggings, and T-shirts or tank tops.

Now, think of where you might purchase these items.

If you thought of lululemon, Nike, or Under Armor, it’s likely not just because of their popularity but also because of what they represent: A lifestyle.

It’s All About Creating a Lifestyle

A lot more than just companies that design, manufacture, and sell fitness attire; lululemon, Nike, and Under Armor are three brands that have morphed themselves into a lifestyle.

Lululemon is the go-to for “athleisure”: It’s comfortable and chic with a variety of styles to choose from. This is a lifestyle brand that encourages its consumers to live a life full of possibilities.

Nike’s “Just Do It” encourages individuals to get past whatever barriers are holding them back and accomplish whatever they have in mind. But this mentality isn’t confined to just a field, stadium, or gym. It’s akin to a life’s mantra: Just apply for that job. Just ask that guy out. Just go on that wanderlust trip.

Under Armor is also more than just fitness: It’s about overall wellness. After acquiring MyFitnessPal in 2015, there is now a slew of apps that have the common mission of making its users healthier.

And now, BMW is looking to become the first automotive brand to become a lifestyle brand.

From BMW Cards to the BMW Lifestyle

According to the BMW Group’s website, the BMW brand is “dedicated only to the driver. BMW doesn’t just build cars. The brand’s innovations create emotion, enthusiasm, fascination, and thrills.”

Now, the automotive brand is looking to re-define itself and bring these qualities to its consumers’ lives.

Jorg Poggenpohl, BMW’s global head of digital marketing, spoke at the Mobile World Congress 2019 event. He detailed how BMW is looking to “enlarge [its] upper sales funnel” by going beyond just cars. The brand will also develop content focused around creating a lifestyle; including design, innovation, and fashion.

Their plan includes “relevant and snackable” content that consumers will find both entertaining and helpful. The goal is to reach and maintain existing BMW customers while also targeting new individuals considering a BMW.

So far, BMW has seen success with its changes to its marketing approach. Here are the three smart moves they made that you can emulate in your own marketing strategy.

Smart Move 1: Expanding Its Type of Content

For BMW, they believe that a content-led approach will help them reach, attract, and maintain a wider audience than what they currently have. And it makes sense: When you start to go beyond talking about just your main product or service (in this case, cars) and start talking about other topics (fashion, design, innovation, etc.), then yes, you will attract more people.

Not everyone is going to be interested in cars on a regular basis. Many people only start to care about car brands when they are in the market for one—otherwise, they feel no need to keep up with the content posted by the automotive brand. But these same ‘uninterested-about-cars-until-I-need-one’ consumers may be heavily into fashion or like reading about new technological innovations. By writing about different topics, BMW can keep some interest in their content even when people aren’t looking to buy.

But when they are, BMW will be the first brand to cross their mind.

It goes back to creating this lifestyle brand. BMW is efficient and elegant. It’s sleek and exudes wealth. The brand focuses on driving in luxury.  Now their focus will include not just driving in luxury but also living in luxury, from the clothing we wear to the products we use.

Smart Move 2: Mobile-First Approach

Another smart move is the mobile-first approach. As marketers, we know that a mobile-first approach is non-negotiable. In March 2018, Google rolled out its mobile-first index. This meant that mobile websites could be judged on their own merits rather than depending on the desktop version of a site. It was a necessary move considering mobile has been overtaking desktop use. According to Blue Corona’s curated mobile marketing statistics lists:

  • Approximately 70% of all web traffic occurs on a mobile device (e.g., smartphone or tablet)

  • After having a positive brand experience on mobile, 89% of people are more likely to recommend that same brand. 57% said they wouldn’t recommend a business if their mobile site is poorly designed

  • Mobile accounts for 40% of online transactions

With this mobile-first and content-led approach, BMW re-launched its website and saw a 27% increase in mobile visits. Their click-through rates increased by 44%.

For mobile websites, page speed is everything. The best practice for a mobile page is to display content in under three seconds, pages that take one to three seconds to load see a 32% increase of page bounce probability.

BMW claims that its newly launched mobile website loads in 1.9 seconds. On March 28, 2019, we ran a mobile speed test with Think with Google’s Test My Site.

The returned results have the mobile website speed at 2.2 seconds while individual page speed was 1.7 seconds, both considered average. Still, they are at the low-end score, and the results are consistent with BMW’s claims.

Smart Move 3: Use of AMP Stories

BMW’s third smart move was to use accelerated mobile pages or AMPs. Google launched its AMP project in February 2016 to put mobile performance above all else (just like their mobile-first indexing approach). According to a Techcrunch article, over 2 billion website pages are powered by AMP across 900,000 domains and load twice as fast.

If you haven’t heard of AMP Stories, or if you haven’t been employing them, now is the time. Similar to stories on Instagram, AMP Stories are great for creating engaging content right on the website. Unlike traditional articles or blog posts, AMP Stories are easier to read on mobile (you can swipe instead of scrolling). In addition to faster load times, users may spend more time on the website. For example, Search Engine Journal reported that The Miami Herald had a 10% increase in the dwell time for AMP documents versus native webpages.

According to Poggenpohl, BMW will be the first automotive company to use AMP Stories on its site. The hope is for an immersive overall mobile experience that is both fast and engaging.

Brand Changes Take Time

Building a brand takes time and dedication. BMW will have to wait to be seen as a lifestyle by a new audience that discovers its lifestyle-oriented content. Its use of AMP Stories is not set to roll out until sometime in April 2019.

But BMW has made all the right moves and can expect to see continued traffic increase and interest in their brand. If they create the right kind of content, they too can be seen as a lifestyle brand just like lululemon, Nike, and Under Armor.

Take Notes from BMW

Most consumer/business-to-consumer brands have a good opportunity to go beyond their primary product or service. If they position themselves correctly, follow the best practices for mobile and content, and create content on a variety of relevant topics, over time, they will see their brand position shift.

If you haven’t already, make the three smart moves that BMW did. To recap:

  1. Think about your content. What type of topics do you currently cover? They’re most likely related to your product or service, but what other topics can complement what you’re doing already? A fashion company could talk about putting together a brunch outfit and then the perfect meal for brunch (combines fashion and food).

  2. Move to mobile. Your focus needs to be on your mobile website. As the use of mobile devices increases, so too shifts how we visit webpages. You need to cater to what your audience is using the most.

  3. Use AMP. AMP is not going to go away. In the pursuit of faster webpages, AMP is the new answer.

These three items are a must for your brand and website if you hope to stay competitive in any market.

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