In 2002, BMW produced a series of eight short films (averaging about ten minutes each) exclusively for web users. This web-only short film series was a unique marketing experiment by BMW. All eight films featured popular filmmakers from across the globe and highlighted the performance aspects of various BMW automobiles. More than 11 million viewers tuned in to watch these films and over 2 million registered at BMW website and vast majority of users, registered to the site, sent film links to their friends and family. In next four years, these videos generated over 100 million views!
What is even more remarkable is that BMW launched and successfully executed this campaign despite the fact that there wasn’t a mass market content streaming platform such as YouTube back then.
After the series began, BMW saw their 2001 sales numbers go up 12% from the previous year. The films proved to be so popular that BMW ended up producing a free DVD for the customers who visited certain BMW dealerships. This small marketing campaign significantly improved dealer traffic.
BMW Films – Campaign Execution
BMW films were one of the early viral marketing attempts. These films were not some advertising videos produced by BMW. They were passive in terms of brand advertising. For example, you can replace the BMW car in any of the films by another brand, but core story still made sense. These films made a strong emotional connection with the viewers regardless of their affinity to BMW brand. Besides, these films very cleverly have a central character called The Driver who “helped people through difficult circumstances using deft driving skills-in a prominent.” The whole idea was to project the “Ultimate Driving Machine” image to support the release of new BMW vehicles.
While this viral marketing effort was unproven and untested at the time of conception, there were few things BMW knew about its customers that spurred them to create this campaign. For example, BMW discovered that approximately 85% of their customers researched the vehicles online before purchasing them. According to an article by Tom Hespos, the films were the basis for a hugely successful viral campaign, almost all of the people who downloaded the movies recommended them to other people.
Focus on Building Brand Equity
The BMW Films project was one of those moments when an advertising campaign was so powerful that it didn’t need an established platform to work. BMW successfully promoted its brand and the particular Z4 product that was at the heart of the promotion. People took the underlying message to heart and walked away with a very positive deep brand experience.
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