Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Part 2:MINI E Marketing Analysis

A personal test drive of the pilot MINI E helped to clarify my thoughts on the brand opportunities and pitfalls with the new MINI.

Will BMW attract buyers who are green but not necessarily BMW drivers?  YES! There is a green segment --- me included --- who has been holding out for an option that allows us to “have our cake and eat it too”. Although the Prius and other hybrids are technologically impressive, they come across as practical. 

Will BMW attract its traditional segment and steal from its direct competition? LIKELY! If it avoids marketing missteps.

Remember who you are. Luckily the MINI E is consistent with BMW’s and the MINI’s current marketing position. Fun driving with a coolness factor. Unless the e-car is an entirely new brand, it needs to remain consistent with its brand identity. The marketing of the MINI E, consequently, does not need to be green-oriented, true greens are already on the look-out for products. The marketing can focus on what MINI and BMW does best. Sell cars that are fun to drive. [Note 1]

Continue with the “you are special theme” of the pilot.  MINI named its pilot a “Field Trial” and called its customers “Motoring Pioneers”. For those who doubt you can make a mass market feel special, remember Starbucks and its ability to teach America some Italian. The use of social media tools by BMW to reinforce is excellent.

Get ahead with a little help from your friends. Partner with the recharging companies such as Coulomb  Technologies [Note 2] that are springing up to coordinate roll-out of cars and infrastructure. The MINI E target is a younger and urban owner, who may not have easy access to overnight charging,

Approaches discussed in the previous posts on the new e-car segment also apply. For easy reference those links are provided below. In the meantime BMW, I am intrigued...

Note 1: Remember who you are.
BMW has the opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade. For example, the “regenerative braking” that occurs when the fuel pedal is released has been criticized by some. It may take some getting used to. But its uniqueness can be emphasized as the stick shift feel without the extra work of a clutch and manual shift. Again this is consistent with BMW position in consumer’s minds – a car for the driving enthusiast.

BMW should always create names as good as the product.  The program name for energy efficiency features is “minimalism”. It is a clever play on words which is intended to convey that MINI uses the minimum amount of resources. But if the consumer does not spend time to understand the concept, it could be negative. It strikes me as “environmental Puritanism” where sacrifice is required. Unfortunately too many consumers still think green is about sacrifice, so why reinforce that false stereotype? How about maximum acceleration (provided with the electric engine), maximum efficiency (regenerative braking, on-demand technologies) leading to maximum good clean fun.

I love the MINI website which explains its energy efficient technology in simple language. The site provides explanations depending on how much the visitor requests from 1 to 30 seconds.  The presentation approach provides interesting techniques that any of us could leverage in our communications. It is worth a visit to see the difference from 2 second, 12 second or 30 second presentation or whatever time period you select.

Although BMW christens new features, the names are not always as exciting as the technology conceived. BMW developed a green feature, profiled in an earlier post, that leverages technology from NASA to capture lost heat to use as energy. How cool is that? They called it “turbo steamer.” It sounds like a carpet cleaner you rent at the grocery store.

Note 2: Get ahead with a little help from your friends
Coulomb Technology is one of the leading companies supporting the e-car revolution. Coulomb provides smart charging infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles. Their network is branded as "ChargePoint Network". The ChargePoint Network provides convenient charging at public locations including curbside, workplace, apartment / condo and shopping centers.

Coulomb sells annual membership to consumers for access (they do not charge for electricity, just for access to the electricity). Those consumers who are casual chargers may also access the charging station with an RFID credit card or toll-free call to Coulomb.

The differentiator for Coulomb from other approaches is to provide networked charging stations. The networked approach allows for real time access to the charging stations. Consumers can locate nearby open charging stations, gain human support if required to facilitate the transaction, and then receive an update when charging is complete. In addition, Coulomb is able to communicate with utility companies to smooth electrical demands on the grid.

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