BMW brand head says marketing innovation needs transparency

Steven Althaus, head of brand management and marketing services at BMW, told the Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin this week that "marketing will no longer be the department that puts lipstick on the gorilla. It needs to be about truth well told".

BMW's Steven Althaus

Speaking about the company's launch of the innovative i3 car, he outlined three imperatives that could impact the way BMW markets cars. He noted the shift from hardware to software, from car ownership to car usage, and from dealer sales to online retailing. "These are driving a major paradigm shift in marketing," he said.

BMW's carbon-fibre electric i3, hailed by the Guardian as a car 'heading for the future', is clearly a different product. However, Althaus said marketers' claims of innovation need to be supported because they open the brand up to close public scrutiny. He said customers will ask if claims are really true, because this is what will drive the ultimate purchase decision. "Brands need to be transparent about what they do; the most attractive audience is the most sceptical."

He suggested five things that marketers and media buyers should think about in promoting game-changing products:

Evolving Marketing - How to go about interpreting data and media planning to make marketing money work harder for their businesses. "We need to know who's driving our cars."

Learning from Failure - It's okay to admit that you haven't done something before. "It's ok to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes."

The role of research - Research is too often used as post-rationalisation rather than a stimulus for action. "It needs to be used to look forward."

Experiential marketing - Allow the customers to experience the brand. "Don't tell, show."

Partners - Brands should think harder about the input of media, agencies, researchers and consultants. "These are the people that can tell you that things won't work."

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