MINI Turns “Chick Car” Stereotype into New Customers

Posted on by Patty Odell

Some 50% of MINI car owners name their cars as they would a pet or a child. That’s a real testament to the passion those consumers have for the brand.

Despite that impressive number—which MINI marketers love to talk about—the challenge to bring in customers who have never considered MINI lies in some of the very reasons those consumers name their cars, the vehicles are “cute,” a “chick car,” “frivolous” and “fun.”

lee nadler, mini
Lee Nadler

“Owners love their cars, but a lot of people wouldn’t even consider a MINI because they don’t think it fits their lifestyle or the perception of who they want to be. Does MINI say the right thing about them,” Lee Nadler, marketing communications and launch manager, at MINI USA said yesterday at the ANA Brand Activation Conference. “These are hard things for a brand to look in the mirror and understand they might be holding you back.”

The strategy? To tell real-life vehicle-owner brand stories in a way that dispel the misperceptions and help people understand that MINI has evolved and those consumers who haven’t given it a look should consider it going forward.

“We need to reset people’s perception of the brand as more grown up,” Nadler said.

Those stories began on the biggest stage around, Super Bowl 50 last February. The game was watched by 114.4 million and most viewers also tune in to watch and critique and talk about the ads. A 60-second spot ran debuting the new six-door MINI Clubman.

MINI Clubman
The MINI Clubman

“We needed to get people to think about MINI a little differently and be receptive of this new car,” Nadler said. “When you do things on a big stage like the Super Bowl, it’s one of the main vehicles where you can reach all of America and people are actually tuning in to watch the ads.”

The Super Bowl ad kicked off a larger, layered, multifaceted campaign grounded in social to keep the conversation and interest going as long as possible.

The creative idea had to reach people who were not looking at the brand by tapping into something swirling in pop culture that many people were paying attention to. The thought surfaced that lots of people were labeling each other a contentious issue especially one that plays out across social media.

“There’s something going on there that we wanted to feed into. The opportunity was to create a platform that MINI could own and tap into that culture and use that to stir a conversation,” he said.

The aim was to shed MINI’s own “label” as a small, cute, chick car, in a broader call to defy all stereotypes, thus the new campaign title, “Defy Labels.” This was a rallying cry for us. Something we used for ourselves to get behind and give ourselves a bigger purpose.”

More than 20 pieces of “Defy Labels” content were created to support the campaign across multiple channels.

Famous athletes and others who own MINIs are featured in videos as well as some unknowns. They dispel stereotypes about themselves like tennis phenom Serena Williams who talked about being called “too strong,” “too sexy” and “mean” and 6 foot-10-inch former Yankee pitcher Randy Johnson tagged as “intimidating,” “nasty” and “ornery.” The celebs also talk about why the drive MINI. Watch the video:

Once the videos were released on YouTube and the celebs reached out to their fans and followers, the social chatter really started to take hold.

“There was a spirit that started to come through,” Nadler said. “You could hear it. You could feel it. People were moving beyond the ordinary and being proud of themselves.”

“Defy Labels” marketing pieces were then produced for specific channels, including social, as well as longer form content.

“We got people talking and stimulated the conversation,” he said. Results include a 500% lift in social mentions, 100% lift in social conversations and MINI became the No. 1 auto brand discussed on Twitter during Super Bowl 50.

“Doing a campaign of this magnitude takes a lot of orchestration,” he said. “You can’t just hope people see the spot and you get a big lift. You have to get into the conversation.”

Some of the other media MINI taps are Facebook carousels, Instagram promoted videos, individual posts, conversational video and promoted trends and comments. Content from all of the channels was then aggregated to the MINI website.

“This is where we really tied the “Defy Labels” message together,” Nadler said. “We tied the brand together with the product story that MINI has been defying convention for over 50 years. Of the enormous traffic spikes we saw at MINIUSA.com during those two weeks, 82% had never been to MINI USA before. Huge success just by that one metric alone.”

Many media outlets and bloggers jumped in including The Washington Post, that wrote: “Mini’s new ad is a masterpiece.” YouTube takeovers produced 40 million online views and MINI’s buzz score jumped 700%.

Once consumers across the U.S. started to engage with the marketing communications MINI dove even deeper to give consumers even more information by producing videos of interviews with MINI designers and engineers to talk about the vehicles’ Oxford, England, origin and craftsmanship that make MINI unique.

“The good news is the conversation is continuing and we’re starting to “Defy Labels” and taking that defiance message forward,” Nadler said.

This month, MINI is running a promo to help “Defy Hunger.” Anyone who takes a test drive triggers a donation to Feeding America.

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