BMW - Sheer driving pleasure in dire times | Effie case 2021

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BMW - Sheer driving pleasure in dire times

Sheer driving pleasure in dire times

BMW Group Belux - TBWA Belgium

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BMW - Sheer driving pleasure in dire times

Sheer driving pleasure in dire times

BMW Group Belux - TBWA Belgium

1. Market & commercial situation

BMW is a strong premium brand in the automotive sector. Main competitors for BMW in the premium segment are Mercedes-Benz and Audi with equally broad and differentiated model ranges and sharing about 20% market share over the three of them. BMW taking first place since 2015 and Audi & Mercedes battling for second place.

2019 was the first year in a long time that BMW lost its leadership position over the 2 main competitors with Mercedes taking the lead of the pack. The ongoing incremental yoyo-game made it clear that a fundamental growth strategy needed to come from elsewhere if BMW was to further grow substantially in this saturated segment.

But that growth needed to happen in an overly complex market situation. Growing number of competitors. Rising electrification. Complex and changing deductibility and fiscal rules. Witch-hunt on diesels. Low emission zones' rules changing constantly.

By the end of 2019, BMW faced a double problem.

  1. An internal problem
    BMW's strong premium brand perception made the cars and the dealerships exclusive and attractive but also inaccessible for a broader public.

  2. An external problem
    The Belgian car market in general and the premium segment more specifically have been dominated by uncertainty. And uncertainty creates inertia.

And then COVID-19 happened, the biggest period of uncertainty for the country in general and the car market more specifically. Inertia would grow to unprecedented heights. Exclusive inaccessible car brands would need to make way for Maslow's most basic needs: a nicer house and toilet paper.

2. Objectives

BMW wants to open-up, become more mainstream attractive and less inaccessible. The objective is to take away uncertainty and reduce inertia. In doing so it aims to gain market share leadership over Mercedes-Benz and Audi whilst 'stealing' market share from less exclusive mainstream competition like Volkswagen and Renault and 'new premium' competition like Volvo.

  • KPI 1
    Gain market share leadership
    over main competitors. Bridge -0,2 points (Index103) market share gap with Mercedes-Benz

  • KPI 2
    Become more inclusive
    and steal market share from more mainstream brands. Help grow the premium segment share in total market to 25% (index107).

  • KPI 3
    Earn a podium position in terms of total market share - evolve from 5th to 3rd position

3. Strategy

BMW has a long history of positioning on 'driving pleasure'. Investing in driving experience, product innovation and performance. A positioning that sharpened in 2019 to 'joy' in a broader sense. To accommodate for a new type of drivers, more focused on driving experience than driving performance. High quality finishes, further push to electrification and product innovation as main pillars. Not inclusive per se.

  • Key Insight 1: 'Joy' happens with openness
    To our market specifically we needed to take the concept of 'joy' to another level. To be more inclusive, more welcoming. Joy that is created and stimulated by an open dialogue between the brand and its customers.

  • Key Insight 2: 'Joy' is a state of mind
    But 'joy' seems the hardest thing to create and evoke in a nationwide lockdown and sanitary crisis. The glass half-full rather than the glass half-empty? Could 'joy' be created by making us all dream of better tomorrows from the cosiness of our homes? Dreams as the most powerful bridge to acts.

To tackle both the internal and the external problem BMW needed to keep everything that makes the BMW brand great whilst adding a dose of inclusivity, accessible dreams and most importantly dialogue. Be more welcoming and inviting. On a brand level and a dealership level.


To realize this shift, a powerful local communication platform was needed. A platform that helps remove every barrier, question, argument, or hesitation Belgian prospects get exposed to. A platform that generates joy by removing fears. We launched #askBMW. An open dialogue with our customers to take away uncertainty. A national strategy that had a strong local dealer aspect by simple hash-tag tweaks to drive traffic and conversations straight to the dealerships, #askBMWlouyet, #askBMWjorssen, #askBMW… Customer-dealer relationship and interaction and a strong digital-first content approach were at the heart of the plan and created great initial results.

When COVID-19 came, the way forward was clear: capitalize on the strength of the platform and further build on the 2 pillars:

  1. Keep the 'joy' alive, take away fears and let people dream of better tomorrows
  2. Use #askBMWxxx to keep the dialogue alive even when dealerships were closed


4. Results

  • KPI 1
    BMW's market share evolved from 6,7% in 2019 to 8,4% in 2020 an increase of 25,3%. We managed an increase in market share that is 80% higher than Audi's and a full 250% higher than Mercedes'.

  • KPI 2
    By the end of 2020 the premium segment share represented 27,1% of the total market, 3.5 points more than at the end of 2019 (index115). Furthermore, we can see the growth of the premium segment share is mainly attributable to BMW as it is the only brand growing its share of the premium segment. We can therefore conclude that BMW has strengthened its position in the premium segment by becoming more inclusive and attracting previously non-premium segment buyers to the premium segment.

    So, who did we 'steal' sales from? Did we manage to create extra growth by stealing from Volvo, Volkswagen, and Renault? Whilst it's impossible to know for sure where the extra market share came from, we can observe that all 3 main 'new' competitors saw a substantial decrease in market share. -5,13% for Volvo, -5.15% for Volkswagen and a dramatic -15,91% for Renault.

  • KPI 3
    If we look at market shares for 2020 vs 2019 for the Top 20 brands BMW ranked 5th in 2019 but evolved to a 2nd place in 2020, not only a podium-spot, the silver medal!

    Better yet, BMW has the N° 1 highest market share evolution of those top 20 brands. Amazing results for BMW Belgium. A historically high market share of 8,4% in the ultimate car industry 'annus horribilis', 35% higher than the previous 15 years average.

5. Conclusion

Opening-up was a bold choice for a premium exclusive brand. Asking customers to ask us anything and promising honest and transparent answers, even if they were not to our advantage, was a bold move. But when dire times hit, the strategy truly proved its full potential, reaching out to a dealership from a distance in lockdown suddenly felt like the most natural thing to do. All it took was to #askBMW.

BMW Group Belux
Ewoud Van Der Heyden

BMW Group Belux - Ewoud Van Der HeydenEwoud studeerde af als Handels- en bedrijfseconomisch ingenieur aan de KULeuven en de Ecole Supérieure des Affaires de Grenoble. Daarna behaalde hij de Postuniversitaire opleiding bedrijfsbeheer aan de Vlerick School voor Management. Na een eerste ervaring als Financial Analyst bij het Imelda ziekenhuis, vervoegde hij BMW Group in 1998. Daar was hij verantwoordelijk voor het Product Management. Vanaf 2011 nam hij als Regional Manager de verantwoordelijkheid voor de commerciële resultaten van BMW in Oost- en West-Vlaanderen. BMWi uitbouwen als een ecologisch submerk van BMW was zijn volgende uitdaging. In 2015 maakte Ewoud dan de overstap naar MINI om hier als General Manager het merk nieuw leven in te blazen. Een terugkeer naar BMW was echter onvermijdelijk: sinds begin 2020 overziet Ewoud als Marketing Directeur alle communicatie, events, product management en CRM van het merk. Hij is gehuwd en heeft 2 kinderen. Wagens zijn altijd een passie geweest.

Bénédicte Ernst

TBWA - Bénédicte ErnstNa het behalen van een bachelor bedrijfsmanagement aan het UCLL startte Bénédicte haar carrière op de marketingafdeling bij Sony Music. In 1999 zette ze haar eerste stappen in de reclamewereld bij een klein bureau in het Brusselse. Om een jaar later van start te gaan bij de TBWA Group waar ze ondertussen al 21 jaar werkzaam is en zich vol enthousiasme ontfermde over de campagnes van oa. Delhaize, bPost, MINI, Albert Heijn en Lotus Bakeries. De laatste 2 jaar heeft ze samen met BMW voor meer (rij)plezier gezorgd in de autosector. Naast een passie voor wagens en mode kan ze ook echt genieten van gezellige momenten met haar gezin en vrienden rond een rijk gevulde tafel.