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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
FROM 'PREMIUM EXCLUSIVE' TO 'PREMIUM OPEN'
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:
- Keep the 'joy' alive, take away fears and let people dream of better tomorrows
- Use #askBMWxxx to keep the dialogue alive even when dealerships were closed
CORE STRATEGIC IDEA
USE THE 'JOY' BRAND PLATFORM AND '#ASKBMW' COMMUNICATION PLATFORM TO OPEN-UP AND KEEP THE DIALOGUE AND DREAM ALIVE, EVEN IN TIMES WHEN DREAMS WERE ALL WE HAD
- 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.
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.