I’ve never had the pleasure
of sitting down with Sir Geoff Hurst and hearing how he scored a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final. The three goals propelled
England to their first (and so far, only) world cup victory. However, brand fans may be interested to read that, 15
years ago in New York, I did have the great pleasure of meeting Martin Puris, the founder and former chairman of the advertising
agency Ammirati Puris Lintas, and listening to him recount the marvellous story behind his creation of one of the most powerful
advertising slogans of all time, “The ultimate driving machine”. In so doing, Mr Puris scored the copywriter's equivalent
of Mr Hurst’s astounding World Cup final hat-trick.
This line, written by Mr Puris in the mid-seventies, encapsulated the essence of BMW and, as well as capturing the imagination
of a generation of driving enthusiasts, also acted as a rallying cry for the brand’s designers, engineers, and marketers. The rest, as they say, is history. BMW, a beleaguered brand up until that point, went from strength to strength
One of the pillars of the brand was and is its meticulous attention to detail; another was its provenance – Germany,
the fatherland of engineering excellence.
So surely BMW, the bastion of Germanness, couldn’t possibly be made in China? On the contrary, the stellar sales performance of China-made BMWs has embarrassed the doomsayers
who believed that “made in China” would somehow damage the integrity of the brand and lessen demand. On the contrary, in the first nine months of this year,
BMW’s sales in China have increased by about 32 per cent year-on-year, to around 60 thousand units – most of which
are built in the company’s plant in Shenyang, Liaoning province, where the 3 and 5 series models are produced.
So, if that’s okay, then at what point is a brand’s identity compromised by a cultural or geographic
shift in its identity?
What about the notion of painting a Chinese flag on to a BMW? Surely, that’s going too far?
Others may disagree, but I don’t
believe that this is going to change what people think about the brand. That's because BMW has many decades of German heritage – to the point that, for many, one is synonymous with the other. Painting the colours of the Chinese flag onto a BMW,
complete with its five yellow stars, and showing it off in a glass case on the piazza of one of Beijing’s busiest shopping
areas, will not for one moment make anyone, at least anyone of sound mind who’s ever driven a car, think that BMW is
a Chinese brand.
the Great Wall (and, yes, a China flag flying over it) on the front of a Harley Davidson – as I photographed a few weeks
ago – is not going to lessen that brand’s association with the United States, Route 66 and, for some, the film
Easy Rider. A strong brand needn’t
have to worry about the occasional sortie into unfamiliar territory.
The positives gained from improved PR and enthusiastic word-of-mouth (WOM), not to mention the increasingly
important eWOM, far outweigh any possible negatives.
That said, I do have
an issue with the BMW in the picture.
The 'ultimate driving machine' and 'meticulous attention to detail' sit hand in hand.
When looking at the photographs on this page, please don’t think for one moment
that my camera’s colour balance and sharpness are out, the presentation of the car was, as it appears, nothing short
of appalling. In fact it’s one of
the worst paint-jobs I’ve ever seen. If
it had won third prize in a primary school’s painting contest, I would be questioning the integrity of the judges. Take a closer look, among other things, at the outside
of the fuel-filler cap. Yes, they’ve
missed more than a bit. Contrast this with
the perfect finish of the artwork that was used on the Harley Davidson I photographed. Clearly, the Harley was painted in
the Harley factory, while this BMW was probably painted by a rogue local dealer or the dealer's five year-old.
Whoever signed it off should be shown a yellow card, a copy of the
BMW brand book, and the way to the nearest BMW-approved paintshop.