Internet Ignites Marketing for New BMW Bike

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Breaking new ground, BMW for the first time is using the Internet as the primary channel to promote a new motorcycle to a U.S. audience.


The German automaker put together a dedicated Web site, an online-only commercial, e-mails, banners, dealer collateral and mailers for its F650 CS.


"A lot of people don't realize, but BMW was making motorcycles before they were making cars," said Tom Moran, senior art director at Merkley Newman Harty Interactive, the New York agency on the account.


The campaign targets men ages 25 to 34 across all ethnicities. They are college-educated, live and work in urban centers and are easing into the world of riding. Secondary and tertiary audiences include recent college graduates, new riders and women.


BMW's direct effort is supported by a promotion. Consumers who buy the F650 CS through Dec. 31 get 4.9 percent financing, an audio package and a free Apple iPod. This combination is designed to generate interest and chatter in the youth market. The F650 CS starts at $8,000.


"The challenge for the F650 CS is that it's a younger-skewing motorcycle, which is a bit different for BMW motorcycles that have traditionally skewed a bit older," said Bradley Kay, co-director of Merkley Newman Harty Interactive.


To address this, BMW's communication strategy accentuates city life. The technologically savvy site at www.bmwf650cs.com was built with that in mind to resonate with this younger demographic.


The site features a Web spot with the F650 CS in action; a three-dimensional bike spinner; motorcycle configurator function for generating sales leads; and a ZIP code locator. Also, the site has Jean-Pierre Goy stunt footage and model specifications.


Two features stand out. The configurator lets consumers design their own motorcycles and send the blueprint through e-mail to their nearest dealer and to friends. Inspiration for this came from observing car sites. But queries to these sites did not result in quick responses. So they created the site, "realizing that from a CRM perspective, this is probably the single-most-important application on the sitelet," Kay said. "You send it to the exact dealer that you've requested, and it lands in that dealer's or store owner's e-mail box."


The Web commercial is another attraction. In this humorous satire, a young business-type finds himself interviewing for an unlikely job. His love for riding pulls him away from his current profession and into a more extreme world.


The spot opens on a meeting in a restaurant after closing hours. The out-of-place hero is looking to work with two menacing guys. The hero is all passion, explaining why he wants this unidentified job. It is then revealed that the job is for pizza delivery. But what he loves is not delivering pizzas, but riding his F650 CS as much as he can.


This is the first time BMW has run banner ads for one of its motorcycles. Ads will run on lifestyle media sites such as www.maximonline, www.mtv.com and www.vh1.com.


Though the numbers are not known, BMW will mail subscribers of Men's Journal, Outside, National Geographic Adventure and Rolling Stone magazines. A one-time e-mail drop to the same lists is set for later this month.


All ads and marketing materials point consumers to bmwf650cs.com.


The company's stiffest competition is from Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Honda, whose bikes are more powerful but less expensive than BMW's.


"Part of the problem that BMW is having with the Japanese automakers is that you get about twice the horsepower for half as much," Moran said.


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