What working for BMW taught me about branding

I was hired to work for BMW Group Canada fresh out of grad school. I bought myself a beautiful pair of Prada heels and some gorgeous new suits to celebrate and from my first day working in the President’s office, I took executive management’s mantra seriously: work hard and play hard.

Looking back at that time – 12 years ago – I feel tremendously pride in what I learned (and contributed) at BMW. I learned about branding and about love for a brand; I’m not talking about love for a car, or a luxury product, or 5 star customer service, or the fabulous parties and events; no, I learned that a company and product can have a personality and that personality is transmitted through a brand and carried forward by every single employee and follower/client of the brand. Everything that we feel, think, believe, experience about a product, service or organization makes up a brand and to put it very simply, I was blessed to have been immersed in this amazing learning experience right after graduation from my Master’s program.

Most of my MBA colleagues went into banking, some others into consumer products, and still others into consulting services but my decision to join BMW was twofold: 1) I wanted a job that would stand out on my resume (and working for one of the most internationally recognized brands will do that quite nicely!) and 2) I wanted to work with executive management and board members to understand how “big decisions” are made. Both elements have helped me in my professional career and the investment I put into BMW as an employee was richly rewarded: the lessons I learned in branding have been present in many aspects of my life: from writing, my consultancy and the decisions I have made as a professional.

Working at BMW, I ended up learning more about branding than I ever thought possible. It probably started during my very first week when my boss – the President of BMW Group Financial Services – told me he got me a new BMW to drive since it was important that I “love the car.” And from that moment on, the learning never stopped; to this day I am continually impressed by BMW’s ability to reach the heart and minds of consumers. I still remember hearing about “corporate identity” (or “CI” as I learned how to call it) and experiencing the rush that comes with driving a series 7 down the 401 in Toronto or participating as a sponsor in Formula One in Montreal.

196482_5791600338_520_nPhoto: Esther Clark at Formula 1 in Montreal, Canada. Part of BMW’s sponsor team.

Branding is not about a marketing strategy or an advertiser’s storyboard or the color or look of your logo. It is about connecting your product or service to a human being and doing this in a meaningful, coherent and continuous way. I may just be BMW’s biggest fan in Quito, Ecuador: I love the brand, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Esther Clark

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