Tag Archives: BMW

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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Branding – 7 Takeaways

In the last year I have read a dozen books related, directly or indirectly, to branding. I love the number 7: I come from a family of 7; I have sailed the 7 Seas; I enjoy every day of the 7 day week because I love what I do. So, I have put together a list of 7 takeaways from these books and from my life experiences working with amazing brands:

1)      Brand is reputation. It is what you do and how you do it. There will be stumbling blocks and triumphs but how you deal with them is how you and your business will be defined.

2)      Testimonials are key. Include them (front and center) on your website, on your profiles and on everything. It’s the best marketing you can do and your future clients are likely to listen more intently to what their friends and colleagues have to say than to your paid advertising.

3)      Brands are personal and corporate. Sometimes they are both (e.g. Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group). Sometimes one influences the other which brings me to…

4)      Brands are fluid. They are not just logos, slogans, numbers or products. They are intangible constructs in the minds of your clients, colleagues, competitors etc.

5)      You can influence how your brand is perceived as much by what you do as by what you don’t do. Think about it…

6)      Branding should be a strategic and practical exercise. Your organizational brand should be assessed, critiqued and re-visited in a concerted and disciplined way.

7)      You are your brand. I have not felt this more than when I worked for BMW Group Canada. We are all brand ambassadors. We received BMWs to use, drive and experience in order that we know (and develop a passion for!) what we are selling and promoting through the various BMW products and services.

In sum, as Aristotle said, “we are what we repeatedly do”.

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