What is a Brand Essence? Why Joy is timeless for BMW…
Posted by Giles Lury on September 9, 2011
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Recently a client asked me for a definition of “Brand Essence”. After she said how useful she had found it I thought I would share it, as the definition of terms is a perpetual grey area for so many marketing terms. I’m therefore sure there are other definitions but this one seems to work for us.
A ‘brand essence’ is most often defined as a very short summation of brand’s DNA, its raison d’être – hence its essence. It’s normally kept short – just two or three words, though it can sometimes be a sentence. It’s not as easy as it sounds as it should capture and distil a brand into a few memorable words. At their best they may be very short but they capture the long term heart of the brand – and stay with the brand as it grows over time and as it extends into new market sectors and territories.
A watch-out however is that a brand essence is not just the latest advertising strapline. Advertising campaigns come and go while hopefully brands last a lot longer. Their essences should remain consistent if not constant over many years. An advertising strapline is one changing expression of that essence.
BMW’s essence is “Driving pleasure”. It’s a good example of how the advertising campaign may have changed but the brand essence has remained the same. BMW’s advertising recently moved away from its long term strapline of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” to the clearly more emotive “Joy”. The Wall Street Journal reported on February 14th (interesting date) that Jack Pitney, vice president of marketing at BMW for North America said: “The new ‘Joy’ campaign is a big departure for us . . . We hope to really add some humanity to our brand.”
However while the marketing men felt there was a need to add some humanity to current perceptions of the brand, this doesn’t mean the brand has fundamentally changed. Now when you consider the brand more closely you can see that ‘Joy’ is simply a re-expression of the brand’s long term purpose. Its essence and on-going commitment remains to use its engineering expertise to create great driving experiences as the following copy on the corporate website demonstrates.
“We are BMW. We don’t just build cars, we create emotions – enthusiasm, fascination, goose bumps guaranteed. Sheer driving pleasure is our top priority. And so that it never ends, we constantly reinvent it. Making it more intelligent, more efficient, more dynamic. Because joy is what drives us – this most personal of feelings, in all its many different forms: Besides sheer driving pleasure, what matters to us is the joy of owning something very special, the joy of real values such as responsibility and recognition; the joy of success and progress. And not least, the pure joy of living. Joy is BMW”.