Why touchy feely works: BMW drives home the message

BMW and creative partner DraftFCB have done some cool stuff to promote the new X5. In a campaign that rolled out across TV, outdoor, digital, mobile and print, a highlight was the first-of-a-kind installation of a life-size cut out at Auckland Airport’s business carpark that made it look like the vehicle was scaling the pedestrian bridge.

Then there was the pioneering digital ad in Denizen magazine and bespoke interactive digital formats in partnership with APN. And New Zealand was the star of the show on screen, with footage for the TVC shot here for use across BMW’s global network.

When potential car buyer’s eyeballs are sore from being grabbed by content in media of every kind imaginable, it doesn’t hurt to be life size, or for that matter, ubiquitous.

It’s also smart to pick out influencers who can help spread a message for your brand. We journalists like to think we’re among them. You know, those people you turn to for early news and advice, some pithy words and considered opinion on what matters.

That’s why a couple of groups of journos recently made the cut to get on the road with BMW to put the X5 through its paces. More ‘interested person along for the ride’ than automotive expert, I’ve admired luxury vehicles from the comfort of my lounge.

The typical car maker’s TVC takes us on a journey through breathtaking scenery, sun glinting off metal as said vehicle shines in all weather and surroundings. Often the small print will disclaim ‘overseas model shown’, and the environment is distinctly foreign.

Filming on New Zealand roads, with a vehicle we can buy here and now, speaks far more directly to the audience. It hints at what we could do if we drove it away from a yard and onto the Kiwi roads less travelled.

The ride we went on showed why experiential marketing’s star continues to rise: there’s no substitute for getting hands on. The new X5 models are a cut above — even the nav, displayed on the 10.25 inch 3D display, adds Ps and Qs when it gives you voice directions. The full specs are further evidence.

You can tell someone all about what it can do, including safety features like the surround view, with cameras at the front, rear and side for 360 degree visibility — and about hill descent control that locks into walking pace for safe descent. But there’s no better way to see, hear, feel and sense these things than chucking the X5 backwards down a muddy slope on a central North Island farm, with a hint of dung in the whiff of country air.

BMW wasn’t the only one laying on test conditions on this trip, New Zealand did that too. The November weather was complete with sun, showers and thunderstorms, so the rain sensor-controlled headlights were handy as, bro.

And where else could you cram urban streets, gravel, bog and highways into a trip of about 400km? The X5’s comfort, luxury and looks were enough to make this driver of an ageing sedan really want an upgrade.

It’s hard for writers to spare time for treats like this — and for consumers to devote attention to one car, or for that matter any product or service — over another. But marketing efforts like this are worth it, because hands-on works.

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