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What BMW did brilliantly in its farewell video for outgoing Mercedes-Benz CEO

BMW’s farewell video for retiring Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche which launched last week has drawn near to 3.5 million views on YouTube with much approval from netizens for its wit and quick turn around.  The spot which features a lookalike of Zetsche returning his company ID on his last day at Mercedes-Benz, ends off by saying, “Thank you, Dieter Zetsche, for so many years of inspiring competition.”

Of over 1,700 comments on YouTube, many viewers praised BMW for its humour, respect and creativity, including fans of Mercedes-Benz. Industry professionals Marketing spoke to also lauded the video saying it effectively communicates BMW’s brand messages and creativity. According to Carro Singapore chief marketing officer Manisha Seewal, who spoke at a recent insights hosted by Marketing, the less than a minute long spot resonates with consumers no matter which part of the world you come from.

“You can resonate with the brand’s emotion that resonates with freedom, being free. BMW is a driver’s car, it’s not really a passenger’s car. The brand’s emotion is given off in a very powerful way,” said Seewal. She added that at the end of the day, it is about being relatable that makes content marketing executions a success.

“I am a BMW fan and currently drive one. So I can completely relate to the ad’s emotion of – Free at Last. In fact, it grows my love for the brand,” Seewal added.

Meanwhile, Kartik Khare, senior global brand director, Smile at Unilever, who also spoke at Marketing‘s recent insights session, said that it was an “extremely intelligent” move by BMW, not only in the brilliance of the idea, but also the quality of thinking and planning that went into executing it. He added that the ability to appear cheeky and fun without impacting the brand’s core character is more difficult than it looks.

“What also struck me is the unique democratisation of celebrity-guerilla marketing. Coke-Pepsi have been doing these kind of one-upmanship ads for ages with big name celebrities. Because they are fun by character as brands, plugged into popular culture. But to take that kind of idea and do it with what are otherwise considered to be boring people on earth – us corporate types – shows incredible quality of thinking,” he said.

From a content point of view, Khare said it is a reminder that there is no one kind of approach to content. Secondly, it again validates that good insights and human truths drive best content – in this case the insight of superiority showcased through the highest ranked person, is a great juxtaposition. He added:

It also shows that both short form content and long form content will continue to co-exist in terms of their respective objectives for content production.

According to him, the storytelling format has “singlehandedly” scored more awareness for the brand in the memory of consumers than any other content would have. While this story could have been told in six-seconds and still be funny, Khare said it would be able to garner as much shareability as the current format. He added that the ROI for such types of content goes beyond sales.

“There will always be this conflict between short term versus life-time KPIs of content. Great brands do both equally well. Opportunistic brands do short term really well. And naive brands do only long term well, and die out despite being loved,” he added.

Also weighing in on the issue is managing director of Reprise, Stanley Clement who said the move by BMW is a clear example of how marketers do not have to develop big campaigns to create impact.

While simple, the video speaks volumes and has proven to be incredibly effective.

He added that the ad not only breaks conventions, but show a different side of the brand. “How many of us are able to take the high road in this way? The ad acknowledges competition rather than stepping on them which is the usual mode for brands.”

Meanwhile, CEO and founder of Orion Social Media Shanker Joyrama said the video stood out due to its boldness. As much as consumers love little jabs by brands, many are still hesitant to do so. “This works currently as not many brands are bold enough to stick it to their competitors for fear of retribution and so the ones who dare – really do have a lot to gain as people do typically share it and make it go viral,” he shared.

However, Joyrama said fortune favours the bold and when throwing punches at rivals, what is important is to stay “classy” about it, not bitter.

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