Promoting for the long haul

A few weeks ago I bemoaned the lack of attention paid to the temporal aspects of designed objects.  The same criticism can be applied to the world of brand promotional activities.

Promotions are one way in which we can shape the reflective aspects of a design.  We typically think about promotional campaigns as only impacting relatively brief spans of time — say an hour (Super Bowl commercial), a day, a week, a month, or even a year.  But what would happen if you challenged your marketing crew to come up with promotional strategies that span decades, even generations?  I bet you’d be dished up some innovative campaigns — and I’d wager many of those would yield a positive net present value (or positive ROI).  By investing for the ages, you simply have to shoot to create something intrinsically valuable.

Take BMW’s Art Car  Collection, for example.  Starting in 1975 with Alexander Calder’s painting of a tasty BMW 3.0 CSL Le Mans racer, the Art Car Collection has continued more or less uninterrupted up through the present day.  Some of the resulting artwork is simply stunning, some is less so, but all of it serves to underscore several key elements of the BMW brand: audaciousness, sensitivity to form, and a belief that each car is a unique and valuable work of kinetic, industrial art.  Instead of dropping thousands of dollars on a few TV commercials, BMW instead chose to create something of intrinsic worth.  The payoff for BMW is that it can now add spice to any public event simply by rolling out a few of the Art Cars, so weighty is their physical charisma. 

A very special moment for me indeed was being able to sneak up and caress the rear fender of Calder’s car as it sat, unattended, at the Monterey Historic Races a few years ago.  As a young boy I saw a photo of driver Sam Posey sawing away at the wheel.  Seeing it in the flesh was like touching the very soul of BMW.

Isn’t that a better investment in the brand than a few TV commercials?