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James McDowell, vice president of marketing at BMW North America, Inc., must develop the Phase II promotion strategies for the launch of the all-new roadster BMW Z3 Roadster. The strategy includes an unconventional pre-launch campaign, which is centered around the placement of the BMW Z3 in James Bond's movie, "GoldenEye", and includes other unconventional elements as well (e.g. appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, a Bond Edition Roadster in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog, and other PR activities). James McDowell needs to assess the performance of the aforementioned pre-launch activities and develop marketing strategies, which can sustain the excitement for the BMW Z3 Roadster until the product is publicly available in March.
Susan Fournier; Robert J. Dolan
Harvard Business Review (597002-PDF-ENG)
February 14, 1997
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Case answers for Launching the BMW Z3 Roadster
“Which is the Star and which is the Co-Star?”: An Evaluation of the BMW Z3 Roadster Launch
Over a decade before “going viral” became commonplace vernacular, BMW revamped their stiff, no-nonsense marketing strategy with one that relied heavily on word-of-mouth buzz, consumer advocacy, and involvement—elements that are seemingly more commonplace in today’s marketing environment. Faced with a multitude of challenges like hard competition from competing for premium brands, moving production from cost-intensive Germany to the US, as well as a desire to establish themselves as a global franchise, BMW needed to innovate and humanize their brand. They looked to strike the hearts and minds of a “life-loving” American audience with the launch of their BMW Z3 Roadster, a concept that tested well among many different demographics.
By dissecting and evaluating BMW’s marketing campaign related to the launch of the Z3 in order of perceived effectiveness followed by an overall evaluation of their plan and execution, we’ll examine some core components of effective, non-traditional marketing techniques that can help lead to viral marketing campaigns.
At the cornerstone of this campaign was the near-perfect union between the James Bond GoldenEye film and the BMW Z3 Roadster. Both brands (Bond and BMW) carry legacy and prestige, and therefore each complemented the other. BMW’s mission was simple: to set the bar for a quality roadster and the James Bond brand gave the car the instant seal of quality approval needed to push ahead despite a low base cost of $28,500. The BMW Z3 Roadster appealed to several niche markets, all of whom had a taste for the “finer things” in life (much like their 007 counterpart).
This partnership appealed to potentially new BMW owners who also had an affection for James Bond memorabilia, as well as standing owners who might want something a little more fun and zippy. GoldenEye was one of 1995’s biggest blockbusters, taking in a whopping 26.2 million dollars in its opening week of sales, extending the reach of advertising for this product to millions of people. Because it wasn’t an overt advertisement of a product and the BMW Z3 Roadster was weaved into the plot of the movie tastefully, the buzz created around the James Bond film was genuine.
Second to the movie partnership was the dealership advertising and promotional experience put on by BMW. Despite having a shortage of vehicles, BMW dealerships gave consumers a tangible experience and a way to interact with Bond’s highly anticipated Z3. Though met with some initial disagreements about spending a limited budget promoting a single, niche product, pushing the BMW Z3 Roadster proved to be a success.
Dealerships had access to their most loyal customers, who were invited to pre-screenings and showered with promotional materials. BMW dealerships were able to maintain their existing customers with these events, and the exclusivity of the event generated a free advertisement in the way of press from local media. BMW positioned existing BMW owners as insiders; special and elite. Those on the outside looking in did so with envy, much to BMW’s…
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