Aishwarya Ramesh

Will millennials buy a BMW?

Research suggests that the one of the main causes of anxiety among millennials is the fear of missing out. And this anxiety (or FOMO as it's more popularly known) is a pivotal part of BMW’s new ad campaign.

BMW India’s message is simple: there are some things in life best enjoyed young. Ogilvy is the agency that conceptualised the primary digital campaign and created a series of films that shows viewers the numerous things they miss out on if they delay the buying a BMW. It's not the first car company this year to target millennials. Earlier this year, Hyundai Venue and Maruti Suzuki's S-Presso also released ads targeting this demographic.

We asked Pallavi Singh, director – marketing at BMW India a little more about the campaign and BMW’s new 360° Plan. “Owning a BMW is now more accessible than ever. And we don’t just mean acquiring one — our cars are now not just easier to buy, but easy to own and have a secure future with the BMW 360 plan. Customers are now also able to customise how much they would like to pay for a car at a given point in time,” she told us.

“The communication is intended for current and future prospects and even brand enthusiasts. It is aimed at anyone who has a young and bold mindset and not just to those young by age,” Singh said. We asked her about the campaign objective and she replied, “The idea is to create desire for the BMW brand not only in terms of the joy that our cars deliver but also what it enables our consumers to do. The immediate business benefit is increased interest in the brand and products.”

Pallavi Singh
Pallavi Singh

Was the campaign meant to drive visibility or increase interest in the brand and its products? Singh admitted that the campaign was meant to do a bit of both. “While you may see bursts of the lead film on TV, the campaign is primarily delivered to audiences online. We use a variety of ad formats ranging from different durations, perspectives — horizontal and vertical. We have also created versions that focus on specific models and deliver it to the relevant audience based on where they are in their sales journey with us,” she said. Singh also mentioned that the ads have been adapted into 96 different viewing formats.

We wondered about the research that went into determining the campaign objective and she told us that it was a combination of the internal brand track study and Ogilvy’s proprietary listening and behavioral analytic tools. “The tools helped determine the zone the campaign should be in. Overall objectives are driven by the business itself,” she said.

Changing consumer mindsets can be challenging for a marketer. Singh agreed saying, “We feel that luxury goes beyond the material acquisition of a product. Customers today are looking for experiences that money cannot buy. Brands that create an ecosystem that provide these unparalleled experiences will win.”

We asked Sunit Khot, chief strategy officer, Network Advertising, his thoughts on the campaign and he told us that it looks like a very determined effort from the brand to connect with an audience that is younger and who would normally consider a luxury car brand later on in life.

“They’re trying to advance the luxury car buying pattern in terms of patronage. That seems to be the strategic intent of the ad,” he said. He was impressed with the insight the ad rests on — millennials are keen on buying experiences rather than buying assets. “That’s why while they’re talking about buying a car, there’s more emphasis on the experiences and the adrenaline rush that comes with it, rather than talking about the car per se, which is a good thing,” he opined.

Sunit Khot
Sunit Khot

“The point is, if you’re a company such as BMW and the markets are stagnating, what option do you have other than to go younger? Of course, they’re targeting the cream of the millennials who might be able to afford a ₹40 Lakh car. They’re also attempting to make it affordable without compromising on the sticker badge value,” Khot analysed.

He pointed out that millennials are not just about 25 year olds anymore. “It’s very clear that they’re not tapping into the very young millennial or the very middle-class millennial. They’re tapping into the slightly older segment of millennials who can afford it. Even 37-year-olds are technically millennials. So, a 37-year-old who’s doing well in life may be able to afford a BMW but the point is that in his present mindset, he might be thinking that BMW is a luxury car that he could probably consider when he’s 45. They’re trying to advance the age of consideration of the car and the brand,” he said.

Further, he pointed out that the brand is not using the words millennials anywhere in the commercial. “They’re just saying that some experiences are best enjoyed young. To that effect, anyone who considers themselves young and wants to buy a luxury car after 10 years, for them it could work,” he added. “Somewhere, I wish the ad elaborated on the type of math that they used to come up with the campaign. With the current numbers, it’s just left to your imagination and it leaves questions unanswered and this could be a deterrent,” Khot said.

We also got in touch with Abhishek Chaturvedi, vice-president, planning, McCann Worldgroup, who told us that behaviour-wise, millennials feel confident about their future earnings than older consumers and spend more on luxury goods.

Abhishek Chaturvedi
Abhishek Chaturvedi

“What millennials expect from luxury brands is radically different from what the previous generations expected. This is so because millennials grew up in a post-Brahmanical restraint era, as they grew up in households where cars were a matter of hygiene. By the time the millennials got established in their fields, they went up a notch in their lifestyle choices when compared to their parents. This definitely could include a luxury car,” he explained.

Chaturvedi nevertheless thinks it is early days before this phenomenon gains momentum in India. “For a luxury car brand, millennials are the poster child to drive-up the imagery of being a young person's car, although when it comes to shoring up numbers they would target thorough-bred luxury car buyers,” he signed off.