Dr. Uwe Ellinghaus
Director Brand Steering, Brand Management BMW and Marketing Services
What makes you optimistic about the economy?
Recently, major indicators have shown that the global economy is recovering. Consumers are regaining confidence and sales are picking up. Growth rates in China and other emerging markets such as Brazil have bolstered this trend. Even the U.S., an important market for BMW, is back on track. As a result, the BMW Group just raised its forecasts for 2010.
In this “age of responsibility” how do you see your customer changing?
Today and tomorrow’s customers demand not just products and brands. They are looking for rational and emotional benefits. They desire brands that offer orientation, and real values they can identify with. Our customers don’t just want to be customers. They are looking for relationships with brands they can trust. Moreover, some of our customers have redefined their meaning of premium. For them, premium is no longer about bold status. Today’s consumers are seeking out unique experiences and brands that are in line with their own personal beliefs. Even though this phenomenon can mainly be observed in western countries, as a premium car manufacturer, we need to address this issue globally.
How do you see the marketing of brands changing in the next five to 10 years?
Customer needs are the key. The beliefs and needs of the customer have to be the basis for all marketing initiatives. During the last few years, one-way communication changed into a dialogue. Customers do not only consume anymore, they want to interact. They are very well informed, are brisk in their decisions, and are becoming more and more unpredictable. This development is changing the way brands are marketing their products. Digital media channels will continue to gain importance, be it for communication, sales, customer intelligence or customer relations.
What was the most unpredicted factor that affected how you manage your brand in the past decade. In the past year?
Clearly the world economic crisis has been a big challenge for all of us. The sharp drop in sales and gloomy economic outlook led to a lot of uncertainty. However, we chose not to join the pessimists, but to see it as a chance to redefine the BMW brand. We now focus more on the brand attributes that are most relevant to our customers and those that differentiate us from our competitors. Consequently, this led to a global realignment of our marketing communications, which has sharpened the BMW image.
How does your brand influence the decisions made at your organization?
The brand is the basis for everything we do at BMW. It influences the development and the design of our products. It is reflected in all communication, and guides the behavior of our employees.
How have you adapted to the impact of technology and social media?
BMW has always been a leader in new technologies and we heavily engage on social media platforms. Dedicated teams are active members in social networks, provide relevant content, design apps, and search for new ways of interaction. Moreover, a completely new and interactive BMW website will be launched soon.
How much of a role does corporate citizenship play in managing your brand?
To quote our CEO, Dr. Norbert Reithofer, “in the future, premium will be defined by sustainability.” At BMW, we follow a holistic approach to sustainability that includes clean production sites, HR initiatives, social and cultural commitments, as well as the development of alternative and environmentally friendly solutions. These measures are consistently being extended and examined, and will continue to be essential to brand building in the future.
Uwe Ellinghaus is Director Brand Steering, Brand Management BMW and Marketing Services since February 2010. After studying business administration in Germany and the U.S., he started his career in strategic market and communication research, working for the research company GfK AG in Nuremberg, Germany. Alongside this job, he attained a doctorate degree in marketing. Afterwards, he entered the BMW Group where he first worked as a consultant for brand strategy within the BMW Group’s central marketing department in Munich. He was appointed General Manager Market and Trend Research in 2001 with the global responsibility for all market research activities for BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce. In 2004, he was appointed Marketing Director BMW UK Ltd. with the responsibility for all marketing activities of the BMW brand in the UK. From June 2008 until January 2010 he was appointed Vice President BMW Brand Communication in Munich.