Three stories of imposing red brick, McIntyre Elementary School was a small town classic. Towering windows, chalkboards that seemed a mile-long, green walls and black tile floors, it remains the picture that pops in when I hear the word school. Is your school still in you? Are you still in school?
Marketing is the continuing education of observation; labs are campaigns. When the student in you is ready, the lesson always arrives. Today it comes courtesy of Bavarian Motor Works–better known as BMW.
After pioneering the era of “branded entertainment,” BMW has popped the clutch and left it behind. Advantages are always fleeting and seldom is there a better example than this: BMW practically creates a category. Others rush in to copy. Demand explodes. Prices escalate. Value diminishes. BMW exits.
AdAge reports, “The primary reason for BMW’s new backseat approach: Branded entertainment is just getting too expensive. According to executives close to the client and experts in Hollywood, BMW doesn’t have the marketing dollars to ink entertainment deals at a time when integration fees and marketing requests from film or TV partners are escalating.”
Like poker and used cars, knowing when to get out is almost more important than getting in.
Here’s the lesson: Don’t love marketing campaigns that can’t love you back. BMW saw the party was over and moved on. You should too. When advantages diminish, depart. Better yet, when it seems they are about to–be the first one out the door.
Like BMW, you can create just as much buzz ending something as in beginning it–provided you do both boldly and smartly.
There’s another lesson in this story. Go read it now and then click to continue…
Things are never quite what they appear. And so is the case here.
While the utility of branded entertainment (substitute any form of marketing) has waned, BMW could have chosen find an S-Curve of Innovation to give new life to the concept and re-gained leadership and advantage.
But they didn’t. If you read the story you know why…
Branded entertainment was created here in the states. Once it became successful, “Munich got involved … it became a bureaucratic nightmare,” one executive close to the matter said. “The more levels of approval you have for innovative ideas, the more likely you won’t get those ideas approved.”
Here’s the bonus lesson: Free thinking requires free room. Rigidity is to creativity what darkness is to gardening. The quality solutions gained out-weigh the risks. Plus, by freeing up ideas you’ll better sense when they have run their course.
BMW corporate didn’t pull the plug, after all. It was the people close to the ground who sensed it was time to go.
Learn from the bigs: 1) Give your creative space for freewheeling. And, 2) Keep an ear open to those on your front lines. The front lines, after all, is where your business is actually happening.
[Originally published 4 Oct 2005]