Luxury automobile brand, BMW, recently crossed the 10 lakh mark on Facebook. The Facebook page recorded over 10,67,327 likes with over 2,01,814 people talking about the brand. Moreover, Sachin Tendulkar became the one millionth follower on the BMW India Facebook page. With this feat, BMW claims to be the first luxury car brand to cross this number on Facebook that too in a short span of 14 months.
But will this digital space really help a luxury brand develop the connection with its digital consumers?
“I think it is an important space in a country like India. If we look at the telemetry, India is one of the youngest countries with the youngest average age. We have shifted a lot in to social media since it is an upcoming market and it is gaining more importance. What is important is that we are not only connecting with people but also this group of people will become important in the future. The average age of Facebook users is between 20 to 30 years and a bit over 30 years. These are the group of people who discuss a lot about BMW, are excited about it and grow to become our potential customers,” says Dr Andreas Schaaf, President, BMW Group, India.
Talking to the right TG?
However, the fact remains that not every Facebook user is the potential customer for a brand. So how does BMW’s digital marketing strategy ensure the right communication for the right TG?
“The average age of our customers in India is pretty low compared to other countries major chunk of the customers are in the early thirties and there are lots that are in the age group of twenties. Being a fan doesn’t always mean they are potential customers, they might not also be able to afford a BMW, but it is important that these people talk positively about the brand and know about the brand. As a company, which is seen as a technological leader, should use technology to connect with the people and in this case the biggest technological tool is the social media,” Dr Schaaf adds.
India too like its global counterparts is fast moving towards absorbing information via digital media. According to Dr Schaaf, a company needs to understand that and to be able to communicate with potential customers through this platform.
With a slightly different perspective Madan Sanglikar, CEO, ad2c, says that luxury brands would have a larger fan following because the aspiration is high for the product. A lot of people who would not be able to buy the product but would still aspire for it. “A kid has a picture of BMW in his bedroom as a car that he would like to have but it is not necessary that he buys that car. This is a platform and a way with which the brand can find out who are the diehard followers of the brand. From a luxury product perspective, it allows the brand to connect and communicate with the audience in terms of views and feedback. It also helps to figure out what the audience is thinking about what is the trend. It is a medium of connection. From the consumer’s perspective, there are those who own the product and use it and there are those who do not own the product but still want to show the support for that brand. If you are a user or a non user you get the opportunity and feeling that the brand is directly talking to you,” he adds.
He also adds that not being able to afford the product should never come in between being a fan follower. Majority of the people in India cannot own a BMW but the fact that they aspire is the biggest reason for those who go in for the product. “Because there are a million fans of BMW in India, the 100 or 1,000 people who buy it and drive it, attract comments like ‘wow what a car!’. A large fan following affects the purchase patterns of the consumer, it is a big impetus for both people,” Sanglikar feels.
On similar lines Yashraj Vakil, COO, Red Digital says that, most of the people, to whom luxury brands such as BMW cater to, are from affluent households. These people are not necessarily on Facebook or other social media all the time. It is their kids or the youngsters in the family who are online and are the ones that play a major role in decision making while buying such a product.
From the brand’s point of view, Vakil adds that, it is easy for a luxury brand to be online on a social media platform. People connect a lot of aspiration with various brands; a lot do not buy products but still are able to like the product on facebook. At the end of the day we look if it adds value to the brand. If the brands establish a good communication, it might help them to have a good recall value in the future. “Hence it is very important that brands such as BMW are active on Facebook. These are aspirational brands and people may not buy it but will help spread the message on social media,” he opines.
Thus, the brand has been launching such consumer engagement initiatives that promote this aspirational connect. For instance, earlier, in a social media activation by BMW, visitors at the BMW exhibit hall at the Auto Expo, were provided with BMW Connect Cards, which was activated when a visitor submitted his Facebook ID with a gentle tap either on the iPad stationed at the registration kiosk or one being carried by a BMW promoter. It empowered visitors to share their BMW experience online, with their friends on Facebook, as they experience the cars live at the show. Visitors could also automatically ‘like’ their favourite BMW or MINI cars, by tapping the BMW Connect Cards, essentially posting that car and associated content to their Facebook wall in real time.
To further enhance the brand connect, visitors also got a chance to choose their favourite car, have the pleasure of being photographed with it on the same iPads and get the photo uploaded to their Facebook walls real-time for all their friends to see and comment on.
Dr Schaaf appends, “If we look at the launches there are many launches across the globe such as the MINI and 1series that have been done via the social media. We have had music downloads, events related to this as a platform to communicate with the people. The launch and the activation related to the new 3 series have seen a phenomenal turnout. In the past couple of days with the launch the page has seen an increase of 1,50,000 new members.”
Playing it right
The company has very adroitly used Sachin Tendulkar’s brand value with that of the brand. By making him the millionth fan on the social media page, it has enhanced consumer trust in the brand. Company’s President explains, “Tendulkar is someone authentic and he shares his experience from the heart since he has used BMW cars. He is respected and knows across all generations. The connect that we are trying to create is that the authenticity of the brand and the most respected athlete go hand in hand.”
However, to keep pace with the growing fan base and the company will have to create more and more engaging content. One of the challenges that Schaaf thinks is that the brand really has to interact with the people. “If you have a million friends online then you need to keep them engaged and communicate. You need to spend time and provide content. Content management and the communication is the key to keep it going.”
According to Sanglikar, “The biggest challenge for any brand would be that if you have a million followers it will have to keep the communication on. One play is to get fans and likes and the other game is to stay connected and engage the consumers online. “Therefore, the content development to keep the fans engaged and hooked is the major challenge.”
Thus, to keep its fans busy, BMW had also launched facebook contests like ‘the ultimate 3 challenge’ where the winner would win a trip to the launch of the new 3 series and a video of Sachin Tendulkar talking about his journey with BMW along with Xseries art expressions and many other innovative engagements.