MINI USA has had many marketing campaigns over the past 15 years. Just two ad agencies have created most of the print, media, and online campaigns from 2001 to the present. Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B) had the daunting task to introduce and launch an entirely new automobile brand to America. A brand with one vehicle model which was small in the land of SUVs, cheeky in the country full of bland sedans, and had little name recognition other than its ties to BMW, which were actually downplayed at the beginning. However, CP+B produced groundbreaking and award-winning advertising campaigns, a large reason for MINI’s early success in the US. Some consider the period of 2001 through 2005 the “golden age” of MINI marketing.
Around 2006, MINI USA selected Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP) as their new ad agency. BSSP transitioned MINI from the print + viral ad era into the current online social media age, also winning several awards. They are the current ad agency for MINI USA.
Let’s take a look at all of the major MINI USA marketing campaigns, some of which we have already covered in detail. The dates are approximate.
Crispin Porter + Bogusky
Let’s Motor. (2001-2004)
MINI’s original slogan was simple, inviting, and hinted its British origins in just two words. It was brilliant. “Let’s Motor” didn’t restrict MINI to any specific theme or gimmick, but was added as an ending tagline on other phrases that began with “Let’s”. Examples of print ad headlines include “Let’s Put Away the Middle Finger.”, “Let’s Sip, Not Guzzle.”, and “Let’s Celebrate Our Victories.”
MINI USA produced these highly-collectible posters featuring the “Let’s Motor” slogan above either a Liquid Yellow MINI Cooper S alongside a bee and conga or a Chili Red MINI Cooper alongside a boxing glove and match.
Men of Metal (4/2004-6/2004)
Men of Metal was MINI USA’s first viral ad campaign. The idea was to create a buzz around whether an engineer near Oxford had created a robot built from an R50 MINI Cooper. The campaign included five fake websites, a 37-page booklet titled Men of Metal: Eyewitness Accounts of Humanoid Robots, and three toy R50R Robots in the MINI MotoringGear collection.
Read more about the Men of Metal campaign.
Always Open (9/2004-5/2005)
MINI’s second model launch was in Spring 2005 with the MINI Convertible. Leading up to the launch was an ad campaign with the slogan “Always Open” equating an open roof with an open mind and personality. CP+B paid attention to detail with the Convertible ads. Whereas with the regular MINI ads, the colorful border was a four-sided, closed frame. The border on the Convertible ads was not closed, but instead open at the top (see examples above). Subtle but clever
MINI dealerships were given Convertible Contracts which new MINI Convertible buyers were supposed to sign promising to motor with the top down 90% of the time. One print ad featured this fake contract. MINI USA created three Always Open posters which were given away at dealerships and events.
Counterfeit MINI Coopers (4/2005-2006)
The second and last viral ad campaign by CP+B was based on a made-up investigation of fake MINIs. The Counterfeit MINI Coopers campaign included a fake organization called the Counter Counterfeit Commission (CCC) that warned consumers about counterfeit MINI Coopers using a television commercial, website, public service announcements, a mail-order DVD, and a brochure (print ad). CP+B created a phone number with a fake message, a fake auction website, and also placed ads for counterfeit MINIs in real Auto Trader magazines.
The Counterfeit MINIs campaign earned CP+B two Gold Lions (Cyber and Film) and a Titanium Lion award (for multiple media campaigns) at the 2005 Cannes International Advertising Festival.
Read more about the Counterfeit MINI Coopers campaign.
Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (2006-Present)
MINI Confidential (7/2006-2/2007)
The MINI Confidential campaign started in July 2006 with MINI USA sending a secret black box to owners containing the “spy kit” inside a fake book titled “A Dizzying Look at the Awesomeness of Small”. The spy kit included a magic window decryptor, super-secret decoder, and special red lens glasses. Shortly afterwards, BSSP created a series of print ads with secret messages that could only be read by MINI owners with the black box spy kit.
The ads directed owners to websites, some of which offered free prizes including the Adventure Toggle Switches and MINI Confidential medallion.
Read more about the MINI Confidential campaign.
Hammer & Coop (3/2007-9/2007)
From MINI Confidential, MINI USA segued right to Hammer & Coop, a campaigned based around on Web series starring Jim Turtledove as “Hammer” and a 2007 MINI Cooper S as “Coop”.
Read more about the Hammer & Cooper campaign.
BSSP coined the term “MOTOR-TOBER” for its October 2007 marketing campaign. It featured test-drives and discounts based around a Halloween theme. The MOTOR-TOBER print ad featured a clever fake Waiver for the test-drive. MINI dealers distributed MOTOR-TOBER ’07 car magnets and stickers.
ZIG. ZAG. ZUG. (3/2008-4/2008)
The first marketing campaign for the MINI Clubman was the “ZIG. ZAG. ZUG.” campaign with ZIG representing the MINI Hardtop, ZAG was the Convertible, and ZUG the Clubman. The print ads were simple, featuring the three models with a detachable booklet about the MINI Clubman titled “The Book of ZUG“. Other marketing items were antenna balls and fortune cookies with “fortunes” consisting of a clever MINI Clubman slogan and a “ZUG says” or “Lucky Number: Clubman fact”.
Read more about the MINI Clubman Launch Items.
The Other MINI (4/2008-6/2008)
After the short “ZIG. ZAG. ZUG.” campaign, MINI USA immediately switched to “The Other MINI” ad campaign. This set of ads portrayed the Clubman as the odd or non-conformist member of the MINI lineup.
Another large series of print ads focused on the Clubman’s rear doors and larger size, still with the slogan “The Other MINI”.
Read more about the MINI Clubman Launch Items.
Carfun Footprint (7/2008-10/2008)
In the Fall of 2008, MINI USA turned to the “Carfun Footprint” campaign to highlight the MINI’s high fuel efficiency and low carbon emissions, hence the “carfun” play-on-words. BSSP created yet another special interactive website, this time you could take a quiz to check your “Carfun Footprint” score. Of course, there were some print ads, one of which featured a black and silver badge for your MINI with the “MORE TURN. LESS BURN.” slogan.
In October 2009, MINI USA brought back the “MOTOR-TOBER” campaign from 2007, again based on a Halloween theme. This time MINI produced ads, a Pumpkin Carving Stencil, tattoos, and posters.
For the new MINI Countryman, marketing focused on its four doors and bigger boot. So BSSP invented “bootgating” playing off the traditional football “tailgating” idea. MINI dealerships held MINI Bootgating parties in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLV. Some event attendees won Super Bowl tickets. Of course there were marketing items, with MINI USA producing football game-related items to give away at the launch parties.
Read more about the MINI Countryman Launch Items.
The Bigger MINI (1/2011- 4/2012)
MINI USA introduced the public to the new MINI Countryman with a series of ads introducing “the bigger, four-door, all-wheel drive” MINI Countryman. For the first time, MINI marketed a MINI model based on a bigger size. Ads also emphasized the Countryman’s four doors and all-wheel drive (ALL4) system making it great in snow.
In March 2011, BSSP created the Virtual MINI app for the Apple iPhone that let you “view the new MINI Countryman in any real-world environment”. The app was introduced in an ad featuring a QR Code which took users to iTunes to download the app.
The Best Test Drive Ever. Period. (10/2011-1/2012)
Before the launch of the MINI Coupe, MINI USA announced a contest to describe the “best test drive ever” in six words. After more than 14,000 submissions, the winner was Mathew Foster’s submission: “stewardess, salt flats, sushi, paratroopers, and falconer. BSSP created a two-minute commercial based on the winning entry.
Hold on (11/2011-5/2012)
The MINI Coupe and MINI Roadster were introduced as “The Twins”, the pair of two-seater MINIs based on the same platform. Although the Coupe went on sale about six months before the Roadster, they shared a common print marketing campaign, subtly called “Hold on”. Sometimes the two models were advertised together, sometimes separately.
Introducing MINI Paceman (3/2013-5/2013)
The next model launch was a year later in Spring 2013. For the MINI Paceman, BSSP mostly abandoned the MINI-on-a-black-background ads of the past and went instead with placing the MINI in real settings. The Paceman seemed to be pitched to arty urban types. Thus, the ads featured the Paceman parked in trendy areas with a simple (but still clever) slogan. The marketing campaign was brief and then the Pacemen sort of disappeared into obscurity.
A Virtual Reality Experience (9/2015)
The marketing for the launch of the third-generation MINI Hardtop was mostly unremarkable. However, in the Fall of 2015 MINI USA and BSSP launched a cool virtual reality campaign to market MINI Connected. MINI USA partnered with the New York Times and mailed thousands of Google Cardboard Virtual Reality Goggles. On September 1, 2015 MINI USA posted two short VR films, Backwater and Real Memories to YouTube. Watching the films on your mobile phone, you can turn 360° and rotate the view in the video.
Most recently MINI USA launched the #DefyLabels campaign to promote the launch of the new MINI Clubman. Initially there were six short video ads featuring celebrities Abby Wambach (later dropped), Serena Williams, T. Pain, Randy Johnson, Harvey Keitel, and Tony Hawk. The highlight of the campaign was the Defy Labels commercial which aired during the Super Bowl on February 7, 2016.
Following the Super Bowl, MINI USA continued the campaign with the #DefyLabels Contest. People were invited to nominate someone they thought defied labels. Voting began on April 8 to select 16 finalists from 76 nominees. The Top 16 were announced on May 9th with the Final 4 results and Final Voting on May 30. Voting is still going on through June 30 at MINI-DefyLabels.com.
[Ad and poster images courtesy of the Library of Motoring.]