Painting a Richer Picture of a Brand Offering

Focus is a key factor in bringing compelling products to market. But when products deliver on functional and emotional levels, doors are opened to more powerful experiences.

Take the launch of the 2009 BMW Z4 for example. BMW once again couples the qualities of luxury and performance that have long been associated with the brand. But for this launch, they also tap into the company's rich history of merging art and vehicle design. this combination allows users to literally paint their own richer picture of the offering.

The "Expression of Joy" theme and event associated with the vehicle's launch elegantly compliments the Freude am Fahren or Sheer Driving Pleasure themes associated with BMW. The nature of the launch provides BMW with a broader canvas upon which to cast the value of their offering, avoiding tiresome comparisons of performance statistics alone. No mundane comparisons of 0-60 mph times here, and cornering capabilities are conveyed in a colorful new way to be sure.

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The impact of this launch approach becomes immediately apparent when one compares the BMW Z4 and Audi's A4 iPhone applications that accompanied the launch of each vehicle. Both do a nice job of allowing users to visualize the respective vehicles. The Audi iPhone application explores the "performance angle", allowing users to cleverly tilt the iPhone to navigate an A4 through a slalom course of traffic cones. Ironically, through stressing the performance angle in this way, one finds that the application, though novel to start, is a bit difficult to master. This is not necessarily an impression one wants to leave aspiring A4 drivers with.

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By contrast, the BMW Z4 iPhone application allows users to instantly experience a bit of what it must have felt like to have one's hands at the controls of a "300 horse power paint brush". The joy and free form nature of the event translates well through the small device screen. One is unencumbered by the confines of the interface...given literally a blank canvas to work with and, delightfully, to save as well. There is nothing overly grandiose here but the experience does represent a nice instance of design thinking. The content and technical capabilities of the iPhone itself are clearly considered and aligned well with features of the application to maximize emotional impression. Rather than forcing users to master the application, it empowers and frees them to be creative, even if for a brief few moments. Now, that's an impression worth leaving, and downloading for that matter.

Audi's tagline for the A4 launch was "The category changing A4. Progress is beautiful." The A4 is a beautiful vehicle to be sure. But when you see a company like BMW balancing artful expression and design so well, not to mention creating a football field-sized canvas for expression, one is left with the feeling that they are categorically changing the way they dialog with potential customers. Progress is beautiful indeed.