BMW: Out With The "Ultimate," In With The "Joy"

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

BMW has ditched its long-running “Ultimate Driving Machine” tagline in favor of the vague, lifestyle-y “We Make Joy” promise. And though advertisers never tire of explaining that products themselves pale in comparison to the feelings they inspire in their owners, much of BMW’s (and most German luxury brands’) appeal comes from a projection of sachlichkeit, or single-minded obsession with something for its own sake. “The Ultimate Driving Machine” expressed the brand’s practical and emotional values in a simple, original phrase. The new line might open the brand to more non-enthusiast consumers, but it also reeks of the kind of marketing done by firms that don’t have top notch products on the market (usually because of a distinct lack of institutional sachlichkeit). For the closest analogue we could find on short notice, hit the jump.

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  • Ronbo456 Ronbo456 on Feb 16, 2010

    "We realized that what you make people feel is as important as what you make". Yes, this is true in many categories but it's idiotic to say so in copy. What's next, "We realized that making people lust after cars they can't afford is as important as making affordable cars"? However. It would not surprise me to learn that the agency or the client believed that "Ultimate Driving Machine" wouldn't resonate in this economy. I can see the argument that consumers who felt they could live without the UDM (and the ultimate house, vacation, etc.) wouldn't want to live without joy. In other words, focusing on the emotion rather than the product grants permission to purchase at a time when buying something just because it's the best could read as either irresponsible (if it's a stretch) or elitist (if it isn't). In other words, I see this more as the flip side of UDM than an abandonment of it. The bigger problem for BMW is that by focusing on the overall experience the spot gives up the uniqueness of the UDM positioning. I suppose "joy" describes how I would feel about owning and driving a BMW. But it also describes how I feel about Porsche and Ferrari.

  • Ernie Ernie on Feb 16, 2010

    Ed, on behalf of everyone here, thank you for NOT posting the "Let's All Drive in an Electric Car" video again . . . I could swear that was what you were leading up to.

  • Jerome10 Jerome10 on Feb 16, 2010

    I too think the slogan is really stupid. I agree, they aren't getting rid of the Ultimate Driving Machine. However, I do think a brand slogan can have two functions. The obvious one being the image portrayed to your potential customers. The second to those who engineer, design, and build your products. BMW WAS the Ultimate Driving Machine. Sure there were Porsches or Ferraris, etc, but was there any better all around car on the planet than a BMW? I think one could safely argue that there was not. Nothing that fast, that pure in feel, that well handling, with that much comfort existed anywhere else. It was a perfect image to portray to customers. Its what they were. And I truly believe that engineers can have that image in their heads as well. Build Ultimate Driving Machines so that they live up to the name. Now, its clear it has just become a slogan. I still adore BMW's, but they are not as special for me as they once were. I am still thoroughly impressed every time I drive a 3, but the last 7 was a joke vs the 7 of the late 90s, which even today I think was a far better machine. The 5 is somewhere between those two. My experiences with their trucks has been throughly unimpressive. Its a damn shame. One used to know that a 3, 5, or 7 was a superb car, now, you get the 3, maybe the 1...and the rest you cross shop with other brands. They certainly are not, top to bottom, Ultimate Driving Machines. So in some ways this fits. They clearly have not put UDM as their priority for at least 5-7 years now across their full lineup. Might be more genuine. But at the same time, others (like me) are now confused about what BMW really is, and I can't help but think that their employees now focus more on selling image than selling automobiles that were truly engineered and built like nothing else. This ad reminds me of something I'd expect to see from MINI or Scion. And slogans do matter, particularly ones as focused, famous, and well loved as Ultimate Driving Machine. Remember when Nike changed from "Just Do It" to "I Can"? Yeah. Wrong image to the public, and I suspect wrong image to employees. Was a bad bad move. I view this the same way as that Nike mistake. I want my old BMW back. While I'm making demands, I want my fun Hondas of the 90s back too.

  • Accs Accs on Feb 18, 2010

    I watched this video a bit ago.. and it was lost on me. WOW. I just got done watching this week's autolinedetroit... and Peter just did a shpiel about this. Man do I agree with him! Concept is.. BMW had the same tagline that they've had for a dozen years.. and now they change it. It IS simply TOO easy for ANY AUTOMAKER to just slip some audio a coupla sound bytes and pump this out. Is it a BMW or a Chevy or a Hyundai or a Chery?