By on February 15, 2010

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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33 Comments on “BMW: Out With The “Ultimate,” In With The “Joy”...”

  • avatar

    Joy? Oy. Alas

  • avatar




    Why do marketers insist on making change for changes’ sake, when the existing is brilliant in its simplicity? “Ultimate Driving Machine” was the perfect slogan, much as Volkswagen’s “Drivers Wanted” was an excellent one (though, I think “Das Auto” is great, too).

    Now we just need to find a more fitting slogan for Audi. “Truth in Engineering” doesn’t really do it for me…

    • 0 avatar
      A is A

      “Now we just need to find a more fitting slogan for Audi…”

      They have a beautiful slogan in use in Europe: “Vorsprung durch technik” (Advancement through Technology).

      They do not use this slogan in the U.S.A.?

    • 0 avatar

      Well, “Ultimate Driving Machine” is still the slogan…they’re just showing people having fun in BMWs, and since fun-to-drive is a BMW core value, why not sell it?

    • 0 avatar

      In the end, does it really matter? Do you buy a car because of its slogan? Design, dynamics, prestige and price are the key factors. And if the “joy” slogan helps them sell more cars, then power to them. After all, how many unhappy BMW owners do you know (except for the 5 or 7 series drivers who happen to pass a mirror).

  • avatar

    No joy.

    What dimwit came up with that?

    Volkswagen had Fahrvergnügen in the 80s … “Joy of driving”

  • avatar

    Sounds about right. They left ultimate driving machine on the side of the road a while ago in pursuit of yuppie luxury sales and suburban moms.

  • avatar

    Well, their new creative people are either Chinese, or Ren and Stimpy.

    • 0 avatar

      That was my first thought too. “We make joy” sounds like a bad translation. It also seems to me to fit with Chineese priorities in a car. More about style and comfort than performance.

  • avatar

    Not the ultimate brand betrayal, but close.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    BMW hasn’t actually swung the flag of “Ultimate Driving Machine” in advertising plots for quite a while now. However the phrase is still shown as the corporate tagline at the end of the video clip.

    This isn’t rebranding… just a new advertising spin. Because “Efficient dynamics” never took off.

  • avatar

    Gag. Vomit. Sellout. Watered down pollyanna crap.

    This commercial gives ME no joy. Guess when you’ve been chasing EVERY possible market segment (real or imagined), dabbling in bizarre styling and infuriating technology interfaces (thankfully on the mend now), and specializing in 5000+lb crossovers, “Ultimate Driving Machine” might bring some truth in advertising complaints.

    Another brand drifting off course…say hello to Honda and Toyota on the road to Hell.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it’s hard to compare BMW to Toyota. Toyota really did water down its core engineering values for higher profits.

      What are BMW’s core values? I’d say they are: 1) Involving and exciting to drive, 2) unique, and 3) made with obvious care. Aside from the X3, which is a crude, weird-looking little turd, I can’t think of a BMW model that doesn’t fit these criteria. Even bizarro-mobiles like the X6 and Gran Turismo drive as a proper BMW should. And the meat-and-potato models, like the 3-series and 5-series, are downright brilliant to drive. Why not tell that story in its advertising?

      Compare that to, say, Mercedes, which is busily de-contenting its cars in search of wider market share, but still advertising itself as the Mercedes of old. Has anyone looked at a C-Class or GLK SUV? Both have interiors that are shamed by the average Honda Accord, and the volume models are, to be charitable, undistinguished to drive. To get that proper Mercedes feel, you have to step up to the uber-expensive models. And yet, Mercedes isn’t lowering prices commensurately. But every single BMW, from the basic model to the M’s, is a kick in the pants to drive.

      If anything, I think it’s Mercedes that’s poised for a fall, not BMW.

    • 0 avatar


      Really? I think the current C-class is great. It was exactly what I would want out of a small-ish German premium car.

      It’s also about 100% better than the last two C-class generations, so I’m not sure where you see the de-contenting.

    • 0 avatar


      Agreed that BMW has tapped into some black magic, and made their elephantine 5000lb crossovers drive smaller (like a 4000lb crossover??) but IMO, it’s still an unfortunate example of brand drift and lowest common denominator advertising to showcase a bunch of “shiny happy people” driving their (automatic trans., leased) prozac alternatives…but to each their own, if it sells cars and keeps BMW independant, I can live with it even if I don’t like it…

      I know that an automaker’s ‘gotta do what they gotta do’ to move the metal, but I’m just never going to celebrate the likes of a BMW XHippo, or a Porsche Cayenne, or such…I’d rather that brands built on lean, involving, focused, CARS stayed truer to their roots.

      Mercedes ‘fall’ from quality grace is another matter, and I don’t celebrate that either…but I find them at least trying to get back to their traditional position in the market…and regarding the C-class, M-B’s entry level cars have never been known for abundant interior luxury, from the 240D, to the 190 series, etc… so I don’t consider it that much of a fail…(and the C63 AMG rocks, admittedly for a high price.)

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    It’s fabulous. Total bandwagen (sic) concept. People having fun, enjoying themselves and not worried about having paid too much for a car. This ad is the sort of message that appeals to my sister-in-law, my single female next-door neighbor and the family on the other side of me. They all drive BMWs and could give a rat’s ass about handling. For them, it’s image and lifestyle.

    That was extremely successful for Harley-Davidson, until they reached market saturation.

    For me, the REAL surprise in this video is the inclusion, albeit a very short glimpse, of a BMW motorcycle. Now that’s out there.

  • avatar

    Having owned a string of 5 BMW’s now, I think this is appropriate.
    The joy of driving left when they started putting [email protected]#[email protected]#% run-flats on their cars.

    Runflats don”t give the ultimate driving experience, to say the least.

  • avatar


    It would appear some of those cheesy adexecs fired by Detroit have found new work.

  • avatar

    Are you people blind or just haters? I mean, “The Ultimate Driving Machine” is in the freaking ad! It hasn’t been dropped, this is just a new ad campaign – BMW has had several while still maintaining that tagline.

    Seems to me like TTAC is looking for the negative even when it doesn’t really exist and the readers are reacting predictably. Try not to buy into easy narratives, guys.

  • avatar

    Jeez, guys, lighten up. If anything, as someone who’s actually shopped BMW, I’ve noticed the brand has a certain uber-sober, “only serious drivers need apply” feel about it. Why not introduce a little lightheartedness into the equation, particularly in these crummy times?

    And I see plenty of BMWs doing what God intended BMWs to do in this ad.

  • avatar

    In Canada, it’s always been “The Ultimate Driving Experience” for some reason. Maybe Can-Am owned that line for their 4-stroke dirt bikes. Anyways, I always find it ironic and strange for auto scribes and pistonheads to get their panties in a bunch over an ad campaign…we all agree around here that the product matters, not the pitch. Right? *nudge, nudge*

  • avatar

    I have seen a German version of this ad. The “Joy” campaign is not new; it is just new in the US. The “Joy” campaign will augment, not replace, “The Ultimate Driving Machine” here in the states.

  • avatar

    Hello Bob Lutz: Your tag-line wants you back.

    p.s. BMW is just being snarky, by proving bavarians can actually translate German terms (i.e. Fahrvernügen) better for foreign markets than northern VW-Germans can.

  • avatar

    Hi Bertel,

    Were you on the case when Fahrvernügen made its US-debut, or was that one of the interludes where you were off on something else?

    During that period, I remember leaving church with my parents, and there was a new white Westphalia van in the parking lot … as I went over to check it out, some guy also came out of church … he introduced himself (forgot the name, he was much taller than my 1.86m, good shape like a jogger or swimmer, and nice looking) … we chatted … he told me he worked for VUS, in advertising (or marketing, or something like that) … we chatted about Fahrvernügen, he told me it was his idea (or maybe that he pushed the idea in the states) … we talked a bit about how the campaign never gained traction … I think at that point, he said he was being transfered (or had left the company and was moving) to California … I gave him my name, he sent me some Fahrvernügen stickers … I never saw him again… do you know the guy I’m talking about?

    It would be interesting to hear you reminisce about the whole Fahrvernügen thing.

  • avatar

    Joy? Ugh…BMW is tied to driving pleasure and the “Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan fits perfectly. Recall Mercedes with the “Engineered Like no other Car in the World”…M-B dropped it for “Sacrifice Nothing”. What a failure that was…and what a failure this will be, too.

  • avatar

    The images are splendid. The copy is trash.

  • avatar

    Sort of recalls the first VW: Kraft Durch Fruede [KDF-Wagen]: “strength through joy”. Not sure if I am looking for my car to provide me “joy” no matter what brand it is. Just start stop and go.I’ll find “joy” in some other way. Yuck.

  • avatar

    We’ve had this awful campaign in the UK for going on two years now – the print ads are far worse than the TV/cinema spots with such lines as ‘Joy is Efficient Dynamics’ which don’t even scan properly.

    The unfortunate associations of the word ‘joy’ when referring to 20th century German history don’t help in Britain, a country that never misses a chance to talk about the Second World War!

    No doubt it sounds OK in the orginal Deutsch.

    It won’t hurt BMW’s sales here though – BMW is a love/hate thing in the UK, 60% of British motorists either own or want to own a BMW, and the other 40% wouldn’t touch one with a bargepole, mainly due to the negative ‘image’ of BMW drivers (aggressive, selfish egomaniacs)

  • avatar

    “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”?


    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.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    I watched this video a bit ago.. and it was lost on me.


    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?

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