Small car, big love – leveraging loyalty with 60 years of customer stories

On Mini’s 60th anniversary, national marketing manager Alex McLean shares how the brand reached out to its loving community to launch ‘Unexpected. Expected.’ A campaign celebrating the weird and the wonderful.

Everyone has a Mini story. It’s a car that’s relatable, recognisable, and makes people smile. As humans, we are wired to enjoy a good story. Stories are more than simple fairy tales. Turns out, they actually alter our brains, and can even change the way we think and act. As marketers, we are well aware of this and are always looking for new ways to tell and re-create our brand story.

The Australian automotive market is currently one of the most volatile in the world for loyalty potential. As an automotive brand, there are many tools like clever advertising campaigns, special events, sponsorships or celebrity ambassadors at our disposal. We have 63 auto brands competing in a country of just 24.6 million people. There are more brands in Australia than either the UK or USA.

It’s a lot to contend with.

Furthermore, in a year of few new product releases, we had to consider how to maintain Mini’s share of voice in this competitive marketplace. Fortunately, 2019 also marks 60 years since Mini burst onto the scene. The anniversary was a timely opportunity to create a better relationship with our owner group and increase retention, brand loyalty and advocacy to help preserve our market share.

Companies often overlook one of their strongest assets when marketing their brand: their customers. Customers’ stories convey the essence of a brand. They can be quirky, inspiring and above all, authentic. We thought there was no better way to market Mini than through the eyes of our biggest fans. After all, there are 60 years of stories to tell. We wanted to share stories about our brand where our fans and customers were the stars, and selling came second.

We saw Mini’s 60th anniversary as a great platform from which to launch a grassroots campaign to tell the unique, creative and, sometimes quirky stories of Mini through the eyes of its loyal community. Revolving around the theme ‘Unexpected. Expected.’ the campaign pays tribute to Mini’s inventive origins, our customers and evolution.

The first Mini was sketched on a napkin more than years ago, in response to the 1956 Suez Oil Crisis. Fuel shortages led the UK government to introduce petrol rations, spurring the need for a small, fuel-efficient car. Famed designer Alec Issigonis rose to the challenge and developed a prototype with inventive features to save on space.

Mini hit the market in 1959 and became a ’60s icon, punching well above its weight in racing, fashion and pop culture. It became a favourite of many, including George Harrison, drivers at the Monte Carlo Rally and Bathurst races, and even the NSW police force.

Mini gradually became part of the Australian landscape, with fans and designers alike putting their own touches on the cars. With such a rich history of Mini characters, we had all the inspiration we needed for our 60th birthday campaign.

 

Connecting with customers, new and old

As a starting place, Mini travelled back in time to make contact with its most loyal customers and enthusiasts, tapping into historic car associations and Mini aficionados across the country. Sourcing these stories has sometimes been difficult, but when we manage to find those that truly touch people’s hearts, investing in bringing them to life is extremely valuable. It also allowed us the wonderful opportunity to reconnect with our loyal community in person and online.

Tim Harris

 

Creating a community platform

From a digital perspective, we decided to throw a party of sorts, and invite everyone to join in online. We wanted to do something that hadn’t really been done on Mini’s website before: to provide a platform for Mini owners across Australia to share their passion and delve further into the little quirks that make up this vibrant community. We know that the Mini community is very active online – they regularly participate in forums, Facebook groups and on social media. But the communities are also quite disparate.

We created a special Mini 60 Years hub, which features stories from owners and enthusiasts across Australia. Whether it’s a home for weird and wonderful Minis that don’t quite fit anywhere else, or a young racer who’s racing a family heirloom, the common thread that runs through all of these stories is the love that people have for their cars and their fellow Mini fans. Over the course of the year, we’re profiling dozens of these owners, and have built in functionality to allow fans to submit their own stories to be shared.

Ted Brewster

Many of the stories are distinctly Australian and profile how Australia has left its mark on the Mini – like the Aussie designers who were asked to circumvent a door designed to hold a bottle of Gordon’s gin, in order to build windows that let enough air in during summer (those were the days!).

 

Amplifying across channels

We are sharing these uniquely Australian stories across our social media channels and across the broader media landscape. Whether they be motoring enthusiasts or simply for general interest, it is important for Mini to remain authentic and transparent and make our customers the heroes of our brand story. Telling the real-life stories of our enthusiasts exemplifies the passion at the centre of Mini’s brand’s story and our DNA, and forges a meaningful connection.

Around the world, other brands are also successfully engaging their user communities to promote their brands. Airbnb’s campaign ‘Stories from the Airbnb Community’ campaign is an excellent example of engaging user storytelling for great content marketing strategy. As a wholly customer-facing company, rather than telling its version of the Airbnb tale, the company harnessed the power of customer-led storytelling to give people a chance to spark up narratives. It’s highly-engaging with a mix of amazing stories published regularly.

A good local example is from Qantas’ 2017 third ‘Feels like Home’ campaign. The campaign is based on the theme of what the airline has been doing for Australians around the globe for 94 years – ‘bringing people home’. The campaign proved enormously successful, and was an opportunity to really tell the authentic stories of real passengers, real Qantas customers and Qantas staff. It is authentic, and taps into emotions with its focus on the pull of home.

Storytelling is a very powerful form of marketing. I personally believe that it is the future of marketing. Shoppers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with a brand. Emotions elevate customer satisfaction and CX. The best stories are not just our own, but those of our customers and our fans.

The ‘Unexpected. Expected.’ campaign shines a light on the people who have helped make our brand what it is today. In celebrating 60 years, the campaign sends a nod to the past, present and future of Mini.

 

Alex McLean is national marketing manager at Mini Australia.