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Why do people pay extra, a lot extra, for brand name cars? How did BMW capture my loyalty and unlock some branding DNA that I now associate with MY car? What’s it about this branding thing, that creates customers for life? How does BMW take the "lifetime value" of me into consideration? What are they doing to WIN the high-end car market? Does it transfer to their ownership of Mini Cooper?

I mean, if Hyundai is giving a 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty and their cars are 1/3 the price of a premium car, why would so many of us be buying these hyped brands? This morning I got an example of BMW’s roadside assistance. I’ve never needed to use it. But this morning, as my battery died on a 5-year old 328, I pulled up BMW’s website.


I also did my due diligence and called a few companies here in Austin that claim to deliver fresh new batteries on-demand. They said they would call me back in a bit (30 minutes and counting) so we could talk about timing and price. Meanwhile my first call to BMW went through in minutes to a person who’s just texted me the name and arrival time of the towing company that is coming to give me a jump or tow to the BMW dealership, for free. Sure, my car is still under the Certified Pre-Owned factory warranty, but wow.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes the independent company to call me back.

Okay, but why would be pay so much for a car? And does the power of BMW’s brand keep me buying their cars, or is it something else?

Performance Driving Machine

Does the BMW drive differently than any car I’ve ever owned? Yes. And something about the blend of luxury and performance have hit my sweet spot. Not too finicky like a Porsche or Alfa Romeo. Not my dad’s car, Mercedes-Benz. And not Japanese power and reliability: Lexus or Infinity. But something just right for me. Comfort and attention to the driver’s needs over everything else. BMW is not the most expensive, most powerful, or most luxurious car on the market. Perhaps it’s the highest mark on all of those counts that I can afford, but I don’t think I’d be jonesin for a Ferrari if I could afford one.

No BS Service and Maintenance

Sure, you’re going to pay full-price for all maintenance when you own a BWM. But the experience of taking your car to the dealership and having them thank you for the privilege of servicing your car… Not to mention putting you in a brand new BMW while your car is being fixed. Even waiting IN the BMW showroom here in Austin is a treat. Free barista-brewed coffee, a movie theater, and plenty of desks around with solid wifi. It’s better than any remote office I’ve ever paid for. "Sure, I’ll wait," you might say at BMW. Name another service center that gives you a smile when they ask you to wait.

Low Maintenance

The trick about warranties vs. worth is the idea that keeps a lot of people way from a Hyundai, even with their nice cars and killer warranty: A 10-year warranty is great, but not if you actually have to use it all the time. Even as cool as some of the new Hyundai’s look, I’m not interested in their cars. Or really any car other than a BMW. As I was replacing my hail damaged 2004 BMW I went through the exercise of looking at all options. The other contenders: Audi and VW. Once you’ve had a car that fits, it’s hard to change loyalties.

My Favorite Car of All Time

Once you’ve had *that* car! The car that seems to get you. Well, I’ve never looked back. From a used 318 convertible, to a used 320, to my previous used 330 XI, I’ve switched to BMW and I suppose I’ll stay here until something changes my heart. (Or maybe I’ll switch to a Tesla when I can afford the power of luxury, performance, AND zero emissions. Until then, I think I’ll stay with the company that has produced two of my favorite cars EVER.

Performance (Even Their Response Time Was Awesome)

And the text from BMW Roadside Assistance came with the arrival time before the other guys even called me back.


It’s More Than A Car

BMW understands that your car is an experience. The brand and everything they do reflects this concept of keeping you happy and loyal forever. Take their owner website, for example. After buying this used 2011 BMW I was given access to the MY BMW page.

One click download of the manuals. Videos on how to set up the integrated garage remote. And access to look up my warranty information and of course, the phone number for roadside assistance.

Once you get that brand feeling, you’ll be hard pressed to even try something else. Once I became a BMW driver, I haven’t looked at another car or brand with the same desire. Even when BMW went through a few years of bad designs in the 3 and 5 series, I was simply waiting to see what they did next.

BMW – The Driving Machine

FEEDBACK LOOP: Please tell me about your brand loyalty experiences. Have you had one brand perform so well, above all others, that’d you’d never consider switching? (Maybe Oakley and Apple, for me.) Add you story in the comments or shoot me an email, I’d love to learn more about what’s captured your heart in terms of branding and image. What creates such fierce BMW loyalty?

UPDATE: I’m at the BMW of Austin service center. And I just realized I’m just as douchey as most of the other people in here. What’s up with that?

John McElhenney

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

permalink: https://uber.la/2015/06/the-power-of-brand/

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