The BMW Fall of Man: Marketing and press work in one hand

Is corporate and product communication becoming a pure marketing tool? BMW will officially practice this fatal development in the future. A taboo that could take bitter revenge. Or have the customs degenerated to such an extent that marketing can no longer be distinguished from corporate communication, i.e. classic press work?

Perhaps it is simply the zeitgeist that seems to be spreading everywhere. While not so long ago it was anchored in the constitution that journalism must have nothing to do with paid advertising, the two fields of activity have come closer and closer together, sometimes subtly mixed up. For example, by integrating paid special topics for car manufacturers into the magazine. Quasi as a financial compensation for drastically falling circulation and advertising revenues. The reader does not notice anyway that the texts were not formulated by the respective company, but were given in terms of content. Can the end justify the means? I just cannot imagine that BMW Marketing will organize the Bilanz-PK in the future. I hope I got it wrong.

What will become of the ethos of critical journalism?

With the official announcement by BMW to "interlink" both fields of communication and to give them to one central controlling hand, is a massive violation of the ethos of journalistic work that has been valid for generations. I have not yet met a marketing man or woman who would have understood how editors / journalists work, how they are to be informed and what they (may) expect.

BMW Head of Marketing Dr. Jens Thiemer

As I have understood the interaction between companies and journalists so far, there is / was an absolute separation between the “advertising people” in a company and the press department. It would never have occurred to me to call Marketing to ask critical questions about a product. As the editor-in-chief of various customer magazines, the marketing department often wanted to tell me how a product was to be communicated.

When I once asked the ex-CEO of Daimler-Benz, Prof. Werner Breitschwerdt, to drive a four-cylinder diesel with me in the then new S-Class, he complained after the test drive that there was “a hum in a certain speed range”. That's how he said it, that's how I wrote it. "We can't allow our ex-boss to criticize the S-Class," said the call from the Marketing Director shortly before the Mercedes magazine went to press. In his view, rightly so. But not in the sense of journalistic credibility. With my threat that I would call CEO Dieter Zetsche and ask for a decision, the issue was settled in my favor. And the then head of development, Dr Thomas Weber, found the printed review - it was only a short sentence - correct and was pleased that his predecessor in the development department pointed out the hum. The humming was quickly eliminated by insulating material - and everyone was satisfied.

A company has to pay for marketing

I am firmly convinced that marketing and communication must remain separate in a company. There is nothing to prevent them from conveying the same messages, but in different languages. When BMW Marketing Director Thiemer now speaks of the “often excessive and artificially maintained separation of marketing and corporate communication”, it becomes clear that he does not value the journalistic understanding of the press department and the journalistic performance of the journalists in the editorial offices, to put it cautiously . Making marketing the focus of the corporate communicative canon of values ​​around which everything has to revolve ignores the fundamental differences between the two disciplines.

You need arguments for communication

A company has to pay for marketing. You need arguments for communication. In other words: Marketing buys into a wide variety of platforms in order to get its messages across. Public relations work must be convincing in terms of content and substance in order to be taken up and disseminated by the media.

BMW Head of Communications Maximilian Schöberl

The marketing speech of the BMW press release on the reorganization of communication confirms this. “The BMW Group expects this to result in an effective orchestration of the areas of brand campaign, brand experience, brand content, brand protection and public relations. In the future, strategically developed and coordinated brand and company narratives will be conveyed in a way that is appropriate to target groups and channels. In addition, the entire communication is data-driven and dynamically adapted in real time to the response of the audience as well as current developments. ”It makes your eyes water.

And it goes on to say: "The future holistic communication strategy ensures that both the company and the BMW brand enter into a dialogue with the respective target groups across all points of contact in one tone and attitude." well-known editorial offices are understood and accepted.

At the campfire of storytelling

“The strict separation of corporate and marketing communication in B2B on the one hand and B2C on the other no longer corresponds to the realities of communication in the 21st century. At the digital campfire, the best stories and the most valuable information count, ”says Maximilian Schöberl, top communicator at BMW AG. “One Voice has already been implemented in corporate communication at the BMW Group - we are now entering a new era of cooperation with marketing and brand communication. Especially in a time of rapid change, we are required to develop innovative solutions and not only to be at the forefront with our products, but also to develop the most modern and innovative communication infrastructure on the market. We are experiencing a renaissance in public relations. "

It sounds like the big bang of a new communicative universe, the gravitational waves of which will also leave traces in the media world. One can only hope that the brand messages do not disappear into a black hole in the end, from which no light can penetrate to keep the story-telling campfire burning.

„Maßgeschneidertes Agenturmodell“

With TheGame Group, BMW chose a tailor-made model from some of the best and most prominent agencies in Europe. Experience One GmbH and Jung von Matt AG act as shareholders of TheGame Group. The agency will work exclusively for the BMW Group for the first few years. “Companies have to become more and more broadcasters of their own brands if they want to remain relevant and address a community. That is why we see brands as a media platform, ”says BMW Head of Marketing Jens Thiemer.

“In an increasingly fragmented media landscape, interpretive sovereignty and efficient dialogue can only be achieved if you bundle your strengths and focus. With our approach we are creating a new standard of modern communication. "

TheGame Group is an agency tailored to the needs of BMW. It completes the new agency model that BMW established last autumn with the founding of THE MARCOM ENGINE OS: “While THE MARCOM ENGINE OS takes on the task of enabling all digital product communication in all European markets, the following applies for TheGame Group to focus on innovative, data-supported, high-quality creative and strategy work in corporate and brand communication. In the future, the brand will be presented internationally across all channels with the highest level of creativity and efficiency, ”the BMW press release continues.

Good luck!















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