- Photos: www.press.bmwgroup.com
Tobias Weber, Head of Relationship Management at BMW, and his team are responsible for global brand cooperation on the Munich side. We talked to him about the background to the collaboration with Kith.
How did the cooperation with Kith come about?
BMW stands for “sheer driving” – this claim has to of course be projected onto the brand. This also includes an attitude of being open to brand cooperation and change, in order to continually define driving pleasure in a contemporary way.
Designed for such an undertaking is the lifestyle brand Kith, which has made a name for itself in the course of the last decade precisely with this unprecedented collaboration mentality. If you look at the success stories of its young existence, global brands stand out: adidas, Nike, Coca-Cola, Versace.
Kith CEO Ronnie Fieg loves little more than authentic storytelling – all his collaborations are based on this fact. And so it serendipitously happened that Ronnie’s grandfather drove a BMW M3 E30 in the early 1990s, which would influence Ronnie throughout his life. Windows down, a home-mixed tape in the cassette deck and driving through Queens is one of those memories Ronnie will never forget. We wanted to build on that feeling of unforgettable driving pleasure.
What are BMW’s strategic goals with this?
We are at a crossroads in the industry. I’m not just referring to the many decisions that have to be made in the context of the product. Many case studies show that the luxury market will be completely transformed by 2025 and will be primarily influenced by the understanding and demand of millennials and Gen Z. This massive generational shift will have far-reaching consequences for BMW, and far-reaching effects on
consumer behaviour, values and desires. It is essential for premium brands to start planning for this new reality now.
In the future, the customer will choose which company to spend his money on even more carefully, taking into account aspects such as values, inspiration and uniqueness. The only way to meet this is by building up trust with the customer through established brands from other target groups. BMW is an iconic brand with great products, but does the modern premium customer of the future still see it that way? I think so, but still, in the context of mobility, something has to happen here as well, and we are pursuing this endeavour through brand cooperations, among other things. We are focusing even more on the zeitgeist, on authenticity and relevance.
How are you evaluating the collaboration, and how’s it looking?
The 150 limited-edition vehicles sold out in 27 minutes. With this statement, we were able to wish all stakeholders a good weekend at 6.27 p.m. on launch day, Friday 23 October. The project was a complete success for KITH, BMW and above all the community. This also includes the fact that all 150 vehicles were reserved and paid for via our online channel within just half an hour.
However, the actual success of this brand cooperation does not lie in the sale of units; that would be substantially wrong. It was primarily about demonstrating a mechanism that we call “Surprise/Sense”. At first glance, the topic is surprising, encourages reflection, and sometimes even disapproval. But authentic storytelling at the right time then creates a conclusion – the sense of a cooperation. A deeper meaning that makes the story relevant.
This was also the case with BMW x Kith: the narrative spanned from a cryptic announcement on Ronnie Fieg’s Instagram channel at the beginning of October, through vague posts on the Kith channels, to the actual confirmation of the cooperation via storytelling on the BMW channels a week later. This allowed Kith to introduce itself to the BMW community and vice versa. This communicative tennis game, Kith as server, BMW as return player, created an anticipatory atmosphere in the community for the release, which peaked two weeks after the first teaser and achieved a very positive feeling. Interaction at its best! But we’re also very self-critical – there’s always room for improvement.
Two strong brands, two different cultures, different continents – that’s also a coordination issue. What were the big challenges along the way?
The path of cooperation stretched throughout 2020. The first meeting between Ronnie and me took place in October 2019 and culminated exactly one year later. I don’t want to discuss the social conditions of a pandemic here, but I would like to mention the human strength and courage that was demonstrated. In such a year, sticking to a purely brand-sharpening theme as a ray of hope and joy-bringing moment for the community was the right and courageous decision by our brand makers Dr Jens Thiemer, Stefan Ponikva and Markus Flasch from BMW M. But there was also Ronnie Fieg on the Kith side, who pushed us as a group to the very edge of the possible and encouraged us to give our best.
Culturally, the brands are not too different: the top priority is the customer. The target image could thus be quickly defined. How can we authentically share the early life experience of Ronnie Fieg’s BMW-related driving pleasure with the community?
Is this project a one-shot, or can we expect more in the future?
BMW has shown we are open to change, zeitgeist and culture. This direction will be intensified in the future to fulfil the wishes and expectations of our current and future customers at an early stage, but also to create new ones.
On a personal note – what’s your favourite piece from the Kith for BMW Collection?
Definitely the E30 miniature – which we kicked off with. It will always remind me of the launch of this special project. It’s already a collector’s item and represents the nucleus of this project like no other piece. The ultimate symbol for a new friendship between New York and Munich.