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Saturday, December 12, 2009

BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo a Comfortable Fit for the Neiman Marcus MILF



In case you do not know, the new BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo isn’t for the M3 racer type. It’s not even promoted as a high-performance car. No the marketing for the 5 Series GT is all about style, fashion, practicality and the Nomadic life. This is an effort to reach the professional female consumer, one with a significant emphasis on style and beauty or as I prefer to call the demographic – “The Nieman Marcus MILF”.

To appeal to this demographic, BMW North America has created three lifestyle videos featuring Catherine Malandrino. Since I’m not exactly the target consumer, I had to do a bit of research to figure out who Malandrino is. She owns several New York City clothing boutiques. Her clothing line is also appropriately for sale at Nieman Marcus and Saks too. She is a French designer who probably has significant appeal for the high-end female consumer BMW is trying to appeal too.

I was impressed when going to Catherine Malandrino’s fashion website that she has a link to the BMW 5 Series GT site. A very nice, simple integration that is often missed when efforts like these happen.

One common approach car companies use to match their online efforts with the consumer is a “day in the life” video. The 5 Series GT site is no exception. It shows Catherine getting her morning coffee, talking about her busy life as a mother and a fashion designer. So if you have a morning photo shoot with your professional photographer after stopping at Starbucks, this is the ride for you. Of course it really isn’t fair mocking these videos, all of them are quite humorous because they typical ooze pretentious behavior and really how many women out there live Catherine’s life? This is marketing so it really is more about perceiving yourself as a Catherine Malandrino.

The videos are nicely shot and bring in images of the 5 Series in a way that is tasteful and purposeful. The more involved product content is in the Space, Form, Function and Motion site areas. Each section features some beautifully shot, large video content that displays the luxury of the crossover. The product videos also have some nice chaptering where users can jump to desired product information without having to watch the full video.

I also really liked the full-size window icons where product images can be viewed in more detail. Hopefully, most users will know to click the window size icon on the product detail screens, if they do they are in for a treat. The photography is elegant and really shows off the beauty of the car.

Beauty of the car? The 5 Series GT hasn’t received the most flattering of coverage from the automotive press while BMW fans are a bit less harsh. I was just recently at a BMW Car Club Christmas party where this vehicle was featured. A lot of negative comments were heard especially about the exterior and BMW losing some of its brand identity with products like this. It is definitely a move a way from the brand’s performance heritage.

The interior is where the car is a work of art. The interior seats, dash, materials and space are impressive. It really is quite beautiful from the inside.

Where the site is confusing is in the “History of the Gran Turismo” section. Why this crossover is even called a GT is odd, even offensive to auto enthusiasts. In the 1950 page of the Gran Turismo history the copy reads, “a two-seater that can go great distances, take sport-car turns, and store luggage for a weekend getaway.” Then we get the connection of the 5 Series GT to this heritage. “A high-performance answer to the open road.”

This is an extension of Gran Turismo touring history? It’s not about weekend getaways, it’s about piling in your kids, turning on the DVD system, and heading to Mall of America. There is no sense of freedom and adventure. The 5 Series GT is not the answer to enjoying winding roads and the freedom of two people enjoying a quiet weekend at beach cottage in Santa Barbara. I suppose someone had to justify the name so this section was created to appeal to the product naming consultant who does know what Gran Turismo means, just that it sounds cool and sporty.

Also there is an odd site behavior when someone clicks on the News Feed link. This brings viewers to BMW’s News Feed page, which takes people away from the launch site experience to what looks like a Public Relations release. It removes the 5 Series GT navigation which is very confusing and probably leads to a higher abandonment rate from the site. The same happens with the Sign up for updates link, you leave the launch site experience.

Gran Turismo naming abuse and some poor site navigation decisions aside, the 5 Series GT site does have some beautiful content showcasing a rather controversial product for BMW. The good news is the website left me with a more positive impression of the vehicle, much like when I saw the 5 Series GT in person. What’s more important than my feeling better about it: Does it appeal to professional fashionista women who are the target consumer? It probably does as I really felt the site was what I'd expect from a Mercedes-Benz launch site appealing to their typical consumer, the Neiman Marcus MILF.
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