Thursday, January 21, 2010

Someone Needs to Tell BMW Widgets are Passe

It’s no secret: I’m a BMW fan boy. However, I just don’t get what led to the development of the BMW 5-Series Desktop widget application.

As part of the 5-Series launch in the UK, BMW launched a website experience showcasing some early images and facts about the car. They also added a Desktop widget application people can download to stay up-to-date on 5-series news.

What bothers me about this whole execution is what rubbish it is. It's either a low-cost recycling of another BMW widget that's been around since 2006. Or someone obviously convinced BMW to invest in a widget to keep customers current with 5-Series news, but then someone realized what everyone on a widget advertising idea realizes, Wait, we don’t have enough content to keep things fresh and interesting. So what else can we put in the widget?

So like many they added the cliché clock, weather and news feeds to keep things updated. The news feeds are the funniest part as they are just topical feeds that have nothing to do with BMW. Users can change their preferences (see image at right) and the content is probably chosen because it is relevant to the target consumer.

The idea of featuring what is thought to be relevant content is nonsense, because people already have tons of places they already regularly go to get news and chances of your brand’s random news feed matching someone’s needs is pretty rare.

We can assume the news feeds match the target consumer profiles the marketing team came up with or what existing publisher relationships the BMW brand already has established. The news information is enlightening, as I never knew the BMW 5-Series segment was so enthralled with “Sexy Surfer-Girl Swimwear” (see image at left)? But then again who isn’t interested in Malibu’s latest swimwear styles.

The widget also doesn’t extend the website experience or include additional information about the new car that can’t be found elsewhere. There simply is no reason to use the widget if you’ve already been to the 5-Series reveal site, which you had to have visited to download the widget. With no new vehicle content or insight into the vehicle’s features, it lacks any value to people interested in the product.

It’s really disappointing that a car as cool and modern gets a lame 2007 widget to help launch it. Widgets were all the rage several years ago and some companies did get it right, like Acura’s Navigation widget that showcased their technology in a cool, useful way. Plus it has been successful with over 51,000 downloads from just Yahoo!'s widget site alone (BMW's 2006 widget mentioned earlier has 21,000 downloads.)

Unfortunately, the BMW 5-Series widget is a hobbled together mess that is trying hard to be valuable to its customers. I wonder how many will keep using it after seeing how little information it provides and how every link about the product, except images, opens a new browser window taking people to the BMW UK site. I’m guessing very few installs will survive post initial curiosity.

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