In order to support the journeys their customers take in a comprehensive and integral manner, automotive manufacturers are faced with the question of how to effectively set up their end-to-end customer experience management. MINI is regarded as a pioneer in adopting an excellent approach to customer centricity, and in doing so continuously develops the brand and corporate processes along the customer journey. How this is achieved is described by Ulrike von Mirbach, Head of MINI Europe, and Wolf Ingomar Faecks, Executive Board Member Serviceplan Group SE, Plan.Net Group and The Marcom Engine, in an interview with Lünendonk. The Marcom Engine has been responsible for pan-European and data-driven product and marketing communications for the BMW and MINI brands since 2020.
LÜNENDONK: Ms. von Mirbach, you have been with MINI for 17 years and have been Head of MINI Europe since July this year. Where is the brand today?
ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: Over the course of time, MINI has positioned itself as a strong brand in the market. Thinking in new ways, seeing challenges as opportunities, taking people’s wishes and needs into account in an open and unconventional way – all this is firmly anchored in the tradition of the brand that is MINI. We know what is required of us and understand how to encounter our customers and fans with the right emotions at the right instances. This is reflected in our very active community of millions of fans – not only on the street, but also online with hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram.
It is clear to us that we have to focus on our three core target groups – customers & fans, multipliers and retail partners – in order to be successful. That’s why, together with The Marcom Engine, we are firmly embedding experience management into our marketing and sales organization as a central element.
LÜNENDONK: That sounds like a huge makeover. So let’s take a look behind the scenes at what’s been going on. Can you please outline how you are going about this?
ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: With pleasure. First, we put the customer journey at the center of our transformation. This means that everyone in our organization – regardless of discipline – asks ourselves what added value we can offer our customers at each touchpoint along the individual customer journey. It is important to us to put people at the center of every step we take in our brand communication, taking into account their respective needs and emotions. This is because we believe that customer centricity is not just a buzzword but ‘the’ differentiator of the moment in order to keep your finger on the pulse of the times – or, more specifically, on the pulse of your fans and prospects.
LÜNENDONK: How exactly do you feel the pulse of MINI fans?
WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: We continuously monitor the online and offline behavior of our prospects and customers and analyze the resulting data for relevant behavioral patterns. This places us very close to our fans and allows us to react quickly should their behavior or needs change.
We derive the requirements for marketing and communication measures from our integral and comprehensive customer experience management and implement them at the appropriate points so MINI customers can see and experience them at the right time.
ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: Just take a look at the communication taking place in the social media community: our fans enthusiastically post photos of their MINI, talk to each other and ask about anything and everything to do with MINIs, and share stories about their latest road trips. This creates a genuine dialog with added value for the individual. Our MINI sales advisors throughout Eu-rope – as the face of our brand – play a central role here for the customers they serve and also for us as a brand. They act as “key opinion customers and sales experts”.
LÜNENDONK: An end-to-end customer experience management approach certainly places complex demands on an organization. How do you make the networking, the individual marketing and communication silos work?
ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: At MINI, we are constantly optimizing processes so that we can respond quickly and with agility to external influences and new requirements. To achieve this, we are developing MINI into a customer-centric organization – with integral and comprehensive horizontal experience management, an effective marketing and communications strategy, a technology architecture tailored to the strategy and, last but not least, the requisite corporate processes.
WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: These four components are aligned at MINI to pave the way for experience management, track KPIs across individual channels, facilitate integral and comprehensive cross-channel management and optimization, and accelerate feedback from the customer data to product development.
LÜNENDONK: So you could say that MINI is undergoing a process in which you are continuously optimizing brand communication in a data-driven way?
ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: Absolutely. Nevertheless, having the right gut feeling is not something you should forego either.
WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: By taking the technology landscape to the next level, we can align performance management with the customer journey to optimize touchpoints. With the help of a test-learn-adapt approach, we are continuously testing different designs, presentations and selections for their effectiveness. Atomic asset production makes it possible for us to play out assets in a more specific way, optimize the use of advertising media and implement new communication ideas.
ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: So this is how we continuously review the effectiveness of our measures throughout the entire sales funnel and optimize them where necessary. We opt for various, innovative implementations in the result, and offer our fans a MINI-specific brand experience which in turn satisfies customer expectations, increases brand loyalty and leads to higher sales figures in the long term.
WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: We can therefore say that a product marketing loop is created which we can feed with the relevant product and communication data around the clock with the help of customer data management (CDM) and a digital asset management (DAM) system. Accordingly, this product marketing loop also has a major influence on how digital media assets are deployed and played out.
In this way, we are moving away from a rigid campaign logic and towards individualized always-on communication in which motif content, tonality and messages are individually compiled and played out on the basis of data points. This process is largely automated. In this area, we are in the midst of a transformation in terms of technology and processes.
LÜNENDONK: What exactly does this mean for your corporate structures?
ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: We are committed to a common European approach. This is not an end in itself, but a prerequisite for taking personalized, data-driven marketing to the next level and creating cross-channel management and a consistent brand experience that works across all EU countries. This is because the brand MINI is firmly rooted as an emotional premium brand in all European countries. In what we refer to as core units, we create digital standards that are fed by the findings and needs of the European countries.
Based on country goals and budgets and standards from the central core units, recommendations are then developed in hubs for country organizations to implement and activate. Al-ways with a strong feedback loop. We act efficiently and consistently across all European markets in this way, playing out the respective campaign nuances along our brand promise. The characteristic MINI feeling and the individual, urban mobility character noticeably permeate every brand communication. At the same time, we increase efficiency alongside effectiveness.
LÜNENDONK: Surely steering the campaigns in multiple countries in this manner also has an impact on the team structure.
WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: Teams are now working much more cross-functionally, with people contributing their different skills to solve complex requirements together. For the MINI Editions, for example, we planned, designed, produced and executed a complex multi-channel campaign as part of a fully integrated team.
LÜNENDONK: And how does that translate into concrete successes?
ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: For one thing, the flexibility of the pan-European campaign allowed us to ensure that the brand experience was consistent and aligned from the first point of contact through to the point of purchase. Secondly, by involving the countries and their requirements at an early stage, we were able to intensify the activation of the campaign across the countries. The result: an actionable response from more prospects using the same amount of resources with an accelerated speed of response.
LÜNENDONK: How important is the team here?
ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: Paramount. Our successes and the continuous development are due to our closely inter-linked sales and marketing teams. This is because each individual in our European teams brings different experiences and expertise to the table, and at MINI they have the chance to incorporate this and “put it on the road” – in true MINI style. I’m therefore delighted that we are all focused on the brand and our sales with a 360- degree mindset – true to our MINI motto “We are all different, but pretty good together.”