The Mini Image – An Icon for more than 50 years…

After more than 50 years in the market, Mini Brand Image couldn’t be less than an iconic brand related with the British and the Motorsport heritage. The shift from the British hands to the German hands in 1995 hurt that image so the BMW should use the image making more clever to deteriorate the damage on the new MINI Brand when it launched in the markets in 2001, and they did!

The classic Mini – One of the strongest Icons of the British Heritage

When Mini introduced in the EU market in 1959, it was targeting the labour class as a practical and economical car. But as the Youth Revolution continued and the young people deliberately wanted to break the rules of ‘good taste’ to put themselves against their parents, driving a Mini was a fashion statement, like the miniskirts at the same time, and the popularity of Mini increased rapidly. With the more powerful engines, driving a Mini became fun and that helped to add the playful character to the image.

One of the brochures for the Austin Mini, targeting to the lower income families.

One of the brochures for the Austin Mini, targeting to the lower income families. Image rights to totallymystified via Flickr

The sales started to grow and the iconic image emerged and soon it became one of the most favourite cars of British celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Peter Sellers, Cliff Richard, Mary Quant and Ringo Starr. That could only lead to make the Mini an icon of the British Origins. But Mini was not popular only in UK, as it had famous fans all over the world, such as Enzo Ferrari, the Formula 1 Champion Graham Hill and the King Hussein of Jordan.

One of the Beatles, Paul McCartney, in his Mini.

One of the Beatles, Paul McCartney, in his Mini.

The Motorsport achievements such as the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 and the presence of the Mini in many films such as ‘The Italian Job’ in 1969, ‘The Avengers’ in 1998 and ‘The Bourne Identity’ in 2002 as well as in the famous British TV series ‘Mr. Bean’ from 1989 to 1995 helped to build and maintain the image of an iconic car even after the end of production in 2000.

Mini in 'The Italian Job' movie in 1964, starring along with Michael Caine

Mini in ‘The Italian Job’ movie in 1964, starring along with Michael Caine

The New MINI – Carrying on the strong heritage, but differently

As the BMW kept the Mini to build the MINI Brand in 2000, it was inevitable that the image of the classic Mini wouldn’t follow the new Brand. BMW Marketing Department had do something drastically to build an image for the new Brand so that the new car could be marketable and sellable. As the design of the new vehicle didn’t mimic or copy of its ancestor, but based on it to build a more practical and safe car the image had to follow the more fresh direction. As the car was a German car built in UK it should relate to the image of the British Origins and the Motorsport Heritage but it did in a different way.

While maintaining the qualities of the images of its ancestor, the branding of the new MINI was build on the youthful and the playful mood from back to the ’60s. The car was priced higher than the average price of the same sized cars and the BMW Group image build a more premium style to the car, combining the quality, safety and durability of the German car manufacturer.

The showrooms of MINI Brand retain the same minimal but colourful and playful mood until today

The showrooms of MINI Brand retain the same minimal but colourful and playful mood until today

The car dealerships in 2001 featured a gray colour as background and playful colours such as yellow and red at the cars and the posters, to promote the playful character of the car. This pattern continued both with the young people at the advertisements and the small MINI toy cars in the showrooms. Another feature of the image of the new MINI was the customisation. With the BMW as a holding company, the new MINI came with accessories that no other car at the same segment could have, such as a Satellite Navigation System. Also, the expanded list of accessories and customisation options for both functionality and styling built the customisation character of the new MINI.

An example of the guerrilla marketing in the USA market

An example of the guerrilla marketing in the USA market

BMW Marketing Department also took advice from the its American advertising agents, and followed a more unorthodox marketing policy, often called ‘guerrilla marketing’. This included a MINI mounted on the roof of a Chevrolet van running in the street of big USA cities with a printing on the side saying ‘Put the fun stuff on the roof’ to promote fun side of the new car when it launched in 2001. Also, the remake of the movie ‘The Italian Job’ featuring the new MINI was launched in 2003, making the new car more easily recognisable.

The successful NOT NORMAL campaign continues until today.

The successful NOT NORMAL campaign continues until today.

The guerrilla marketing continues up to the present, with the second generation of the new MINI, with the brand campaign featuring the ‘NOT NORMAL’ slogan. This campaign focuses on the unconventional and high-energy attitude of the car, furthering the image from just playful to something more alternative and radical with brilliant NOT NORMAL video and poster advertisements.

The ‘A friend for life’ advertisement from the successful NOT NORMAL campaign.

The image of MINI Brand was jeopardised when the MINI Countryman launched, as the press considered it outside of the philosophy of the MINI brand, obviously with links to the heritage of the old Mini image. A 4-door MINI could not be considered ‘Mini’ anymore, despite the fact that it follows the fun and playful side of the new MINI Brand Image.

The misplaced airbag commercial from MINI, showing the playful image of the Brand along with safety concerns.

Nevertheless, the NOT NORMAL campaign is still successful in every country introduces and According to recent marketing research projects on the BMW MINI Brand the key elements for the Image include sporty, fun, fashionable/trendy, stylish, classic/chic and different characteristics.

The final word

Indisputably, both the classic Mini and the new MINI are one of the most recognizable cars in the world. The image, despite the fact that was build on the practical and functional aspects on a small, ended up to be a symbol of the British culture, a statement of style and fun driving. These elements passed to the newest versions of MINI, under the ownership of BMW Group, turning the Image to a more playful and youthful side, together with the more premium character of the car. The latest campaign together with the expansion of the product range, further the image to something different from normal, adding a much more playful – almost childish – and unique attitude to those that choose to drive a MINI.

The NOT NORMAL campaign is running until today, expressing the attitude of the brand for
diversification from normal lifestyle.


  1. Setright, L. (1999) Mini – The design icon of a generation, London: Virgin Publishing Ltd. Comments: Details for the Image and the market impact for the classic Mini
  2. Robson, G. (2005) New Mini. 2nd edn. Somerset: Haynes Publishing Comments: A book with details about the image of the Brand of the new MINI
  3. C.D. Simms, P. Trott, (2006) “The perceptions of the BMW Mini brand: the importance of historical associations and the development of a model”, Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 15 Iss: 4, pp.228 – 238 Comments: Recent research on the brand of MINI and the link with the old image.
  4. C. Simms, P. Trott, (2007) “An analysis of the repositioning of the “BMW Mini” brand”, Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 16 Iss: 5, pp.297 – 309 Comments: Recent research on the brand of MINI and the link with the old image.
  5. Thilo Reinartz (2009) Mini – size is deceptive [online] available from Comments: A presentation for the Brand and the image of MINI
  6. BMW Group (2013) “NOT NORMAL” – MINI brand campaign [online] available from here Comment: Press release from BMW Group about the NOT NORMAL Campaign.
  7. Neil, D. (2011) What Part of ‘Mini’ Did You Not Grasp, BMW? [online] available from [22 October 2013] Comments: The Launch of MINI Countryman, despite the fact the positive comments on the car, jeopardized the Image of MINI Brand
  8. Michael McCarthy (2013) Mini Cooper’s Road Map To Fending Off Surging Rivals [online] available from Comments: Article about the Guerrilla Marketing approach of new MINI Brand
  9. Strategic Marketing – Global Application: The BMW Mini [online] available from: Comments: Details about the Marketing approach of new MINI Brand
  10. Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine(2004) BMW’s Mini Just Keeps Getting Mightier [online] available from  Comments: Review of the MINI’s Marketing approach in USA.
  11. Holt, D., Quelch J. (2004) The New MINI: Launching the new MINI [online] available from Comments: Resources for the Guerrilla Marketing of MINI
  12. Motoringfile (2013) Videos: MINI Extends Global “Not Normal” Campaign [online] available from Comments: Resources from the NOT NORMAL Campaign
  13. Random Ramblings (2012) Big Stars and Mini Cars [online] available from Comments: Images of Minis with Celebrities
  14. Britain’s Best Building (2013) Mini Showroom [online] available from Comments: Showroom images of a MINI Dealership in Newbridge, UK


  1. Pingback: MINI in the news | Auto Research 2014

  2. Pingback: MINI Strengths and Weaknesses | Auto Research 2014

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