Audi Vs. BMW

According to a feature in Wired, Audi is now the car of choice among young entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. It’s the mark of having arrived and reached a certain status among peers. The BMW, or the Beemer, is apparently no longer as ‘cool’ as it used to be. It’s become a victim of its own success. How about the  Mercedes and the Lexus? Well, they are the symbols of success for old Wall Street bankers and you know that demographic is in the doghouse, in terms of public perception and respect.

This is not a technical analysis of the relative merits of each of the brands. There are enough auto magazines and websites performing the service if that’s your requirement. I’m more interested in seeing how they steer their images in this brave new world of technology ubiquity. Most high-end cars today have significant digital components, in addition to the mechanical ones. The map and fuel consumption interfaces, the notifications and lights at every stage of driving have transformed the overall experience.

When it comes to projecting these features, one of the hardest lines to walk is to keep the luxury quotient relevant across the target audience spectrum. It helped earlier that success was a gradual process and by the time people could afford these cars, they were well into middle age. Today’s millionaires are in their 20s and that makes it difficult to keep the pitch tight. Their perspectives on life and what entitlement is about are vastly different. Both need pampering, but the younger one is more about brashness than status. One wants to flaunt it, the other wants to build a distance and limit access.

In terms of conveying the image, a choice has to be made. One will have to be alienated in order to favour the other.

Take this Audi commercial that aired during the latest Superbowl. It highlights a single feature – the headlights as bright as daylight breaking up a vampire party. Think about it. When was the last time you saw a vampire party in a luxury car commercial? It is obvious that Audi has made the primetime choice. They no longer have the smooth suave definition of luxury when it comes to their brand. They’re willing to breach their citadel for the newly minted, IPO fueled millionaire.

And now, here’s the latest BMW commercial. As trite a definition of luxury as you can find. Convertible, wind blowing the hair, long uninterrupted driving shots, pearls necklaces fluttering in slow motion, it’s all there. And what does the tagline say? BMW – The feeling remains. What feeling? It’s careful not to anger the current set of customers. But it does nothing to attract new ones. The two comments about the ad were actually more interesting. The first one said “5 people just bought an Audi” The response – “Piss off” I have no idea how old the commenters were, but it does not take a genius to figure out. The Audi commercial has been watched over 7 million times. The BMW – just over 70,000.

Images age just as humans do. What was the epitome of youth – flower power in the 60s is now the symbol of a forgotten generation. The Beatles were the Justin Beiber of the 60s. Evoking just as much hysteria and awe. But things change. And that is the way it should be.