The New Original Mini: 57 years of brilliant brand rejuvenation

The Taylor family are in the process of buying a new Mini. And the searching/buying experience has reminded me about just how brilliant a brand rejuvenation case this is. Here is some learning from Mini about how to remember and refresh what made you famous.

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1. Respect your roots

The design of the new Mini, originally launched by BMW in 2000, is clearly inspired by the brand’s product roots. The form of the car respects the DNA of the original Mini, designed by Alec Issigonis back in 1959 (his original sketch on a napkin  is shown below). He changed the normal front-to-back engine position to side-to-side, creating the compact and distinctive Mini silhouette, while freeing up space for passengers. The brand today still features what it calls the “bulldog stance”: low, squat and square.

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Perhaps even more important is the driving experience, which is designed to be fun and exciting, just like the original Mini. “Speed Demon, style icon, go-kart. Mini has been thrilling people for generations,” is the way the brand’s website aptly describes the car.

2. Express your personality

The Mini brand’s personality is a key source of distinctiveness. From the start, communication emphasised lighthearted fun. Celebrity drivers added coolness and fashion values, such as the Beatles’ George Harrison, whose personalised Mini is shown below. He had the car repainted with mystical Indian scenes inspired by the cult book ‘Tantrum Art’, according to Mini’s website.

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And then the was the starring role played by a fleet of Minis in the iconic movie, “The Italian Job”. This is one of the best ever examples of a movie to promote a brand. It went beyond simple sponsorship to “brand integration”, similar to the partnership between Aston Martin and James Bond that I posted on here. Check out the poster for the movie on the right, with not one but three Minis literally front and centre!

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Mini’s marketing has continued to reinforce and refresh the fun, colourful personality. Communication is bright and bold, with humorous headlines. The brand even manages to do a money-off promotion in a Mini way, as shown below. And on the doors of the brand’s showroom on Park Lane my daughters spotted the famous catchphrase from The Italian Job: “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

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3. Upgrade your core

Mini has invested in upgrading its core product to keep up with technology and trends as most successful brand’s do. 2014 saw a major upgrade and re-launch under the banner “New Original”. As Michelle Roberts, general manager brand communications at Mini UK, explained: “New Orignal has offers the best of both worlds: Mini’s feisty, fun-loving spirit of the original 1959 model, with all the latest cutting-edge driving technology.

The launch communication for New Original literally remembered and refreshed what made the brand famous. Here’s an original advert from the brand archives that inspired the campaign.

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And here is the 2014 campaign, where an update on the original poster morphed into the presentation of the new Mini.

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4. Expand your core

Over time Mini has expanded the core range to meet different needs. First, there is the sportier Cooper and Cooper S models. The Countryman has off-road capabilities, and the Clubman with the distinctive hinged doors at the back has estate car characteristics. Importantly, all the model types above have respected and refreshed product descriptors from the original Mini range. More recently, a simple but important addition was adding a 5-door version, increasing appeal to families like us in the Taylor household.

In conclusion, the magic of Mini has been to remember and refresh what made the brand famous. This has helped ensure that the brand is still going strong 56 years after it was first launched, with sales in Europe hitting an all time high in 2015 (see below), according to sources here.

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