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Issue #129 - BMW on TikTok, Viral Couch
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TikTok Case Study = BMW
Over 20 years ago BMW redefined content marketing with a series of short films called The Hire. Made with Hollywood talent ( directors like Guy Richie, Tony Scott, John Frankenheimer and Ang Lee and actors including Mickey Rourke, Forest Whitaker, James Brown and Madonna), the real star of each film was a BMW.
Initially only available on the BMW site, the movies were viewed over 11 million times in four months. Two million people registered with the website and a large majority of users, registered to the site, sent film links to their friends and family. Subsequently a DVD was produced but quickly sold out.
Now BMW have finally revised this great idea and have produced a new film - The Calm. The film action takes place around Cannes and it was launched at the Cannes Film Festival.
The film seems to be all over TikTok - mainly through ads.
Reece @guywithamoviecamera introduces the film with a paid partnership - boosted by BMW buying it as an ad. Another TikTok celebrates Guardians of the Galaxy star Pom Klementieff - the lead in The Calm, on the Cannes red carpet - with a Kanye track. Uma Therman also appears, but doesn’t seem to have made it to TikTok.
The ads have a watch now button that takes you to a branded webpage where you can watch The Calm - and explore other content. It is also showing on YouTube with 2.8m views.
And @BMW has shared 4 episodes of another drama on TikTok - a sort of prequel - called The Mission and starring @Alejandro with a surprise at the end when Arnie shows up. Interesting idea, with high production values yet only a few thousand views.
It's good to see a good idea rethought and using TikTok makes perfect sense but brands can over complicate things.
When you first look at BMW’s TikTok account, you’ll see a brand that comes across as goofy. One of the most recent videos is a meme of a cat reacting to a new BMW car while a remixed Tupac song is playing in the background. There are other memes and funny videos littered throughout their page, but the latest highlight is BMW’s activation at Cannes.
Brands are often told to take themselves less seriously on social media, particularly if we’re talking about TikTok. In general, some of the biggest brands tend to struggle with this. I wouldn’t think about BMW as a brand that is able to “take itself seriously,” so their TikTok indicates a really willingness to experiment.
Perhaps the Cannes Film Festival gives BMW the gravitas of a luxurious global event while still allowing them freedom to be lighthearted. “The Calm” short film features Pom Klementieff and has a similar aesthetic to “The Hire” from years ago, a sort of James Bond secret agent noir that showcases action scenes and glittering car chases. So far, this is all classic BMW advertising that would have made as much sense at Cannes 2010 as it would at Cannes 2023.
However, this year they’ve included an entire series of TikTok activations that aim to be authentically TikTok. They’ve worked with TikTok creator Reece, who gives off the kind of earnest film kid vibes that you see recently with the Wes Anderson TikTok trend. In one video, Pom and Reece are acting together in a comedy skit that’s very different from the aesthetic of “The Calm” but fits the TikTok audience.
“The Mission” is even more TikTok. When compared alongside “The Calm,” “The Mission” is basically a five-part video series made specifically for TikTok. In a way, you could call it a lower budget version of “The Calm,” with less expensive talent, production, and visual effects. However, because the entire series is posted on TikTok, it’s a lower barrier to entry to watch bite-sized clips of “The Mission” vs. going to YouTube to watch the full 8-minute film of “The Calm.”
Alejandro, the TikTok creator who stars in “The Calm,” ends the series by handing off a secret briefcase to Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s a lot more tongue-in-cheek and perhaps a better communicated story for the youthful TikTok audience.
Looking back on previous articles we’ve written for luxury car brands (including Lamborghini and BMW), the default social strategy tends to be ‘car porn.’ “The Calm,” “The Mission,” and all the other Cannes-related activations has put BMW into a new position to try something new, modern, daring - all the while being truly on-brand.
The Viral Couch
On May 19th, a woman in New York City uploaded a TikTok video of her finding an abandoned couch on the street. She put the item through a deep clean and then brought it into her apartment. A few weeks later, the original video now has 92 Million views and spawned massive numbers of replies on social media.
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Articles have been written summarizing and analyzing the responses - ranging from people expressing their admiration to their concern about the cleanliness of the couch. For some reason, this video sparked a lot of conversation.
What’s next? Brand deals for the couch owner? A bunch of imitation TikTok videos from brands trying to jump on the trend? In a world of viral social media, it’s always interesting to examine, document, and understand how these trends work.
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