BMW Caught in a Storm

BMW Badge by Byrion on Flickr


Think of BMW and the words quality and performance come to mind. For years, the company has delivered on its promise to build the “ultimate driving machine.” Combining this achievement with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability has allowed BMW to bank significant reputational capital.

Last week, the company was forced to dip into its savings when an advertising campaign for its Mini Cooper brand fell foul of the weather.

Sassenbach Advertising, based in Munich, paid $394 to place the name “Cooper” on a list for naming high-pressure weather systems in Germany. The agency, which runs social media campaigns for Mini Cooper, says it was trying to portray a “ wind- and weather-proof idea” for the new two-seater convertible. Fans were invited to track the progress of the “beautiful weather” system online.

Unfortunately, the extreme cold weather front, which became known as “Cooper,” reaped havoc across Europe.  Temperatures dropped to minus 33 degrees Celsius and numerous deaths were reported in several countries. Thousands were treated in hospital for hypothermia and frostbite.

With the Mini Cooper brand linked to worsening weather reports, BMW was caught in a public relations nightmare. The company issued a statement expressing regret and stating, “you cannot tell in advance what a weather system will do.”

Did BMW hear what it said? Given that we cannot control Mother Nature, why would BMW agree to align one of its brands with something as unpredictable as the weather? Was the risk of tarnishing brand reputation worth the potential benefit?

Hopefully, BMW and the ad agency – who quickly distanced itself from the incident – have learned a lesson. If not, it appears this story may not be over yet. The ad agency also purchased the name “Minnie” to be assigned to a warm weather front!

What do you think? Should BMW and its Mini Cooper brand take a chance on another weather system?