CMO

Mini's marketing chief on the dive into TikTok advertising

Head of marketing for the automotive brand talks about the latest campaign and being brave in testing new channels

Marketers should be willing to test new channels and platforms with highly engaged audiences if they’re to keep up with consumer behaviour and trends, Mini’s head of marketing A/NZ, Alex McLean, says.

The marketing leader made the comment to CMO following the debut of the automotive brand’s first TikTok campaign in May locally. Mini is the first automotive company to use the latest social media platform darling for consumers, promoting its inaugural Mini Electric Hatch First Edition vehicle’s arrival on Australian shores.

The campaign is being managed by digital consultancy, Lucio.ai, and is complemented by a new online car configurator and order deposit system. The TikTok creative orients around a 15-second video on the mobile platform, which allows viewers to jump straight through to the Mini website to configure a car and put a refundable deposit down online.

McLean said one of the main reasons for dedicating a small percentage of spend to trying a TikTok advertising campaign was the fact that engagement across the platform has grown significantly in the last six months.

“As much as may look to make decisions on other brands using these platforms, until we dip our toe in and expose the brand in those channels, we won’t know if it’s the right channel for us or not,” he said.

“There is definitely a driving age consumer engaging in TikTok, and we’re seeing engagement take off in the past six months on this platform. Just because a consumer group is engaging on the platform, doesn’t mean it’s right for a brand to get involved. But the audience seemed right, and the message around electric and our branding messaging felt right for that medium - it wasn’t retail performance messaging in that medium.”

So far, it’s been a wise test, McLean said, with Mini’s creative performing well in comparison to the wider global automotive industry’s efforts in TikTok. Engagement is the name of the game for Mini, with clickthrough, viewthrough and engagement rates all important measures of success

“We really didn’t have much to base decisions on with regards to performance,” McLean continued. “Our position was to build our brand learnings so we can make greater decisions for campaigns down the track. We have another model arriving later this year, for example, and we can evaluate TikTok’s role in that mix based on insights from how we’ve performed with this electric product test.”

Prior to the latest campaign, the three fundamental channels for Mini to get right were media and PR; direct communications to previous customers, who make up one in three purchasers; and social media as a holistic grouping.

“We are a brand for everyone, but not everyone buys a Mini, and our target audiences is really niche. We can be more targeted with messaging,” McLean explained.

“When the opportunity came to explore TikTok and test it with our electric vehicle, it was a quick turnaround. We had strong assets – the platform for that campaign is ‘Charge your passion’, and the shortform content was ready.”

Alongside the latest work, McLean cited a very strong below-the-line program undertaken in the 6-12 months leading up to the car’s launch.

“Electric for us is a new product, but it’s also a brand strategy and future for Mini to some degree. This initial arrival has a relatively small volume and we’ve already sold out of all 2020 deliveries,” he said. “So the strategy for us is more around that brand presence. Based on previous performance, it suggests we have the correct channel mix right here.”  

Of course, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain channels had to be dialled down. “For example, we know cinema has previously index really well for people being open to buying Mini, but that was out the door,” McLean said.

Equally, out-of-home locations such as airports, where Mini has dabbled with experiential and on-screen activity, was cut due to the crisis. And with a relatively niche buyer to address, TV has not been a channel Mini has been much involved with. Instead, on-demand has picked up a bigger share of spend on YouTube plus other platforms.

With consumer behaviour always changing, Mini is always reviewing channels, McLean said. “You always have to be open to changes – in consumer behaviour online, different mentality, different platforms,” he said.  

And even though the TikTok experiment hasn’t been directly impacted or resulted from the current crisis, What McLean expected the COVID-19 situation would do is accelerate change towards platforms and digital offerings already in train.

“When it comes to conversation around consumer behaviour and online, different industries had different levels of maturity around their online offerings before the crisis. I see this time accelerating change,” he added.

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