Making the Case: MINI

If you stop and talk to MINI owners about their car, you’ll see their eyes light up with child-like abandon. They’ll tell you driving a MINI is like driving a go-kart on a raceway course. The pick up is quick, the mileage is great, and the turns are seamless. They’ll even tell you that a MINI can do everything a sports car can do, without breaking the bank. They’ll animate, gesticulate, stimulate, and motivate. After a few minutes, you’ll want to motor to the closest MINI dealership and experience the phenomenon yourself. Their enthusiasm is truly infectious.

Like the Volkswagen beetle, MINI embraces the Golden Rule of Courage and stands out as something different. In the heyday of the gas-guzzling SUVs, the roads were congested with Escalades, Navigators, and the almighty Hummer. With bigger is better sensibility, drivers could preen their feathers and strut their egos by way of their vehicles. Yet when all of the cars were getting bigger, MINI prided itself on getting smaller, much smaller. When MINI wiggled its way onto the scene, it became the little engine that could.

MINI owners will tell you that although you might be the little guy on the road, out there fending for yourself, don’t be fooled. It’s usually the smallest member on the sports team with the most speed and agility. MINI has garnered respect because it can play on the same field as the big guns, sometimes leaving them behind in a cloud of smoke (but not too much smoke because MINI is gentle on the environment). Ultimately, it’s more fun rooting for the underdog.

Not the underdog for long …

MINI USA Sales have jumped 33% in new car sales in the first six months of 2008, compared to one year ago. This is no easy feat, since the car industry is facing its worst sales year in over a decade. With escalading gas prices, consumers are looking for wiser choices, and you certainly can’t beat MINI’s fuel efficiency at 37 miles to the gallon.

But it’s more than fuel efficiency that makes it a smart car. These are just a few reasons why MINI has the qualities of a powerful Cult Brand. Like other Cult Brands that follow the Golden Rule of Freedom, MINI celebrates each individual driver and encourages him or her to “you-ify your MINI.” MINI explains, “Everybody wants their car to say something different about them. Fortunately, the MINI can say anything.”

The roof is viewed as a blank canvas, waiting to be personalized and customized. If you’re feeling a little nationalistic, you can choose a flag, any flag, to proudly display. If you’re a child of the hippie era, flower power becomes your personal icon. If you’re a caffeine addict, you can slap a huge cup of Joe on your roof. There are hundreds of designs to choose from in the Roof Studio. Can’t find one you like? Go ahead and design it yourself.

MINI owners will also happily share their “MINI Moments” like the time when they pulled into a crowded parking lot, and squeezed into a corner spot that no regular-sized car could occupy. When your friends make the dare, you confidently turn your MINI around, drive in reverse, and effortlessly slide in. Fits like a glove.

Drivers will also boast about the ability to turn around on a narrow street in one shot. So forget about the three-point turn, MINIs can drive circles around and around their competition.

Like other Cult Brands, MINI loves surprising their customers at every turn. As a MINI owner, you might receive a cryptic package in the mail, complete with a purple filter sheet, a letter descrambler, a password key, and a note saying, “look forward to our hidden messages.” The following week, you’re reading the New Yorker magazine and you spot a MINI advertisement calling for a special code. Like a good detective, you grab your secret kit to decipher the covert message. But it really doesn’t matter what it says. What matters is that you’re like the lucky kid in the neighborhood holding the prized decoder ring from your winning box of Cracker Jacks.

This child-like, adventurous spirit prevails in the world of MINI. Remember how you could explore the world without constraints as a child? You couldn’t care less about what other people thought because you were too enthralled with each new and exciting discovery. MINI understands the nostalgia adults have for their younger years.

With a scrapbook of playful moments and creative collectibles, MINI defines the Golden Rule of Fun and sells lifestyles defined by freedom, good cheer, and camaraderie. As a Brand Lover or enthusiast, you might take part in MINI Takes the States Tour, traveling across country with a caravan of MINIs, stopping in different cities, attending special events, and mingling with other members of the MINI Family. However, staying true to the Golden Rule of Openness, the event organizers proclaim, “Everyone is invited, even if you don’t own a MINI.

For MINI owners, driving is not just a functional activity that makes going to work and running errands possible. It’s all about the experience. In their Book of Motoring, MINI explains, “The difference is in the mind of the operator. Just because you drive, doesn’t mean you motor. When you drive, you go from A to B. When you motor, you go from A to Z. It’s all about living. Nobody can tell you when you’re motoring. You just know.” Ultimately, for MINI drivers, “Mileage equals experience.”

Most of all, MINI proudly fosters a solid network of customer communities—the MINI Family, as it’s called—connected throughout the world. MINI explains, “Dating back to its birth in the UK, there’s a long-standing tradition of MINI owners acknowledging each other when they pass on the streets … So when you pass another MINI, don’t be shy. Give them a wave. It could be as subtle as raising an index finger off the steering wheel or as enthusiastic as two hands out the sunroof (although it would probably be best if these were passenger hands).” You’ll also hear MINI drivers acknowledging one another by flicking their headlights, and even giving high-fives out the window while passing each other by.

As you’re driving along the road, you might also make a kid smile. He’ll start waving with one hand, while punching his little sister with the other. Today’s new punch buggy perhaps?

That sounds about right.

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