Mini vs Porsche: Another failed marketing gag?

Written by Kurt | Saturday, 12 June 2010 16:39

Mini v Porsche flyerJust last week Mini USA tried to lure Porsche into a race, they wanted to pit one of their Minis against a Porsche at the Road Atlanta race track. What Mini didn't say, though, was what kind of race it was going to be. On the race track? Not very likely of course, a Porsche will be quicker, hypothetically of course. More obvious would be race on a sprint course or an auto test. The reply Porsche eventually gave was even better though..

If we read through the information Mini USA supplied it is quite clear that the race, which is being held 21 June, will be on an 'AutoX course' at Road Atlanta, so not actually on the race track itself. More importantly, Mini, using a 172 hp Cooper S, wants to challenge a 385 hp 911 Carrera S. Well the outcome seems rather obvious; the nimble Cooper S will win on the twisty course Mini themselves will set out. There is no doubt of course they will optimise the course to favour the Mini, as losing in a race they set up themselves would make them look like a bunch of twats. In the following video Mini USA president, Jim McDowell, personally challenges Porsche Cars North America president Detlev von Platen to this duel. The ex-Porsche employee explains why in the following video.

Now, as you can see, Mini is taking this really very seriously. The started a whole marketing campaign to support it. They took out a ad spaces in various newspapers and they set up quite campaign online, primarily focusing on Facebook. The first reaction from Porsche last week was careful, Porsche's Media Relation manager, Steve Janisse, told the press: "Porsche has the most racing victories of any manufacturer out there, 28,000 and counting, maybe we should go for 28,001, we just need to see what they're up to." For Porsche the whole campaign is rather a lose-lose situation. If they race, they will lose. If they don't, they will be seen as rather unsympathetic or Perhaps even a bit boring?

Three days later though, there was a final aswer from Detlev von Platen; they won't be racing, they've more important races to win. Von Platen sent McDowell the following email:

Dear Jim,

Imagine our surprise to discover our former employee, now the head of Mini, has challenged us to a head-to-head race. As you surely know, Porsche has a long history of racing success, with more than 28,000 wins over the last 60 years. In our early days, we pitted ourselves against the giants, so we've been in your shoes.

But as you also know, Porsche doesn't race for fame, stunts or publicity. We race to challenge ourselves; we race to push sports car technology; we race to translate every win on the track to our cars on the road.  If you
need a reminder of our intent, please take a look at this short video:

While your challenge seems like a fun and lighthearted campaign, we'll stick to racing the way we have over the decades. We welcome you at Sebring, Le Mans, Daytona or any other sanctioned race where there is more at stake than T-shirts and valet parking spaces. We also invite you to any of the thousands of tracks around the world where Porsche owners compete each weekend.

Good luck with your race at Road Atlanta on June 21; we hope you enjoy the day.

Sincerely,

Detlev Von Platen
President and CEO, Porsche Cars North America

For Porsche this is possibly the best reply they could have given, considering the lose-lose position they were in. It seems they succesfully managed the situation and limited any PR damage done. Mini though have not given in that easily, later last week Mini USA president was again to be seen in a t-shirt on Youtube, but now desperately trying to lure Porsche into the race after all and, more importantly, making sure the whole campaign won't go down in the history books as a major PR cock-up. Just watch and see the video underneath.

Up to now, though, no reply from Porsche North America.Whatever the outcome of this campaign, it has drawn a lot of attention to the Mini and has provided customers and fans with a dilemma to think about; will a Mini be quicker than a Porsche. The wall on the Mini page certainly suggests that fans do, as a result it is a fine example of what is called integrated  marketing communications. Interestingly, this rather aggressive approach to marketing and PR seems to be a new direction taken by a few German car manufacturers in the USA. Not long ago there was Audi and BMW teasing one another on gigantic billboards all over California. In the United States, advertising in the automotive industry seems to be a bit more creative, a bit more edgy than in Europe. Probably because advertising rules are not as stringent in the land of the free as they are in Europe. Over in booming car market China, they seem to like teasing the competition as well, BMW, for example managed to rent billboard space right above an Audi dealership.

Let's hope the Mini can contest June 21 against a Porsche, even if Porsche don't turn up themselves, they can surely get a 911 Carrera S from somewhere else to race it? Actually, WHO will be racing it?