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How many concepts can you squeeze into one brand?

23rd August 2010

The old ’60s joke of, “How many elephants can you fit in a Mini? – 2 in the front and two in the back.” has become embedded in popular culture and evolved over time to become simply a challenge. (For the record, the world record for the most people in a Mini – the BMW version – is 24).

The latest Mini to launch this year is the Countryman and I passed this installation at Victoria Station last night whereby you could enter a booth, squeeze up against a panel and have yourself video-imposed into a modified Mini on a stand with fellow squashed people. The all-important “Share this!” was present so you could forward on your efforts to your friends and no doubt set the blogosphere alight with the word ‘Mini’.

Like Apple, Mini (or as it should be typed; MINI) can do no wrong at the moment. Foibles and criticisms are overcome with the desire to simply just want/need one.

However. Look closer and one could argue that the brand itself is losing it’s raison d’être. A Mini was small and a perfectly optimised package. The new BMW Mini was a new take on this and due to our modern laws required itself to be bigger. This new ‘Mini’ now outsizes the original Maxi (the less successful brother of the Mini back in the ’70s) and it could be said that it now isn’t ‘mini’ at all and rather ‘medium’.

I do hope that this niche remains exactly that rather than creating a large range of gradually larger cars that operate on a repackaged rationalisation of the meaning of mini (clever packaging, simply different or just cheeky, fun and terribly middle-class).

Perhaps the BMW lawyers should check if the ‘Maxi’ naming rights came free with the ‘Mini’ deal and start a whole new range…

Either way, a fantastic embodiment of how a brand can capture people’s attention and become more than just a product – become a talking point, an experience, an icon.

Iain Published by Iain 23rd August 2010