Pitching the BMW R1200GS – OEMs, Take Note

10/02/2012 @ 2:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Making effective market communications in the motorcycle industry should be a relatively straight-forward and easy task. After all, motorcycles in North America and Europe have a strong personal component that revolves around self-expression and a rider personal identity. Making things easier, the motorcycle industry is littered with enthusiasts who themselves ride on a daily basis, and should understand this concept first-hand.

The idea that an ad or campaign should reach out and grab the intended consumer is not a novel concept, and motorcycle marketing professionals have their job simplified since they need only to develop and publish creative that would speak to them personally, in order to be successful. For whatever reason though, motorcycle industry marketers, by-in-large, were absent the day they taught marketing in business school…and it shows.

It is a subject I rail on about far too often, probably because it just simply baffles me how it occurs in the first place. How a motorcycle enthusiast fails to connect with people just like himself or herself boggles my mind, and yet it routinely happens in the motorcycle industry. However, every now and then, an OEM puts together something that renews my faith in the establishment, and for a split-second I have a vision that this whole two-wheeled thing isn’t going to hell in a hand basket. Such is the case with this promo video done by BMW TV.

No loud rock music. No quick-cuts. In fact, at no point do you even see a motorcyclist riding the 2012 BMW R1200GS. Instead we get a serious of shots of the R1200GS, parked in remote and exotic locations throughout Africa (Kenya if my eye serves me right). The message is clear: these are all the places you could go on this motorcycle. No technology jargon and no horsepower figures. Just the simple plucking of the aspirational string that tells us to get out of our urban drone life.

This is what real marketing looks like, and if you think they’re selling a motorcycle here, then you just failed the today’s midterm exam.

Source: BMW (YouTube)

  • Bob

    I didn’t like the ad because the bike was not being ridden. I didn’t like the ad because you could tell the bike was never ridden. It was too clean and fresh to be ridden in the majority of locals that those pictures were taken. The bike was obviously trailered to each locale for each shot. So, if BMW can’t or won’t ride the bike in the ad to the places where they were shooting it, why should I think that I can or will. I also didn’t like the ad because it didn’t do anything for me in the excitement department.
    “Rock music” and “quick-cuts” is exactly what draws the attention of young, new, potential sportbike customers. If you think that the people who create the ads your comparing this one to, don’t do their market research then you are mistaken.
    Mr. Beeler, your critiques and comments on the industry as whole are (once again) biased by your enthusiasm for specific bikes, ads, etc. You have your own unique vision of what the industry should be instead of what it could be for everyone.

  • matt

    the only advertising with a meaningful point was the film of those 2 guys going across EU/RU/CN on their bikes. putting a $20,000 bike in desolate wastelands where 50cc mopeds and rusty bicycles, if not walking, serve as normal transport is just dumb. “oh great, yet another rich, white man and his overpriced toy doing whatever it is they think they’re doing in an area where people eek out a subsistence living”. Nobody under 35 (probably more like 45) buys an RG1200 anyway. Film the bike crossing those rivers, climbing up the rock pile, or navigating the goat track. It’s still dumb since nobody with any brain would bring a 600+lb behemoth to the outback but at least it would have a veneer of plausibility. Most of the market is USA and northern EU, why not film riding unpaved roads in AZ or CO or riding up/down the Alps or Bavaria or whatnot?

  • ngads

    @ Bob

    This commercial is excellent. You’re right, rock music and quick cuts draw the attention of young and potential sportbike customers. But, that is not what this bike is about at all. BMW aren’t looking for this bike to be a crazy sportbike that young people are going to buy. This bike targets a very specific market.

    If anyone doubts that this bike has offroad capability, go and watch long way round.

  • I like the ad for it promises all the stories of ‘getting there’. And it sets a differnt tone, catering to the demographic. It’s a bit cheesy, at least in a german context.

    Another good example of showing the product are the vids for both KTM Freerides: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5SqoyR8Ht0
    Makes me want to grab one and conquer Berlin with it (I live here, so it’s ok).

  • Paulo

    I was 34 when I first bought my R1200GS Matt……… BTW Matt, it’s not a RG1200.

    Oh yeah, Matt…….because someone can do (or buy) something doesn’t make it right or wrong.

    BTW……I take my 1200 to dirt bike tracks and have people tell me I’m crazy but that’s not the point I guess. The point is that you don’t get the ad or a 1200GS.

    Matt, here’s a link to a couple guys enjoying a 1200GS in deep sand on two track roads….. http://www.mcnews.com.au/NewsArchives/2010/September/GS_Daryl.htm

    Matt, you fail.

  • Paul McM

    I’ve ridden an R80GS, an R1000GS, and an R1150GS. As far as I’m concerned the original, simpler, lighter R80GS was the best of the bunch. They all feel clunky and industrial. Definitely too tall, too heavy. And the current models have less than stellar reliability according to my friends who own them. One of these guys told me “It used to be you could tour with a BMW and all you needed was the factory toolkit. Now you need a satellite phone and a tow truck.”

    All you need to know about these behemoths was covered in the first episode of “Long Way Round”, when Charlie dropped his bike right in front of the garage which was the starting point of the trip. Charlie needed two helpers to get the bike upright…

  • Eep. This is THE ultimate “Get the hell outta Dodge” ad that sells lifestyle by the bucketload. You want the peace of an African sunset? Buy a 1200GS.

    Funny how this 12ooGS ad completely translated to the 800GS PDF sitting in my documents folder. Visions of packed panniers above a growling Akrapovic …


  • Matt

    re: Paulo, the point wasn’t that ‘nobody == 0’ but that it was a tiny, tiny number as to be the tail of the curve. And just because some customers are crazy enough to bring an inappropriate tool to the job because they can or the have the skill to overcome it’s limitations doesn’t make it suitable for the vast majority who do buy it. Good for you that you’re one of the young cohort and that there are fellow motor-heads crazy enough to take the BMW everywhere. Either way you’re outliers. Ads are targetted at mainstream, and there’s no way even 30% would venture off the pavement let alone into the wild lands.

  • SBPilot


    Your arguments are completely redundant. You think everyone (and I don’t actually mean everyone, but the “majority” you talk about) that buy sport bikes take them to the track, where they were designed to be? You think people who have sportbikes can even squeeze 30% of their capabilities out of the bike? You think people who buy BMW M3’s, Ferrari 458 actually use even 20% of it’s capabilities?

    Get a bloody grip with reality, the free market, consumerism, consumption. I may not like it as much as you, but this is it what it is. Sure the R1200GS is designed to do one thing, but most of the buyers may not actually do it. That applies to nearly everything, hell, even those $120 basketball shoes you maybe wearing you’re not making the most of.

    When you advertise a product, a Ferrari, a M3, a Basketball shoe, or a R12000GS do you want to see some joe blow cruising around or walking around “hey, this car drives nice…” or “hey this shoe is comfy” or “yea this bike riding around town on asphalt is nice”. No, you want to see the cars on a track tail happy sliding around burning rubber, or have it sitting there at the side of a track in a picture esq setting. And you want some crazy basketball player doing dunks you couldn’t do if your life depended on it, and you want to see a bike you may want to buy in a super picture esq setting in a place you can’t be, but at least you know that bike you own perhaps could take you there.

    Marketing 101.

  • SBPilot

    But, Matt, if you don’t want to see what a product can do in an advertisement, then it is you who is the outlier, not everyone else.

    This is why car reviews exist and journalism exists because these people are the ones who make a mundane lengthy layman review for the masses for those who care enough to read. And stats say most people don’t’ even bloody test drive a car before buying these days so guess what, it’s that 90 second ad or the amazing (“unrealistic”) picture that sells stuff these days.


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  • Michael Hardman

    A&R – you wouldn’t happen to know what advertising agency created this ad?

  • Should be Serviceplan, Munich, as it is their lead agency.

  • singletrack

    Jensen, I enjoy your commentary on motorcycle marketing techniques. And, I appreciate the opportunity to post comments, as there are very few forums for intelligent discussion about the motorcycle industry.

    You go on about the European brands and their ‘mastery’ of marketing. And I agree that the European brands generally ‘get it’, but BMW, Ducati, Triumph, KTM etc. all have limited product offerings, and similar demographics for all potential customers – ie mature enthusiasts.

    I take issue however with criticism of the Japanese brands and their perceived ‘weak’ marketing efforts. Sure they could do better, but I task you to show the world a consistent brand message for Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki or Suzuki motorcycles.

    Create an advertising plan that uses a consistent image or ‘feel’ or ‘emotion’ or make a ‘personal connection’ for an entry level commuter bike, and then do it for a Supersport bike, then for a cruiser, a Touring bike, then a Sport Touring bike, then for a motocrosser, then for a Scooter. And showing a stationary bike sitting in a romantic/scenic setting doesn’t count. Sometimes people just buy motorcycles, not ‘lifestyles’.

    If it were easy, they’d all be doing it.

  • BMW Motorrad

    @Bob: Hello Bob, in one point you are absolutely right: The bike was very clean and very fresh, however, we did not think it too clean and too fresh and took it on an exciting ride anyway, as shown here in our video.


    It wasn’t so clean afterwards, but it sure was a lot of fun to ride. :-) Please watch more pics of the bike in motion on bmw-motorrad.com/gs. We’ll be releasing a Making-of-video shortly also.

    Best regards from your BMW Motorrad Team

  • @BMW Motorrad:

    Thanks for the link to the YouTube video. Lovely!