Why BMW Has Mastered the Art of Online Brand Management

When the average person thinks of the BMW brand, they probably imagine a sleek and technology-driven vehicle that makes all their favorite ‘vroom-vroom’ sounds come to life. Or, at the very least, a luxury car brand.

What they don’t think of is a brand thats vehicles are full of security vulnerabilities and unsecured systems. BMW has taken direct control of it’s Online Brand Management efforts, and it clearly shows. However, control doesn’t have to mean secrecy and hiding information.

Should companies try hiding negative information online?

Absolutely not. This era is billed as the digital age for a reason. With time, customers can and will find out what secrets are being swept under the rug. With information and communication being a cornerstone of our digital age, it’s becoming increasingly hard for companies to keep secrets from the public. To make it worse, Consumer Trust is easily lost and finding out about negative information after the fact is not a good look for any company. Consumers value openness and transparity now, more than apologetic offerings later on.

Let’s take a look at the most recent issue BMW faces

  • Automobile security researchers identified a number of software vulnerabilities in BMW automobiles
  • 14 different vulnerabilities were found across the entire BMW lineup
  • Vulnerabilities took advantage of as many as 7 different rounds to gain control of BMW’s ConnectedDrive System
  • As many as 2.2 million vehicles could be affected at the time of disclosure
  • BMW vehicles manufactured before 2011 are able to be physically started without their keys
  • BMW vehicles manufactured after 2011 were able to be wirelessly unlocked, started, and driven away without their keys
  • In most cases a $30 Bypass Tool shipped from China or Eastern Europe is all anyone needs if they are serious about gaining entry into a BMW

Is this a real thing?

This video shows just how quickly a relay device can trick the vehicle into thinking the key is nearby
More detail is given about how the relay device works in this video

Unfortunately it is, and pretty crazy to see in action. It’s not an issue exclusive to BMW either.

How did BMW deal with the situation?

BMW has taken a fantastic stance on this topic by keeping the public engaged in the process from the very start. When news of these vulnerabilities reached BMW, they didn’t just sweep it under the rug, pay to have the information burred, or ignore it. Instead they gave up the element of plausible deniability, decided to take control of the situation, and spin the story in their favor.

To do this BMW did three very important things right. The first thing they did was authenticate the research. Logically, they had to make sure this was a real threat to their vehicles. Second, they immediately deployed over-the-air (OTA) software updates to all vehicles that supported them. These countermeasures aimed to combat some of the most dangerous vulnerabilities right out of the gate. Lastly the automotive company awarded the research group with BMW’s “Digitization and IT Research Award” and encouraged the two organizations to expand cooperation and joint research proceeding into the future.

Looking toward the future

In order to help facilitate more independent research and find potential vulnerabilities before nefarious users did, BMW set up a secure communication channel via their website. The channel promised a response to user-submitted exploits within two to three days. The cornerstone of their communication channel is their policy of “Responsible Disclosure” where BMW asks for time to develop and roll-out countermeasures before researchers make technical specifications and details public.

BMW AG utilizes secure communication encryption keys (PGP key) for transmission of sensitive details

This setup seems to work fairly well for each side, too. Researchers can help make automobiles safer and more secure, while getting credit and compensation for their efforts. BMW stands to gain value too, as they are now able to begin damage control and deploy countermeasures before the news of the specific issue is made public – hurting brand reputation, image, and likely stock prices.

A small number of researchers BMW has credited for 2019

Personas & Targeting

In the marketing world, there are numerous ways to find and target customers. Some ways of targeting customers are more broad, and others more narrow in scope. Marketers create and use Personas for that purpose, and modify them to their desired scope. This is what makes Personas such a great tool for such a wide variety of industries.

Ready to learn more about marketing personas?
Imagine a product of your choice, and read on!

1. What is a persona anyway?

In the context of marketing, a persona is sort of like a profile for your ideal customer. Check out the picture above for a great example of what a marketing persona looks like. Thinking back to the product you imagined earlier, what does the typical customer look like for that specific product? This is where you can be as narrow, or as broad as you would like.

Your persona may include things like:

  • Demographics
  • Shopping habits or Personality
  • Location
  • Job or Role
  • Interest (or lack of)
  • Values
  • Wants, Needs, Desires
  • Worries, Fears, Frustrations
  • …and more!

2. Why should I use one?

Creating personas early on in the product development life cycle can help the company determine their marketing strategy more easily and be able to more accurately shape it. Even if you’re already established as a company, it’s never too late to create a persona. Coming up with one later in the business’s life is still often beneficial! Most importantly, a persona is a great way to determine who your buyers are, what situation they are facing, and their goals to be achieved. With answers to those consumer-aspects, more informed business decisions can be made and successes realized.

3. Okay, but what do I actually do?

Again, there are many ways to go about this. The following is an example of what and how I would personally organize the process.

Customer data collected via various forms – feedback buttons, reports, web polls, live chat services, etc.
Collected data downloaded into Excel, and organized into spreadsheets.
Using the pivot table function within Excel, preferences of customers who purchased my product can be analyzed.
By understanding why these consumers purchased my product, I can better market my products to others. In a perfect world, this increases sales, revenue, and profit.

Get out there and personify!

Larry Kim – The New Email Marketing
Ashley Kennedy – Personas
Hallie Exall – Integrating Email marketing with event promotion
Henry France – Personas for Marketing In 2019
Examples from ImpactBnd.com

Potential Hazards in Online Advertising

When the first data-packet-message was sent from University of California, Los Angeles to Stanford Research Institute in 1969 – what would become the groundwork for internet today – founders Robert Taylor and Lawrence Roberts had no idea it would ever become public. At that time ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was still being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. Neither of them had any idea it would quickly become the platform in which would disrupt global communications forever. More surprising is just how rapidly the world adopted the internet for communications – Only 1% of two-way communication occurred over the internet in 1993, rocketing to 51% in 2000, before almost doubling to 97% in 2007.

Adoption and Use of Cell phones (mobile data), Computers, and Internet, quickly decreased the need for Landlines as U.S. households primary source of communication. Households with only mobile phones (no landlines) are expected to continue rising in number as U.S. households continue adopting in-home internet and mobile data connections.

The rise and adoption of the modern-day internet for communications proved to be a major pivot point. At that time the U.S. government failed to keep up with the new technology. It’s a dangerous situation anytime laws lag behind technology, and as Tim Hwang of Government Executive Media Group describes It restrains our economy and creates inefficiencies in companies regulated by the government.

Unfortunately, this situation aided potential hazards in online advertising, some to the point of no longer being considered “potential”. Perhaps the most common hazard consumers face in online advertising are feelings of invasion of user-privacy. Today’s online ads tracking our every click, and many consumers feel they are being followed around on the web. Some describe it as being stalked. According to Zeynep Tufekci – They are. She explains how Internet Cookies, Machine Learning, Algorithms, Persuasion technology and techniques – aimed at manipulating consumers specifically based on their values, weaknesses, and habits – are doing exactly that.

Another major hazard in online advertising, is having it used for unethical or nefarious purposes. From a business perspective it’s never been easier for a brand to profile, target, and persuade consumers. Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times describes the huge advances in advertising that Machine Learning provides as a powerful marketing tool;
As the online ad machine gets better, marketing gets more efficient and effective, letting companies understand and influence consumer sentiment at a huge scale for little money.

The mechanisms Manjoo describes are not just exclusive to million dollar companies either. The only thing needed to influence consumers is a bank account. For example, it was the same mechanisms used for online advertising that were abused and used for nefarious purposes by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, during the 2016 election to influence American politics. Accounting details show it cost them roughly $46,000 for Facebook ads – which then “were seen by nearly 150 million Americans.”. To implicate online advertising further, Russian operations used many common marketing tactics like A/B testing and Landing page evaluations to focus their ads and encourage negative social influence.

How dangerous is this, really? At first the answer might seem to depend on which side you’re on. Looking at it objectively, this is an extremely serious issue undermining legal U.S. political structures – no matter the side. I’m of the personal opinion that something needs to change in this situation to prevent future political interference. At the same time, I don’t see a way online advertising can stay the way it is and prevent interference. I believe it would not only take major regulation of global communications, but also an effective enforcement strategy. Because of how far laws lag behind technology and the speed of regulatory bodies, I believe this is a major issue. On a scale of 1 to 5 – with 5 being highly dangerous – I think the current landscape is very concerning and I give it a 3 out of 5.

At this point you might be asking why there isn’t a standardized code of ethics for digital marketers. It’s a great idea, but involves quite a bit of politics. Currently it’s best for marketers to follow their own code of ethics, or code of conduct, and be smart in their actions. If you need sort of a basis for creating your own code of ethics, I’ve adopted 7 principals from Business 2 Community. Use the following list as a jumping-off point!

  • Know Your Audience – preferences, interests, and choices.
  • Stay Away from Biases – avoid negative or controversial topics like politics, religion, ethnicity, or cultural bias.
  • Never Compromise on Privacy – violating privacy rules can have large financial negative impacts.
  • Be Transparent – avoid hiding business relationships, endorsements should be clearly stated as such.
  • Speak Truth – avoid or effectively communicate affiliation, especially when involving payment.
  • Think Before you Tweet – consider all perspectives, and ensure content is free of errors that lead to embarrassment or negative brand perceptions.
  • Imagine the Impact – Public perception of messages from the ‘mouth’ of a brand matter a lot. That content can change perceptions greatly with a single message. Ensure content is on-band and is achieving the contents goal.

If you would like to read more about Marketing codes of Ethics, check out Tahir Akbar’s article on Business 2 Community right here.

Thanks for reading!

What To Do When Your Webpage Doesn’t Rank

Website didn’t rank as well as you had hoped? Read on!

That’s okay, that just means there’s more room for growth. Grab a coffee and keep reading because there’s a few different aspects we can look at to improve your website’s search rankings. Remember, don’t be frustrated if your website isn’t doing as great as you thought it would. The tips in this posting will help, but don’t expect to see immediate results. Even small changes take time to update in various databases across the web.

Let’s get started!


Keywords are arguably the most important part of the search process, so it’s a great place to start. In order to gain a footing in the search rankings, Forbes’ Jia Wertz recommends spending a few days doing some homework to identify the best keywords for each product/page of your site. It might take some time, but the better and more accurate your keywords are, the better your page will rank and visits will increase.

In addition to knowing which keywords to use, Wertz also strongly recommends optimizing for Long-Tail keywords – a [search] phrase containing three or more words. She details that identifying and applying Long-Tail keywords significantly help search engines to more easily rank your website. The more easily it can do that, the higher your site will rank.

Relevant Landing Page

A common pitfall both new and old search entries face is accurately sending searchers to the correct landing page. For example, if I was the automotive tire company GoodYear, I would be extremely careful to match landing pages to their search terms. A search for “What are the best tires for Subaru BRZ” should link to a search page on GoodYear.com displaying only the tires that would fit specifically on a Subaru BRZ. In this age of digital marketing, it’s simply not enough to link a specific keyword to a generic landing page. Customers who don’t land on the page they were expecting quickly become alienated and hit the exit button. If you are specific in your keywords, it should link to that specific item.

Fix Broken Links

Speaking of alienating customers and risking their departure, having dead or broken links is another bad practice that ends up being a huge turn-off to potential customers.
Luckily there are services available online to ensure your website is up-to-date and watertight, with no dead or broken links. A few services recommended by WebSolutions are Online Broken Link Checker and Dead Link Checker.

Test, Revise, and Apply

As the digital age evolves and consumer preferences change, it’s vastly important to stay flexible and change with them. It could be as unnoticeable as one color being preferred over another, or as small as a single word change, but utilizing A/B Testing is a great tool to figure out exactly what works and what doesn’t – with real, hard data.

A/B Testing can be incredibly useful – learn more about A/B Testing by reading QuickSprout.com’s Beginners Guide To A/B Testing

5 Ways to Increase Landing Page Conversions


What are Conversions?


               Defining exactly what a Conversion is will depend mainly on the type of business, and how that business is set up. For instance, an e-commerce web store might be concerned with what percentage of viewers actually hit that BUY NOW button and purchase their product. An author of an email newsletter might be concerned with how many viewers enter their email to sign up. Maybe you are writing your own blog and want to know how many people are clicking ads on your page. Whatever the industry, your Conversion rate is essentially your goal, or a desired action you want the viewer to do once they’re on your page.


Attention-driven design


               The design of your Landing Page can directly make or break your targeted Conversion rate. Overly complicated website design, Too many pictures, and simply not enough information are some common practices that turn-away Conversions.

               On the other hand, an attractive design that captures the viewers attention and keeps it, will lead to the viewer clicking more and staying on your page longer. Finally, consider page elements that add value to your page, while being minimally distracting.


Call to Action Buttons


               Utilizing Call to Action (CTA) Buttons is possibly the most important aspect in increasing Conversions. Three Deep Marketing tells us that bold CTAs can increase conversion rates, and provides great details on how to do it well. Consider against generic CTAs – like “Buy”, “Shop”, and “Okay”. Instead, use fun, friendly, and unique buttons that are boldly colored, clear, but not overly aggressive. For example “Shop” could easily and effectively be replaced with “Discover our New Flavors!”. It checks all our boxes, while still communicating where the link goes and what the button does. Another great example is how Three Deep Marketing changed the “Enter” button and replaced it with “Stir up Sweetness”.

Image courtesy of Three Deep Marketing




               With Statista reporting over “120 milion mobile buyers in the U.S. alone in 2015.” And the belief that number will increase to over “162 million” by the end of 2019, it’s now more important than ever for your site to be mobile-friendly. For the best possible chance of Conversions, every action you can do in a desktop browser, should be achievable by mobile-device users. If you still aren’t convinced, check out some statistics below.

Images courtesy of SurveyMonkey and iAcquire, LLC


Test to impress


               It’s no secret that today’s digital world moves faster than ever before. The wants, needs, and values of consumers can change at a moment notice. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to stay on-top of what works and doesn’t work for your consumers. The best way to do this is though testing. Aren’t sure if you should name that CTA Button “Enter Here” or “Join the Party!”? A/B testing is your new best friend. By looking at the data gathered from running your site with either Button-text, you can directly compare the effectiveness and impact to your Conversion rate.




… still here?


Want to know more about Conversions and tools to help analyze your Conversion rates?


Check out Shlomo Trachtenberg’s article at Big Commerce


More Sources


“MRKT 484 Ryan on Testing Landing Pages.” OSU MediaSpace, Oregon State University, https://media.oregonstate.edu/media/t/0_j1xoorhb.

“The 7 Principles of Conversion Centered Design.” Oli Gardner, Stukent.com, https://www.stukent.com/expert-sessions/the-7-principles-of-conversion-centered-design/.