The Story of a Brand: BMW

The Story of a Brand: BMW

Ah, BMW. Not only an excellent vehicle company with an impeccable reputation but also one of the strongest cultural icons of the past century. For me, it's also the car on which I took my first driving lessons. Well, it was an old '80s model, and steering the wheel was as good as any workout, but it was still a BMW. But do you know the story of this great brand? Or even what the BMW acronym stands for? Here's a little hint: it's not Broke My Wallet, Beautiful Mechanic Wonder, nor Brings More Women, though none of these are entirely unreasonable.

A star is born

The story of the BMW company is the story of a few separate companies. Things started in 1916 when Rapp-Motorenwerke, an aircraft engine manufacturer, merged with Gustav Flugmaschinefabrik, a maker of small aircraft, to form "Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke" (no, that's not a German tongue twister). Shortly after, they would create the final BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke). BMW's business took off thanks to World War I. The company had a contract with Germany and Austria-Hungary for aircraft engines. But the real breakthrough came in 1918 when BMW constructed an engine that lifted an airplane to an impressive 5,000 meters in less than half an hour. That was a memorable moment and a turning point for the aircraft maker.

But wait, weren't we talking about BMW, the car manufacturer? Yes, but you owe your favorite car brand to Germany losing the war and the truce mandating its military to stop manufacturing airplane engines. That, coupled with the harsh economic climate, forced BMW to manufacture boat and truck engines, office furniture, and, eventually, cars. During World War II, car production shifted into military motorcycles, rocket engines, and the first mass-produced jet engines. However, most of its plants were destroyed or dismantled at the war's end. The Allied forces made BMW stop all operations for a minimum of three years as a punishment for participating in German wartime efforts. Slowly, over the following years, BMW would rebuild everything from scratch. You have to hand it to them; that's the sort of flexibility few companies can boast.

The Logo

BMW is among the few companies that haven't changed their logo significantly. There have been a few tweaks with the design, but not a major redefining of the concept. While we know how the logo came to be, a popular myth has been perpetuated since 1929. Back then, a magazine dedicated to airplanes had a picture of a plane on the cover, with the letters BMW written on the propeller at the front. Because of it, even today, many people think that the logo depicts a propeller in motion and the blue sky, symbolizing BMW's past as an aircraft manufacturer.

In reality, the Rapp-Motorenwerke had a rounded logo with the letters Rapp Motor circling it. There was also a black horse in the middle. What the then-owners of BMW did was to keep the same shape and the positions of letters but replace the black horse with blue and white, the colors of the Bavarian flag. Since then, BMW has shown a rare dedication to its brand and logo. The lack of change is not due to rigidness but the company's stability. It kept looking forward and preserved its identity even at the worst of times.

Driving Towards the Future

Today the German car manufacturer is among the most successful companies in the world, not just in the automotive sector, but worldwide too. It ranked #9 on Forbes' list of the most influential brands, ahead of all other car brands.

Now, BMW looks to enter the electric vehicle field. The company's BMW i sub-brand is responsible for their new EV lines. While their first attempt, the i3, was criticized for it's poor performance and appearance, BMW has had much better results with the new i4 sedan and iX series of SUVs. Still, it lags behind in terms of EV sales when compared to brands like Tesla, Ford, and General Motors.

BMW Logo Timeline

If you are a BMW dealer, fan, or run a club for owners, check out this flash drive shaped like a BMW Key Fob, our automotive USB flash drives, or our lineup of automotive promotional products.