The Story of a Brand: BMW
Ah, BMW, not only a great vehicle 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 really the story of a few separate companies. It all began in 1916 when Rapp-Motorenwerke, an aircraft engine manufacturer, merged with Gustav Flugmaschinefabrik, a maker of small aircrafts, to form "Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke" (no, that's not a German tongue twister) and shortly after to the final BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke). BMW's business took off thanks to Europe. Being in the middle of World War I the company had a contract with Prussia and Austro-Hungary, selling 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 the fact that Germany lost the war and its military was mandated by the armistice to stop manufacturing airplane engines. That, coupled with the tough economic climate, forced BMW to turn to manufacturing boat and truck engines, office furniture and, eventually, cars. During World War II, car production was once again stopped to be replaced by military motorcycles, rocket engines and the first mass-produced jet engines. At the end of the war, however, most of its plants were destroyed or dismantled, and BMW was forced by the Allied forces to 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 ground zero. You gotta hand it to them that's the sort of flexibility few companies can boast.
BMW is among the few companies that haven't had a major change of their logo. There has been a few tweaks with the design, but not a major redefining of the concept. And although there is now a clear explanation of how the logo came to be, a popular myth has been perpetuating 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 a lot of people think that the logo depicts a propeller in motion and the blue sky, symbolizing BMW's past as an aircraft manufacturer.
The truth can be found elsewhere. The aforementioned Rapp-Motorenwerke, which merged with BMW, had a rounded logo with the letters Rapp Motor, circled around it. There was also a black horse in the middle. What the then-owners of BMW did was to keep the same shape and positions of letters, but change 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 can be attributed to the stability of the company, which kept looking forward and kept its identity even at the worst of times.
Unsurprisingly, today the German car manufacturer is among the most successful companies in the world, not just in the automotive sector, but worldwide too. In fact, it's #9 on Forbes' list of the most powerful brands, ahead of all other car brands. There's a lot we can learn from BMW.