BMW Asia's Brenda Pek on disruption and trends in the automotive scene

BMW Asia has been turning heads and introducing new ways to reach out to audiences. Last August, the luxury automotive brand inked an exclusive partnership with Lazada and became the first automotive brand on LazMall in Singapore, which provides the company the opportunity to have an exclusive and officially branded store.

To up its creative game, BMW Asia also appointed two creative agencies for the same remit, while trusting its media account to Starcom under a five-year remit. Leading the marketing team, with all its initiatives, is Brenda Pek, who has helmed the role of director of marketing since 2017. Pek is no stranger to the automotive industry. She previously spent eight years with Rolls-Royce, with her last role being head of marketing APAC in 2015.

She also helmed the roles of general manager, South and East Asia Pacific, as well as regional marketing and events manager, Asia Pacific. Before moving on to Rolls-Royce, Pek worked as the marketing director of HELLA, a manufacturing company, for a year. She was also previously with Siemens, Deutsche Telekom and BASF Southeast Asia. In this series of The Futurist, Pek tells Marketing what disruption means in her industry and where will marketing teams be in five years.

Marketing: What does disruption mean in your industry?

Pek: Disruption in our industry is understanding how to compete with non-automotive companies as personal mobility needs change. With the growth of private-hire car firms and car-sharing services, there’s a growing trend toward user-ship versus ownership. In Singapore, BMW is disrupting our own business by offering customers a subscription model through Access by BMW. The number of customers who prefer a subscription model versus owning their own car is increasing and we want to be there to support them.

Marketing: Where will marketing teams in your industry be in five years?

Pek: Marketers will need to develop meaningful and accountable campaigns based on insights and performance metrics. These campaigns need to be innovative, creative and relevant to their audience. So, teams will need to be more creative while having analytical skills to understand consumer insights and data in order to make decisions that will impact business growth.

Marketing: What trends excite you?

Pek: With the growth of online marketing, a unique and memorable customer experience is essential. While customers can learn about products and services online, there’s no way for them to truly experience the brand or product through this channel. For a brand such as BMW, the customer’s experience with our brand or products from beginning to end is essential in order to secure brand loyalty. As such, we see a growing trend towards more integrated, streamlined online/offline marketing strategies that better align with the customer journey.

Our online strategy needs to be engaging enough to give customers a taste of the brand experience and bring them to the showroom so they can experience it first-hand.  We also expect more brands to leverage data, insights and technologies such as AI to deliver more relevant, hyper-personalised communication.

Marketing: What has been the biggest shift in marketing in your industry?

Pek: Marketing in the automotive industry continues to change at a fast pace, especially in the BMW Asia region which covers not only Southeast Asian markets, but countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tahiti, New Caledonia and Guam. As these markets vary economically, politically and socially, each has its own challenges and opportunities, making the BMW Asia region the most exciting for the BMW Group.

Car buyers’ behaviour has drastically changed over the years with the offline and online purchase journey being more integrated. In the past, our customers would visit a showroom four to five times before buying a car. However, with the wealth of information available on the internet, customers are only visiting showrooms one to two times before making a decision. As such, we’ve needed to adapt a marketing strategy to mirror this change - and this strategy varies from market to market.

Beyond increasing digital spend, companies are also being innovative in how they capture consumer interest. For example, BMW became the first automotive brand on Lazada’s LazMall in Singapore. Customers in Singapore were given the opportunity to place a booking fee on the BMW LazMall store in order to secure a special interest rate for one of 11 units of the BMW 118i M Sport. This pilot programme really did push the boundaries and through the partnership, we expanded our customer touchpoints beyond the showroom and brought the brand to customers in the comfort and convenience of their homes.

The article first appeared in the January-February edition of The Futurist edition.