John Cappella – The off-roader

If you're going to make a claim to John Cappella, you'd better have the facts to back it up. 'He never takes an answer for granted,' says Joe Lawrence, sales director at BMW Canada. 'There's a lot of conventional thinking in the auto industry, and John tries to attack that and put some logic behind what he's doing.'

If you’re going to make a claim to John Cappella, you’d better have the facts to back it up. ‘He never takes an answer for granted,’ says Joe Lawrence, sales director at BMW Canada. ‘There’s a lot of conventional thinking in the auto industry, and John tries to attack that and put some logic behind what he’s doing.’

Cappella’s thoughtful nature has led him to take an integrated approach and explore uncharted territory in an effort to maintain BMW as the number one luxury automotive brand in Canada – as well as improve sales despite a tough economy and even tougher competition.

Cappella has been working for BMW since he graduated from York’s Schulich School of Business in 1999. Last January, he left the position of brand communications manager to become regional manager, central region, overseeing sales and marketing for Ontario, but not before leaving his mark on the national level.

In his former role, Cappella began work on a major campaign for the 1 Series that integrated BMW’s drive events with social media via Facebook. Last March, BMW created the microsite to target a new, younger demographic. Visitors could download a widget to their Facebook page and their friends could vote for them to win a test drive of the car on a closed course. They could also post links about the 1 Series and get points for the most popular links. ‘It really became a great community site for the 1 Series,’ Cappella says.

Dave Stubbs, partner at Teehan+Lax, the Toronto-based agency that worked with BMW on the campaign, credits Cappella for taking the plunge into the social scene: ‘He created a great environment for fresh thinking to come to the table, rather than guiding it himself with his own preconceived ideas.’

The 1 Series launch wasn’t the first time BMW explored new territory online. In efforts to build the brand around its three sports pillars – golfsport, yachtsport and motorsport – BMW teamed up with TSN to air the America’s Cup sailing regatta online, bringing it to Canadian audiences for the first time last June. The result was about 100,000 live and on-demand streams on TSN and BMW website players.

Beyond exploring new online dialogue, BMW started a conversation with women when Cappella and his team realized they were missing out on half the population. To promote BMW’s xDrive All-Wheel-Drive, the 2007 campaign focused on performance aspects. ‘We really improved awareness of xDrive,’ he says, ‘but the improvement was on the male side, and we were missing out on females.’

To target women, the new execution in winter 2008 highlighted safety with an ad featuring a pregnant woman getting to the hospital in a BMW. As a result of these campaigns, the sales model mix shifted to 50% xDrive product in 2007 and 2008.

Cappella also led the development of new customer relationship marketing with an ‘Anticipation Package,’ introduced last January. Research revealed that a great time to reach out to consumers was just after they ordered their vehicles, so the package contains a DVD highlighting technology, design and brand history, as well as an accessories configurator. His team also improved the BMW Welcome Package, integrating it with the BMW magazine and customizing it for the consumer.

‘One of my objectives was total integration across all the mediums,’ Cappella says. To achieve this, the agency relationship had to be maximized. ‘I’ve always viewed our agencies as an extension of our marketing department,’ he says. ‘I’ve tried to involve them as much as possible with our strategic development.’

Paul Curtin, group account director at Cundari, BMW’s AOR, says that Cappella’s partnership approach has helped drive success: ‘He knows that people succeed best when they work together.’

In his new role, Cappella is responsible for marketing, sales and after-sales for new and pre-owned vehicles within Ontario. And while his objectives are different, he says that his experiences have given him a broader perspective. ‘I have a deeper understanding of marketing because I’ve dealt with the top of the funnel and the bottom of the funnel,’ he says.

Lawrence, who had worked with Cappella on the national side, hand-picked him for his current role despite his lack of direct field experience. ‘I was confident in his management abilities and in his critical thinking,’ he says. ‘I just thought he was perfectly suited to be ‘Mr. BMW.”

Team Size: 6 when he was brand communications manager, 7 as regional manager, central region

Years at BMW: 9

Professional highlight: Building a strong team, both internally and among our agencies

Marketing style: Bold, calculated and concise

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