How Mini is keeping its community connected

Friendship among drivers is a major draw for the automaker. Virtual meet-ups and content that go beyond cars aims to maintain it.

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Companies and brands have been trying to find their place during the pandemic, and automakers have been looking to take what they have at their disposal that can add social value for consumers and address new, pressing needs.

Jaguar Land Rover Canada made a fleet of its off-road vehicles available to hospitals in Canada to help in the collection of PPE, while Volkswagen has been working with Dillon’s Distillers to assist in the distribution of hand sanitizers. On Wednesday, Kia announced it’s lending a fleet of new vehicles that were to be demoed to press to food banks, helping them make deliveries in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

But beyond a fleet of vehicles and dealerships, BMW-owned Mini offers something else for its drivers: a sense of community.

“Owning a Mini, we sometimes say, it’s the only car brand that comes standard with friends,” says Adam Wexler, national manager, Mini brand communications. “We really felt as though, friendship and community are as important now as ever, as people are in isolation. That’s where Mini Canada is stepping in, to provide this series of community events for family, friends and fans of the brand.”

As a result, starting May 11, Mini is inviting the brand’s enthusiasts throughout Canada to Mini Virtual Meetups, which feature a combination of live-streamed, pre-recorded and downloadable content. The series of virtual events while feature some automotive-related content, like discussions about car care and Charlie Cooper – grandson of “father of the Mini Cooper” John Cooper – interviewing car designer Frank Stephenson and driver Carlos Sainz.

Charlie

But there will also be a number of other subjects covered, such as cooking lessons from celebrity chef Lynn Crawford – who is “a many times-over” Mini owner, Wexler says – at-home fitness classes from Toronto fitness instructor Cassie Day, advice on hair care while staying at home and Netflix watch parties.

Mini will also highlight owners and retailers “doing good” in the fight against COVID-19, such as a sales manager in Vancouver who has been 3D printing and delivering PPE to hospitals in his spare time.

“There’s very few brand communities around the world that have the type of participation that Mini does,” Wexler says. For example, the biennial “Mini Invasion” has drivers of the brand travel across the country to meet up, swap driving tales with other motorists over food and drinks, as well as participate in car-related events. Last October, approximately 650 Mini owners gathered in Prince Edward County for Mini Invasion 2019.

Wexler says fostering community is important to Mini, as people tend to self-organize and congregate around brands in an age where there’s an “absence” of that feeling of neighbourhood and connectivity, even before people began physical distancing, Wexler notes. Outside of Mini, he points to things like running groups that have formed around Nike’s “Run Club” app.

“As an organization, we feel as though it’s a responsibility of ours to take part in [and] cultivate that [community],” Wexler says. “The ability for people to have an outlet and be able to express themselves, has always been a hallmark of this brand. People always ask me, ‘What’s the demographic of Mini?’ But Mini is very much a mindset – more than it is age, gender, or a list of affinities or interests…I think this sort of positivity, or optimism, is very much what we’re trying to provide here [with the virtual meetups].”

The “diverse range” of activities is how this event will stand out and resonate with Mini’s target, Wexler says, despite the fact there’s a lot of other branded virtual events going on at this time.

“We definitely are giving people various options and a variety of topics to ‘take part in what you want [to],’” he says. “Mini represents an ‘all are welcome’ mentality and the ability to express yourself as you see fit.”