Following a revival, a classic car brand reimagines the retail experience
The MINI is a British automotive icon of the ’50s and ’60s that enjoys cult status among car and rally enthusiasts to this day. After a 30-year absence, BMW decided to relaunch the MINI brand in the U.S. In reinterpreting this classic brand, it sought to remain true to its brand personality—fun, irreverent and timeless.
In the early 2000s, BMW celebrated the launch of a revitalized MINI brand but needed help aligning U.S. dealerships with the new look and feel.
Among the biggest challenges MINI faced was adapting a concept designed for the European market to U.S. market conditions. As MINI’s U.S. partner, Monigle made needed adjustments to the dealership concept and helped roll it out to over 75 U.S. dealerships — of which no two were alike. This process included site planning and programming, dealership design, merchandising planning and interior and exterior signage development, on a site-specific basis for each location. In addition to European program elements, Monigle introduced a series of new components for U.S. dealerships, including digital merchandising, a test-drive CD rack, vending machine and vehicle display pod—enhancements that were not part of the original concept. In the end, Monigle helped bring a unique MINI dealership experience—one that forms an emotional connection with customers—to life in a new market.
Adapting European program components to MINI USA
When BMW planned the launch of the new MINI for the US, all signage and merchandising components were designed for the European market. How would the design elements be modified to meet US building codes, dealer needs, consumer safety and ADA requirements for the US market?
MINI USA engaged Monigle for its expertise in signage and merchandising construction to redesign the European system for compliance in the U.S. market while retaining the look and feel of the MINI program.
Working with German and American manufacturers, the existing materials and specifications were re-engineered to meet the challenges of the American market.
Main vehicle display and café bar
Vehicle delivery area
Assembled pylon sign
Main exterior lifestyle display
Setting the design standard for launch and the next generations
Working with MINI USA and each individual dealer, the showroom concept for the US market was born, setting the groundwork for each location across the network. A strong focus on MINI culture and lifestyle helped to create the MOTORING experience, connecting the driver to the vehicle’s storied past.
Great design starts with understanding the end-to-end customer journey considering all key touchpoints.
It was imperative that each of the 78 locations meet MINI’s exact retail specification criteria, while creating an environmentally branded space where every element captured and expressed the MINI experience.
Driving consensus and consistency
The next step was communicating with each dealer to ensure their consensus behind the design and assisting dealers in navigating Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), zoning and other requirements. It was imperative that each location meet MINI’s exact retail specification criteria, while creating an environmentally branded space where every element captured and expressed the MINI experience.
To easily track merchandising elements and brand assets, the MINI team used Monigle’s proprietary web-based SignChart® system, enabling streamlined approval and order processes while eliminating the need for wasteful one-size-fits-all retail kits.
Each MINI dealer made a significant investment in a program that they had not been able to physically touch and see. Monigle invited all dealers to its office to experience the showroom components and review live layouts of its individual showroom proposal.
A cult classic becomes a must-have
The national rollout of the new MINI showrooms went off without a hitch: The majority of locations were installed in less than three weeks to meet quick launch deadlines. MINI’s uniquely branded environments perfectly paralleled the brand’s playful personality and ultimately enhanced the consumer’s buying experience.
MINI was relaunched in the U.S. to enthusiastic reviews, as evidenced by two-year waits for some models. Fifteen years following the brand’s relaunch, MINI dealers had fully embraced the unique retail concept and approach to the purchasing experience, selling more than 725,000 MINIs nationwide.
"“If you go to a dinner party there is a person in the room and he’s like traveled the world and he’s been to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and he’s seen all these amazing things and he comes back to our world and he tells you what he’s just experienced…he is like the ‘cool uncle.’ He’s that other family member that everyone likes to listen to. When people heard the concept of the ‘cool uncle’ theme they understood the spirit of the new MINI program.”"
One of MINI’s greatest challenges was reimaging the automotive retail experience to reflect the brand’s unique personality, while maintaining consistency across locations.
Fifteen years after its American relaunch, MINI continued to enjoy steady sales and success thanks in part to its inspiring dealership environment.
In its original iteration, MINI’s sales figures made it the most popular British car ever produced.
A year after relaunching in the U.S., the MINI Cooper/Cooper S was awarded Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.