Mini vs. Porsche – a lesson in guerilla marketing


The car company Mini has always been awesome at guerilla marketing and doing PR stunts that generate crazy amounts of buzz. Mini recently launched an Internet marketing campaign that shot a little above its direct competition.

Mini issued a racing challenge to none other than Porsche. Why did this generate buzz? Simple – Mini is a relatively cheap car, and Porsche is a racing machine that costs $60,000 more.

Jim McDowell, Mini US CEO created a youtube video effectively calling out Porsche to come race against the Mini. He worked for Porsche for 8 years, so there might be something more personal here at play. He announced that the race would take place on a race track in Atlanta, which is right around the corner from Porsche’s US headquarters. He gave Porsche a few weeks to prepare and respond.

The Challenge on Paper

Mini Cooper S
172 Horsepower
$21,531 base price
Top speed 140 mph

Porsche 911 Carrera S
385 Horsepower
$79,100 base price
Top speed 182 mph

Dissecting the Intentions

Obviously, on a track, the Porsche would destroy the Mini, so what does Mini have to gain? Maybe even more important, what does Porsche have to gain?

Mini would surely lose, but then again, nobody expected them to win, so no skin off their backs. Their upside potential was fantastic though. If Mini actually won, they would get to tout that Mini is faster than Porsche, and that would be a boon to their image. Because of the disparity between horsepower and price, Mini is sure to play up that fact in the loss.

Porsche has slightly more to lose. If they lost to Mini, it would be shameful. Plus if they win, it’s what everyone would have expected anyways, so there’s no upside. Porsche’s representative even stated in a response that it wasn’t about to spend money and time defending its eventful racing heritage against a company with none.

The Outcome

At the end of the Mini-Porsche campaign on June 21st, Porsche was a no show. So Mini provided their own Porsche and driver. They also announced quite shadily the day before that the track would not actually be the full racetrack in Atlanta, and that it would actually be a much smaller track governed by a series of cones set up inside the track in the interior of the track. This gave considerably more of an advantage to the gokart-like mini. The results of the race were not surprising – the Porsche won by 2 seconds.

If you know racing, 2 seconds is a boatload of time, but Mini was counting on the public not knowing that. Sure enough, Mini took the disparity-touting route. Posted right on their facebook page, it says:

We went. We raced. We almost beat frickin’ Porsche! … The engines revved. The crowd roared. And when the smoke cleared, the MINI finished a mere two seconds behind our prestigious competitor. And when you consider the Porsche costs over $60,000 more than the MINI…that’s more than $30,000 a second.

A Funny Twist

After Porsche turned Mini down for the race, Hyundai jumped in with an offer to race their Genesis coupe. Mini, to date, hasn’t responded to their offer. This could end up being a huge backfire. The entire Mini campaign was about Internet buzz, and when another company offers the same sort of challenge, you have to respond carefully, because that buzz could just as easily turn against you.

The moral of the story is, strategy is everything when it comes to viral Internet campaigns. Be creative and cover your bases. Time will tell whether or not voices cry out against Mini for not responding to Hyundai.


Chad Waite

Brilliant write-up and analysis. Mini has alway been genius with unique marketing and at first, this was no exception. Calling an established brand like Porsche out like this caught the attention of everyone.

I actually disagree when you say it “could be a huge backfire”. I think it already has. Everyone was able to see that Hyundai called Mini’s bluff when they didn’t respond to what they were doing to Porsche. It just goes to show that once you launch a campaign like this, it truly is out of your hands. Be prepared to divert from your original plan and improvise.

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