Last week we attended the first of a series of events that MINIUSA is rolling out to not just introduce the new Clubman but reintroduce the brand. Among the two Clubman on display was a collection of small Chicago businesses that demonstrated the type of craftsmanship often hard to find in our modern world. There were leather boots being made, cards being letter-pressed, coffee pour-overs being offered, craft beers being poured and cocktails being perfected. In the middle of it all was a Chicago record player start-up spinning vintage discs next to a massive array of artisanal meat and cheeses. You get the idea. Lots of well dressed hipsters and well considered items that you don’t need but kinda want.
MINI is tying its brand to handmade goods and artisanal craftsmanship for good reasons. It’s a movement that appeals to urban influencers and the the educated masses alike – exactly the demo MINI appeals to. In short MINI is rethinking its brand language to speak the same dialect as its would be customers.
With that lens in place, I’d consider the event was a massive success. We were there as part of the press preview – before most of the public showed up. However in speaking with some folks afterwards, the prevailing attitude was “wow.” Of the three people we spoke with after the event, all three had no intention of buying a MINI going in. Yet all of them were seriously interested in the Clubman by the time they left.
The Clubman itself was the star of the show of course. And MINI treated guests to a walk-around of the car worthy of a press launch. MINI USA’s Product Manager Pat Mckenna and a former designer (now with the MINI USA product team) were on hand to discuss MINI history and the Clubman itself.
We’ve detailed the Clubman recently so we won’t do that again here. But we can attest the car being more impressive the more we see it. Under the lights of the Bridgeport Arts Center the design’s subtlety was more obvious – especially in Melting Silver. Anders Warming’s influence is finally being seen at MINI. Gone are some of the superfluous elements of MINI’s past designs replaced by a mature and nuanced form. The metal work on the front fender and creases in the front bumper are good examples of this.
Things have also gotten slightly larger. Anyone who found the previous Clubman a little small will love the F54. In our minds MINI has right-sized the car to find a wider market and (ultimately) a much more sustainable business plan. Thankfully they didn’t lose the details that made the first generation so charming. We’ll have to withhold final judgement until we drive the car in early December. Until then the 2016 Clubman continues to look like a winner.