Black Puty

Some years ago, a German poultry giant tried to add a whiff of luxury to cold cuts. Today, BMW is attempting something eerily similar. 

‘Black Puty, are you trying to seduce me?’ photo (c) Wiesenhof

The German word for turkey is Pute (poo-tuh).

This needs to be kept in mind when envisaging a tv commercial playing to the tunes of Ram Jam’s Black Betty, advertising turkey cold cuts by the name of Black Puty. If this sounds utterly absurd, it is not due to cultural misunderstandings – for Black Puty is an utterly daft monicker, regardless of whether one’s mother tongue is German or English.

The company behind Black Puty is Wiesenhof, a German meat industry giant. And a company that, in 2010, when Black Puty was introduced, had even more of an image problem than it does eight years later. First of all, turkey meat never enjoyed the best reputation in Germany to begin with. Secondly, Wiesenhof was considered to be among the worst offenders of the generally not well regarded German meat industry, particularly in terms of animals’ living conditions. However, there is no such thing as an issue marketing cannot take care of.

Which is how and why Black Puty came into being. Black Puty was supposed to not just elevate Wiesenhof’s image, but create an upmarket brand to shed the turkey’s lacklustre image once and for all. Or, in marketing parlance: Black Puty’s task was to make turkey ‘sexy’.

‘By using the colour black, Wiesenhof conveys a premium-quality, sophisticated image, which is supposed to be reflected by the taste as well.(…) The (black) packaging constitutes a complete novelty in the chiller cabinet.’ Or so Wiesenhof and its marketing department believed. Black, it would appear, is not merely beautiful, but all it takes to turn the mundane into something truly aspirational.

So marketing cannot only put lipstick on a pig (or turkey, for that matter), but even dress it up it in a little black dress.

Last year, BMW realised that the company has an image problem. The ‘premium’ concept of offering a product of perceivably higher quality than the norm (whatever that may be these days) had started to show first cracks – but more worryingly, the kind of ‘exclusivity’ that used to be considered an unspoken element of the ‘premium’ promise, had become a bit of a joke.

Building and selling no less than 2,088,283 cars in the year 2017 alone certainly makes a bit of a mockery of the idea that owning a BMW is an exclusive experience. Indeed, it is more akin to Claridge’s hotel in London expanding from its roughly 200 rooms to 2000 by way of building a skyscraper in the middle of Mayfair. The exclusive ring of the name would remain the same, but the sheer scale would prohibit any sense of real exclusivity to remain in place.

And yet it is the name of BMW that Serviceplan, a marketing agency, and Hildegard Wortmann, BMW’s then-marketing chief, had identified as the root of this image deficit. Not the fact that BMW has grown into a mass-market brand, or that vehicles like the 2 series Active Tourer are poison to any marque striving for an impression of sophistication.

Thus BMW became Bayerische Motoren Werke. Accompanied by chic Helvetica Light lettering and definite articles underlining the grandiosity of it all (The 7, The 8, The X7), Bayerische Motoren Werke is supposed to not merely elevate the Bavarian’s image, but create a true luxury brand to shed the rather lacklustre image of all those humble, ubiquitous rep mobiles and family vans once and for all. Or, as marketing likes to put it: Bayerische Motoren Werke’s task is to make Bavarian cars ‘sexy’ again.

And for that, what is needed more than anything else, is black. Badges on the cars excepted, Bavarian Blue as been banished from the Bavarian brand’s upper end of the range. For what the cars themselves may lack in terms of clean, tasteful restraint, the Bayerische Motoren Werke Markenwelt will make up for.

As always, the less the product speaks for itself, the more of the talking is up to marketing. In that sense, BMW have pulled out a great many stops, what with dedicated corners at the group’s vast motor show stands being dedicated to Bayerische Motoren Werke and, in the words of Ms Wortmann (who has a way with words), the creation of ‘a luxury ecosystem of unique services and experiences, which will include the entire family of luxury models and create unique, unforgettable moments’. A cure for cancer coming from Bayerische Motoren Werke must accordingly be but a matter of time.

Only recently, BMW Group chief designer, Adrian van Hooydonk, has reiterated the potential of Bayerische Motoren Werke. With this black line sub-brand created with the intention to make 7 series owners feel as though they are not part of the unwashed 2 series Active Tourer-driving hoi polloi (anymore), what could be more logical than to add more models, more diversity and grow BMW’s Club® Level to such an extent that the upper crust of this upper class eventually feels forced to go and buy themselves a Rolls-Royce? It’s all rather smart.

For growth, like black, is good. Growth works. So why improve the models that are already in the market and make these more appealing in themselves when marketing could do the job? Why end with a 7 series when there are still so many appealing numbers to play with? Why think of what your marques stands and, more importantly, doesn’t stand for when things appear to be working out as they are, more or less? Such measures would constitute risks, after all. And nobody likes those.

Black Puty, by the way, may have constituted a complete novelty in the chiller cabinet, but that in itself was not enough to convince customers of the aspirational qualities of turkey cold cuts. As a consequence, Black Puty ended up on the graveyard of marketing aberrations rather swiftly. Right next to the spot already reserved for Bayerische Motoren Werke.


The author of this piece runs his own motoring website, which you are welcome to visit at

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

25 thoughts on “Black Puty”

  1. Chasing volume reduces value. Who’d have thought it, eh? If you’re going to go for a black badge, why not put them on the cars? Bayerische Motoren Werke is BMW’s DS line isn’t it.

    1. Indeed. I suggest they simply put up the price by 7%, let volume fall a bit and carry on as before.
      The black and white logo is only for advertising?

    2. Yes, the badging on the cars remains the same. I asked a certain Dutch BMW designer about this at Frankfurt, who appeared to be genuinely surprised by the suggestion that those models might also sport monochrome badges themselves – which would illustrate just how fundamental the thought process behind Bayerische Motoren Werke was…

  2. Nothing to do with this black badge nonsense, but has anyone noticed the launch images of the new BMW Z4 yesterday? Rather than the usual pin-sharp studio photos, they’re all in soft focus with distracting, busy backgrounds. Perhaps BMW don’t want us to focus on the car (which is a disjointed mess, IMHO)?

  3. BMW does have an enviable engineering heritage and used to count on design leadership to distinguish its cars from the pack. But this is fading. The design of the new Z4 is so bad it makes me angry.

    Mind you, I think another German manufacturer might have bigger problems maintaining its ‘premium’ market position soon. Mercedes seems to be chasing volume, and it will surely have long term repercussions. I have seen so many basic A class and C class cars on the road that the badge’s desirability must be starting to suffer.

    1. Current Maseratis appear inherently cheap, so I’d rule them out on that basis. Recent Porsches and Volvos, on the other hand, have quite a bit of ‘quality item’ flair about them.

  4. Don’t BMW still own a few old premium brands from the days of their Rover adventure? I was thinking a BMW Vanden Plas with wood trim and taller grille would solve this issue quite nicely. Alas it seems Nanjing Automotive bagged that potential pot-of-gold. Riley?

  5. Joking aside (I assume both Richards are joking!) BMW missed a trick when they owned Rover. Rather than (very expensively) develop the 75, just one new model on a unique architecture, they could have used their existing 3-Series (and, possibly, 5-Series) platform to produce a range of comfort orientated saloons and estates carrying the Rover brand. A bit of fettling of suspension and steering would have done the trick.

    In my alternative reality, the 1 and 2-series cars would never have carried the BMW brand, but would have also been Rovers. The 2-Series coupés and convertible could even have been branded MG. These would provide the (semi-premium) volume, while the BMW brand would remain truly premium.

    Not possible? Just look at how quickly PSA is moving to replace GME models with new ones based on its architectures.

    1. Daniel, I used to have exactly the same thoughts about BMW’s thoughtless approach to Rover, or they could have used Triumph instead to do the same thing.

    2. Hi Daniel, yes I was joking, although this whole ‘Bayerische Motoren Werke’ thing seems no different to the British car industry’s badge engineering of the 1950’s – ’70’s. I seem to recall BMW’s justification for purchasing Rover was to avoid exactly this problem, but they screwed that up, then claimed they could extend the BMW range downwards without impacting brand value. Now we’re here.

  6. BMW has been really losing the plot over the last decade. I can’t remember the last new car branded BMW 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 series that I i have liked over this period. The i3 and i8 are exceptions, but I sense that they have been disappointments to BMW commercially so no doubt they will be normalised in the future, if indeed they survive a further generation.

    The new Z4 is disappointingly poor – showing no imagination, wit, class or anything that might please. It’s chronically over-styled, overwhelmed by gross detailing and swollen facial features.

    Throw in the current crop of MINIs (although I think the Clubman was a near-miss) and it completes a bereft picture.

    1. I can remember the last BMW I really liked, although it’s far longer than a decade ago: it was the sublime E39 5-Series, launched in 1995:

      I’d also make an honourable mention of the E46 3-Series launched in 1998. Unfortunately, it was later besmirched by an unnecessary facelift, giving the car a slightly Japanese look. The facelift was notable for the first distortion of the previously inviolate BMW grille. It was quite subtle, merely sharpening up the outer top corner of each “kidney”, but much worse was to come…



  7. I have never owned a BMW automobile. I have, however, owned a BMW motorcycle.
    I owned a K75 briefly in the mid nineties, and it was a remarkable piece of engineering. The finest motorcycle there was.
    I did aspire to own a BMW automobile as well, especially as my dad owned a few 7-Series in the mid eighties.
    I would have been perfectly happy with a used E30 as my first car, but I couldn’t afford one.
    My experience with and exposure to the brand was utterly positive throughout the eighties and nineties.
    My dream car was an M3 naturally.
    These days, I can’t stand BMW.
    It is utterly soulless and only remarkable for it’s continuous stumbles and missteps.
    There isn’t a single car in the entire range that I would consider buying.
    The X-Series cars are the worst offenders. The people who buy them are best avoided in my experience.
    Even it’s motorcycles are not immune to douchery.
    (Douchery is a term used in the USA to describe something naff or babo)
    I was looking through the classifieds today at a 94 850ci, and it nearly brought a tear to my eye….

  8. One wonders if there is an optimistic corporate spirit at BMW HQ these days. Do the people who work there feel infused with BMWness, or is it a dull heads-down corporate world? One suspects the latter. Like the other German manufacturers cranking out dupli-cars in dozens of niches, it all seems to have become an institutionalized design process, rather ho-hum and incurious. No bounds are stretched, no inspiration shown. Thus the need to hire self-promoting designers complete with their patter of indecipherable goodspeak jargon and institutional enthusiasm/fake-joy to give the outside world the probably rather false impression that their company is a derring-do rebellious young person’s exciting car company. Lookit that X4! What a beaut! Now let’s set the world on fire with the new Z4!

    Said no one.

    The current vogue for corporate-taste-bounded vaguely vulgar styling is assisted by the Plastic Phantastic Moulding Man. This genius is responsible for the possibility of a great deal of the styling of the car via front and rear fascia/bumper covers. Upon their 3D form, all sorts of fantasies are possible, at the front faux air intakes morphing into inlets supplying cubic acres of reluctant air into the nuclear-assisted jet turbine powerplant powering the infotainment screen and USB ports; at the rear half-fishtail cross-section exhaust ports at the width extremities wherein red glowing lights are inserted to gleam and emulate the best ’50’s era comics spaceship rocket effluent nozzle at full chat. But now neater, more defined, more artificially real. In actuality deep inside the beast lie beating pistons, the dirty oily bits covered up by styled plastic covers implying va-va-voom of unimaginable force and ferocity. “Now where’s the wiper fluid bottle snap-off cover, Fred? At least it’s real. Must be here somewhere. They banned the dipstick, but added fake F1 sounds in the cockpit to compensate.”

    Whereas styling was once an integral part of design when cars were all metal, current efforts are not much more definitive than the colour paper wrappers on a Heinz Beanz tin, superficial to both the container and its contents except in a branding way. A design impasse has occurred. And has been that way for 60 years. No longer is a bonnet in relation to the powerplant length, for many engines lie sideways. People take up pretty much the same space as always and you have to have a boot of some kind for some minor convenience to the driver and occupant(s). Not for us today even the 4-inch wheelbase difference Ford felt compelled to engineer and pay for to give us a way to distinguish a Consul from a Zephyr in the 1950s, four or six cylinder. Or even the smooth MGA skin enclosing antediluvian mechanicals. At least then some styling was a disguise for the failings of the mechanical bits beneath. No more. The styling is pure wrapper.

    Take this new Z4. Some bored chap drew the basic shape to have a certain ground clearance, width and height to accomodate the engine and seats and crash crush depths. Turns out that the basic sports car proportion hasn’t changed much in profile for decades either, so that was a day’s work at best. Such a car has a pleasing overall shape in any case, but plain beauty was done and defined by the E-Type. So now it’s time to sculp the bejesus out of it, adding creases, scoops, excresences, front wheel vents, any excuse for an extra detail of no validity. It’s just design by a numbered rules book. The review committee ponders how “wild” to let it be with no wit or understanding of basic form. Just another project where years were spent pondering how the light fell on the bulges and scoops rather than refining overall shape. Finally one day, all tired out, they’d all had enough beating around the bush, signed off on the production moulds and dies, and abracadabra the result is one ersatz sports car, a modern chicory coffee, now sitting forlornly on a dais at the grand intro, its abject awkwardness radiating blushing shame, all its proportions slightly off and not really blending together, trying to divert attention from form with geegaws and bulges. Really, is this the best BMW can do? Dull at heart. Mechanical. Onlookers titter nervously, some professing to like the result, others not so sure, but no one is really knocked out one way or the other. It’s a product, it’s well-made by Magna, we all had hoped for design greatness to unite positive responses but … it’s not a total dud to peer at, just 60 % of the way there. It won’t sell; nobody will lock one away in an old barn on purpose to be discovered in 2075 as a classic. The Louvre, which once exhibited the original Range Rover as an industrial objet d’art, does not have BMW Corporate on speed dial slavering after a Z4.

    I’d bet there’ll be a lot more passion but perhaps even less taste in the Toyota Supra version. A double-bubble roof is a Japanese imperative. No simple solid 1992 Supra look. But at least they have a clue what they want since they have a sense of their own history. BMW open two-seaters – there never was a really decent one since WWII anyway. It’s a tin-top outfit. The M1 proved that.

    Mercedes has gone flavour-of-the-month with breathless and deathless fulminations from a design chief who admits to being a genius; Audi stylists have tentatively added a minor curve to front and rear wings, cued an awkward bonnet cutline, lathered on a bit of brightwork, and have made the RS5 into a double-price Honda Accord but with liftback rather than bootlid and a honking Porsche turbo V6 to make it worth the money. The result is ungainly in both cases. These longroof four door saloons are getting a bit dowdy looking, and the simple German revisionist stab at labelling such a four door a coupe is not acceptable nor does it disguise what the car really is – yet another well-made nonentity, the metalwork itself not of discernibly greater quality than any Hyundai. Just better paint and flashier interiors with gauche diamond-quilted leather. I know everytime I gaze upon diamond-quilting, my mind thinks of nothing but luxury, gold brocade, tassels, fine wine and caviar hors d’oeuvres, never of excessive detailing for the mere sake of it. No sir. it’s premium, that’s what it is.

    These people running German ostensibly luxury premium carmakers have all got to pull themselves up by their bootstraps before they become irrelevant. A Q5 is not a design statement, it’s toothy box. The Z4 is a half-baked turkey, the CLS a ponderous ground-pounder rather ungainly in profile. Maybe it’s the times, maybe it’s the rush to collect data so we can all sell knick-knacks or Puty sarnies to each other with cheap omnipresent targeted advertising popping up on nav screens, maybe it’s trying to design autonomous cars that so far are utterly useless according to recent IIHS tests in the US with BMW lagging even at that, or trying to make decent EVs, but I get the impression German premium carmakers are thoroughly exhausted. Bereft of lasting solid vision, just hoping for the best. Now it’s just a mere tedious job to work at one of them, not very exciting and certainly not much fun due to the perceived commercial imperative of consistent profit margins and ROI through volume. Frankly a Tesla Model S or Model 3 looks far better than any current BMW; St Elon can’t afford to have dozens of people standing around getting in the way adding useless detail.

    BMW design is adrift. The A Class hatch Hyundai copy and Polo show the other Germans queuing up to join them.

    1. Bill, a beautifully articulated, brilliant excoriation of the bankrupt design ethics of the German “premium” trio. Thank you for a great read.

  9. It’s interesting to contrast the design (or should I say styling?) antics of the German big premium three with Porsche, so often criticised for its very conservative, evolutionary approach to design. (“Nothing to see here, move on!”) I have to declare an interest here as I’m on my second Boxster, a 981, following six very happy years with a 987.

    The Boxster’s design is the very antithesis of its supposed competitors, the SLC and Z4. There is absolutely nothing in the design that is superfluous or fake: the front grilles provide cooling for the radiators and air-con condensers, the side ducts are the engine air intakes. It’s stance and proportions are a perfect representation of its mid-engined layout. It is not an “aggressive ” design, but is entirely purposeful. Likewise the 911.

    The first generation Panamera was a bit of a miss, with its odd “hunchback” but the second generation model is better, particularly the Sport Turismo version.

    SUVs are always a more difficult proposition because of their sheer bulk, but Porsche makes one of the better stabs at it. The Macan is almost pretty and even the Cayenne is more honest than most, making little attempt to disguise its bulk with multiple slashes and creases, unlike its competitors.

    Porsche have also been criticised for attempting to apply the same design language it has evolved for its sports cars to its SUVs, but what’s the alternative? Actually, there is an alternative: the Volvo XC90 and XC60 show that SUVs don’t always have to look like props from a dystopian sci-fi movie.

    1. The perception of consistency is very much down to the quality of its execution.

      The Sacco-era VHHA Mercedes models were obviously cut from the same cloth, just as pre-Bangle BMWs were. In either case, one might accuse the resultant range as ‘boring’, but not as poorly designed at all.

      Porsche’s expansion beyond sports cars always involved referencing certain brand style cues (soft surfacing, DLO & headlight shapes), but that didn’t prevent the first Cayenne and Panamera from turning out to be very lacklustre pieces of design. In contrast, the most recent models (developed when a certain Matthias Müller was in charge of Zuffenhausen’s fortunes, incidentally) employ the exact same approach, but in far more competent a manner – one only needs to compare each generation of Panamera with one another, or an early Cayenne with the Macan.

      Conservatism is not an issue in itself. Lazily implemented ‘traditionalism’ is.

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