Don’t like our new design? Whatever…
Ten years have elapsed since actor, Russell Crowe was carrying out his contractual media duties on BBC’s Radio 4 to promote Ridley Scott’s feature film adaptation of Robin Hood. The notoriously thin-skinned Australian leading man, when challenged by the broadcaster’s Arts Correspondent, Dominic Lawson about the somewhat wonky Yorkshire accent in his portrayal of the folk hero (which critics characterised as sounding more akin to Irish), replied with the following immortal line; “You’ve got dead ears mate. You’ve seriously got dead ears if you think that’s an Irish accent.”
When Lawson then equivocated, suggesting there were perhaps, “Hints of …“, Crowe immediately countered with, “Bollocks! I’m a little dumbfounded you could possibly find any Irish in that character. That’s kind of ridiculous… It’s your show. Whatever.” Attempting to remedy the situation, Lawson then suggested, “You’re going for northern English?“, only for Crowe to sneer: “No, I was going for an Italian, yeah. Missed it?”
Petulant? Absolutely. Graceless? Some might argue that a lack of grace is Mr. Crowe’s stock in trade (I couldn’t possibly comment). But nonetheless, the interview, which promptly went global did wonders for box office takings of a movie widely considered being at best, mediocre; illustrating, as if we needed reminding, that all publicity is good publicity.
A matter which doesn’t appear to have been lost on BMW’s PR department following the recent (rather bruising) debut of their near-production iX electric crossover. Regular readers might ask how we could possibly have missed reporting on this latest confection from the van Hoydoonk dream factory, but frankly, I rather felt at the time that the sorry looking device was beneath our (although sadly not their) dignity, and I have yet to alter that view. Hence it rather pains me to be talking about it today, but I do feel that there is at least one aspect of this announcement that is worthy of comment.
To say the BMW iX’s exterior styling has been poorly received is something of an understatement. Coming swiftly on the heels of the howls of dismay issued forth from aficionados of the Vierzylinder in the wake of more recent product actions, the much ballyhooed iX, the near-production version of the 2018 i-Next concept, no matter how vehemently BMW might wish to convince us otherwise, is a rather poor show.
But rather than take the widespread criticism on the chin, BMW’s PR have gone on the offensive, countering social media critics, virtually one by one, and to all intents and purposes, giving it the full Russell Crowe treatment. In a short promotional spot for the car, BMW employ allegedly verbatim social media criticism of the design as a means of meeting their critics head-on, flagging up statements like “Let me unsee this“, or “Go back to making BMWs”
Meanwhile an earnest male voiceover enquires, “Did we somehow start to feel uncomfortable with the unknown … or have we stopped being open for anything new?“, before prattling on about comfort zones, simplicity and self awareness, (I lost concentration at this point, so I may have become confused) before offering up the clincher: “What’s your reason not to change?” Or to put it another way, it’s not our fault you don’t like it Grandad, it’s yours.
Meanwhile of course, what everyone (BMW included) is getting worked up about is that Grille (it isn’t really a grille, but anyway); BMW because it realises it has a job on its hands to convince the enthusiast base to accept it, and everyone else because, well, they have eyes (even dead ones). But let’s be honest, that grille is something of a McGuffin here. The real issue is that the iX is basically a rather undistinguished, carelessly proportioned and detailed electric crossover with a good deal of applied garnish, masquerading as something new, progressive – daring even. But it’s nothing of the sort, and what’s more, you don’t need dead eyes to recognise that.
But in a similar same way as the media furore over Mr. Crowe’s wayward Yorkshish accent overshadowed the fact that Mr. Scott’s movie wasn’t all that great, perhaps the hysteria over the iX (and that nose) has redirected our gaze, away from the broader, less comfortable truths about BMW’s current design capabilities – or indeed its communication strategy. For if the iX grille can be read as Russell’s interpretation, both overall design and messaging stand as metaphors for the movie itself. Simply second rate.