Trendsetter Masthead

Lee Nadler

Lee Nadler

Like us on Facebook

See the current issue
of The Internationalist magazine

Find out how to sponsor an issue of Trendsetters

Trendsetters: MINI's Lee Nadler Discusses How Passion Creates a Successful Brand

Lee Nadler, Marketing Communications Manager for MINI USA, often jokes that MINI is the only car that comes standard with friends. Although it may sound like a simple statement, or perhaps understatement in typical MINI fashion, Lee is making a significant point about the mindset and passion of MINI owners--especially when many fondly refer to themselves as "MINIacs." (MINI enthusiasts have a deep emotional connection with their cars; roughly half admit to naming the vehicle.)

What brand wouldn't want this level of involvement?

In fact, MINI repeatedly proves how its devotees see fellow owners as "extended family." Central to the MINI ethos is a strong emphasis on engagement with owners and on its motoring community. In fact, just this summer, the entire MINI USA executive team, most with their families, along with legions of passionate owners, embarked on an amazing motoring adventure called MINI TAKES THE STATES, a biennial event that the company has run since 2006. For two weeks (July 26-August 9), MINI owners from around the world participated in a truly epic transcontinental road rally from San Francisco to Boston with stops in 18 cities over the course of 15 days.

MINI owners and rally participants are passionate--to the point, for example, that they've convinced their entire running club to buy the cars. Some are in owner clubs, like the MINIskirts, with chapters around the world and a devotion to raising money for various causes.

Lee Nadler is responsible for managing unique, multichannel, MINIcentric marketing programs in the US. He'd also be the first to admit that a large part of his role is to incite passion, particularly through the company's content strategy, called "MINI as MEDIA," which continuously connects with MINI owners in relevant ways through experiential and social media.

Consequently, everything at MINI begins with investing in the relationship with its owners and recognizing that people who do own a MINI have a true personal connection with their car and the brand. When speaking earlier this summer in Southern California at the ANA's 2014 Digital & Social Media Conference, Lee asked a marketer audience, "How many of your customers would have the kind of relationship with your product or service where they would actually name it or invite it into their life in some special way?" He adds, "We don't take it for granted. Such loyalty is among our greatest brand values."

As a result, MINI invites people to share their voice and their stories. Concurrently, the company strives to listen, learn and communicate with a brand voice that is distinctly MINI. Nadler admits, "Being connected to our owners keeps us on our toes."

One example of listening and leveraging its customer enthusiasm resulted in the 2014 Cooper Hardtop. Lee tells the story of a competition that asked MINI owners to not only customize the Cooper Hardtop design online, but also recommend ways the car could be tested prior to its launch. In other words, before MINI would officially introduce the car--and before dealers get to drive it--they would ask owners to test it. "This strategy," he said, "represents a huge departure. Traditionally, a new car is brought to the dealers. It's brought to the auto shows. There's a press event. Dealers have a party to invite current owners and new prospects. But MINI has brand love, and we put owners first."

Lee Nadler is a member of THE INTERNATIONALIST 1000: Marketers Around the World Reshaping the Future of Marketing. He is also a chapter contributor in the upcoming book, The Reinvention of Marketing, to debut this fall, published by The Internationalist Press with the ANA.

Beyond his functional expertise, Lee has gained a unique perspective by learning from Sherpas, on two trips to the Himalayas, including a month long trek to Mt. Everest in 2012. Their principles have become Lee Nadler's guideposts. He maintains a blog at