BMW Defends That Huge Grille Again Because BMW Doesn’t Care What You Think

BMW Head Designer Domagoj Dukec degends the oversize grille while insisting BMW doesn't pay attention to criticism 1 photo
Photo: Esquire Magazine
BMW’s approach to ongoing criticism of the 4-Series design is either the sum of all contradictions or the most misguided attempt at saving face in the last hour.
For quite some time, BMW has been at the center of the storm – of the worst kind: an online media storm. It clearly loves the huge, bucktoothed grille of the 4-Series, and it’s willing to defend it even if that means insulting and alienating its own customer base and longtime supporters. One way of doing that is by saying it doesn’t care about what people are saying online, because why should it lend an ear to haters and hobbyist detractors.

For a carmaker that doesn’t care about criticism, valid or not, BMW sure does spend an inordinate amount of time defending itself and its choices. Thou doth protest too much, as Shakespeare used to say.

Just last week, Domagoj Dukec, Head Designer at BMW, spoke to Top Gear about the giant grille and how, strangely enough, BMW was not in the business of pleasing people. That statement might seem strange for a carmaker which, by definition, relies on people’s desires and needs to be met with a product in order to survive, but there was a twist. According to Dukec, even if 80 percent of people said the giant grille sucked, 20 percent liked it. And it was these 20 percent that fit “the type of customers we are targeting.”

Dukec also sat down for a chat with this month’s issue of Esquire magazine, and this time, he’s trying a different approach: only subverters ever have a chance at shaking things up, he says. The fact that a car designer would speak to a men’s publication is, in itself, telling. Esquire is more pop culture-oriented than an automotive magazine, so it’s almost like BMW is trying to explain itself to the very people it’s choosing to ignore. While still saying that it doesn’t care for their (probably valid) criticism.

The comparisons are more pop culture, too. Karl Lagerfeld never cared an iota about his detractors, and look what he did with Chanel. The same goes for Marc Jacobs, back in his Louis Vuitton days. Only subverters have a chance at succeeding in their respective industries, as long as they’re able to combine a brand’s heritage with their own groundbreaking visions.

That is where Dukec sees himself. In fact, he admits Lagerfeld is somewhat of a personal idol of his.

Design is all relative, he explains. Much like the concept of “beautiful.” Can you dismiss a woman as not beautiful just because her nose isn’t typically beautiful? Sophia Loren, who was once told she could kiss an acting career goodbye if she didn’t get a nose job, would beg to differ.

Don’t judge a book by its cover and a BMW by its massive grille is the takeaway from this brief chat.

“It makes me wonder, in a way, how people are so superficial that they judge on one detail,” Dukec explains. “You wouldn’t say to a chef, ‘Okay, this three-course menu is great, but what is your favorite ingredient?’ Salt is just salt; a tomato is just a tomato. It’s really the composition of all the ingredients that is important.”

“Good design is not about pretty or ugly. These things are subjective. What is pretty? You will never design anything that 100% of people will like. It’s not possible, because people have such different tastes and needs. So it’s not about taste, but about gauging what a customer actually desires, or what they could desire in the future,”
he adds.

One could almost make the argument that Dukec is saying people will learn to love the giant grille because BMW created it. This is a common approach in marketing: you create a false need and address it with an existing product. But the bottom line with BMW is, as Dukec himself pointed out, the overwhelming majority of “people” hate it. Eighty percent of “people” means very few actually like it, and too many can’t ever imagine a future in which they might grow to like it.

Add to this the OK Boomer controversy and other misguided moves from the marketing team, and you get the most confusing – and strangely entertaining – marketing campaigns of recent times. Uncle Karl would be proud.
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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