BMW; The Beamer And Its Badge

The new kidney grille isn’t the most controversial part of a BMW, surprisingly

Call it a Beemer, Beamer, or a Bimmer; the instant recognizability of a BMW car is a certainty, whether it’s because of its unique logo or the… ‘unique’ kidney grille design of its new 4 Series model. Focusing on the former (for a good reason), unlike a raging bull or a prancing horse, the German marque has taken a more subtle, understated approach with its badging. But why? Let’s find out.

A Brand Without A Badge

Use it for your next trivia night, but the beginnings of BMW— the Bayerische Motoren Werke or Bavarian Motor Works—started without ever needing a logo. Previously called Rapp Motorenwerke, the company made its fortune manufacturing aircraft engines, a field that didn’t necessarily care about the gradient of red on your logo. Call it either German humour or efficiency; even in 1917, when the name was changed to what we know today, there was still no company logo or symbolism.

“In the early days, the logo and its meaning were by no means as present to a broad public as they are today, as BMW had no end customers to solicit,” explains Fred Jakobs, Archive Director, BMW Group Classic, adding, “The main business was the production and maintenance of aircraft engines for the German Air Force.”

A Change In Tide

In the same year, on October 5th, 1917, after their first commercial was already out, the firm did end up registering a company logo with the German Imperial Register of Trademarks. Their submission? A round shape reminiscent of the old Rapp logo, with the outer rings of the symbol now bounded by two gold lines and bearing the letters ‘BMW.’ Inside the circle and placed in the quarters were the state colours of the State of Bavaria – white and blue. However, they were arranged in inverse order due to a local trademark law that forbade the use of state coats of arms or other symbols of sovereignty on commercial logos.

More than a decade later though, things had changed. The world was going through a global economic crisis. In a bid to promote its aircraft engines during a time of crunch, BMW released an ad that showed an aeroplane with the BMW logo in the rotating propeller, with the intention of advertising its roots and expertise in aircraft construction. However, owing to the firm’s history of making plane engines, the popular assumption came out that the logo was actually inspired by the rotating propellers.

An Almost 100-Year-Old Myth, Busted

The myth became so popular that even BMW cashed in on it, with an article that appeared in a BMW publication called “Flugmotoren-Nachrichten” (Aircraft Engine News), which stated that the BMW badge was, in fact, a rotating propeller, with the illustration of the story showing a photo of the BMW logo overlaid on a rotating propeller.

“For a long time, BMW made little effort to correct the myth that the BMW badge is a propeller,” says Jakobs, explaining, “This interpretation has been commonplace for 90 years, so in the meantime, it has acquired a certain justification.” It should be noted that it wasn’t until 2020 that the company officially busted the myth, with Jens Thiemer, Senior Vice President of Customer & Brand BMW, stating that “the timing was right to dispel the unchallenged legend, as the company’s aiming for more clarity and openness.”

A Subtle( boring?) Approach

Regardless of its origin, the logo itself has seen extremely minor revisions over the years, with the shades in the logo periodically changing, sometimes opting for less saturation or more. Yes, there have been times when the company did experiment with its looks, 1970 – 1989 one in particular, which showed the official emblem being placed in the middle of a bigger circle, surrounded by thick lines in different shades of blue, white, and pink. However, they’ve never stuck around to make a memorable difference. But again, why fix something that’s not broken, right?

Image Credits – BMW

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