Let’s face it: American car manufacturers are in a major funk, and have been for some time. Cadillac, though, has been a bright spot. Talk about an iconic American brand that had been dying a slow, dignified death for the past few decades… only to make a dramatic U-turn at the dawn of the new millennium! Wow!
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The Institute for International Research (IIR) puts on some excellent marketing conferences. THE Conference on Marketing was held March 19-21 in Las Vegas. A great line-up of presenters spoke on diverse marketing topics. What especially caught my eye was the presentation by Elisabeth Vanzura, Global Marketing Director of GM’s Cadillac division: “Re-Igniting America’s Love Affair with Cadillac.”
Let’s face it: American car manufacturers are in a major funk, and have been for some time. Cadillac, though, has been a bright spot. Talk about an iconic American brand that had been dying a slow, dignified death for the past few decades… only to make a dramatic U-turn at the dawn of the new millennium! Wow! Cadillac knew it had something when it launched the edgy, urban Escalade and decided to choose Led Zeppelin’s music to advertise it to the American public. This wasn’t your granddaddy’s Cadillac!
While sales of the luxury brand are still sluggish, and many still have a stodgy brand image of the old Cadillac firmly implanted in their heads, progress has been made. The latest ad campaign, rolled out by Boston-based Modernista advertising agency, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit. . .” is all about capturing “an American spirit we have in our heritage, and the brand, but without flag-waving,” according to Ms. Vanzura.
The ads themselves feature Cadillac’s new target audience, whom Vanzura describes as “Alpha Males” and “Hot Mamas.” Obviously, she’s alluding to mature (not old) men who have made it and moms in their mid-thirties and up, who want to leave the family van behind, in favor of something more zippy and upscale.
Regardless, Cadillac has a tall order in front of it. While a venerable brand with a story; or as Gary Koepke of Modernista puts it: “. . . everyone has a Cadillac story to tell. The brand is ingrained within our culture. We’re looking to capture that optimistic, can-do American spirit. . .” it remains to be seen whether Cadillac can compete for the American luxury car buyers’ dollars with BMW, Lexus and Mercedes.
Vanzura herself discussed how Cadillac’s new marketing approach is directly aimed at attracting younger consumers, increasing its share of “conquest” buyers (read: the “I’ve made it” crowd), and improving the brand’s image attributes. Having proved herself with the Hummer brand, I wouldn’t bet against Elisabeth Vanzura.
Having said that, I have to acknowledge the huge challenge she’s taken on. It can take a long time to resurrect a dying brand. Yet, there’s something that’s so fundamental, that goes right to the core when it comes to “life, liberty and the pursuit”… .