A big part of Cadillac’s planned turnaround is appealing to a younger audience. As Forbes pointed out last week, the brand is still associated with the company that built Grandpa’s luxobarge in the eyes of many buyers under 30. That’s where brand manager Melody Lee comes in. The 33-year old falls into the oldest demographic of the ‘Millenial’ generation, and she’s confident she knows what they want.
As brand manager, Lee is responsible for changing the way consumers perceive the historic luxury brand. She admitted to Fortune in a recent interview she never would have considered buying a Cadillac before joining the company in 2012, but that makes her even better suited for changing its perception.
“We want to be a global luxury brand that happens to sell cars. We don’t want to be an automotive brand,” Lee said. “There is nothing that exciting about an ad with a car in it by itself. We need to start injecting more humanity into our brand and into our advertising.”
Lee wants to get consumers to “reimagine” what the average Cadillac buyer might look or act like. Efforts like putting a 2015 Escalade in window of Saks Fifth Avevue in New York last Christmas represent this sentiment. Women, who have a large amount influence in car buying decision, may begin to picture an Escalade buyer differently after seeing it a retail setting, rather than on an auto show or dealership floor. The same can be said for Cadillac’s fashion week efforts.
Lee also feels the need for Cadillac’s move from General Motors’ headquarters in Detroit to a new office in New York City. She said the office, located in trendy SoHo, will be used as a recruitment tool as much as anything else. She wants great minds to work for her, and moving to New York will help attract them.
“Physical separation from Detroit was necessary for us,” Lee said. “If we are going to truly be a global luxury brand, we need to distance ourselves a little bit from our mothership. Everyone in New York is always just a little bit ahead of everyone else and we need to be the brand that stands for that.”
In short, Lee is focused on getting the Cadillac crest to come to mind when younger buyers think of trendy car brands. She appears to understand how most consumers buy cars. Many, but not all, car shoppers may buy a car based on the badge, not on how good the car may or may not be.
“I don’t buy products, I buy brands,” she told Fortune. “I don’t use Apple computers because they are the best computers, I use them because Apple is cool. We need to show drivers what the Cadillac lifestyle is all about.”