The luxury automotive space is a crowded one. Dozens of brands compete every single day for consumers to buy into a message that resonates with them personally and portrays exclusivity in the finest of ways. There’s no denying that, over the past decade and beyond, Cadillac saw a fall from grace, in this respect.
But the latest Cadillac marketing team aims to change that, and place the brand in a position to once again redefine what it means to own a Cadillac. That’s more apparent than ever with the brand’s latest suite of advertising, which debuted during the 89th Oscars. So, we spoke with Cadillac Brand Marketing Director Melody Lee to sort out what “Dare Greatly” really means, how it has been executed and where Cadillac’s message goes from here.
GM Authority: There was a line I thought resonated really well when stating, “Intermission is over” in the “Pedestal” spot. How quickly is Cadillac going to hit the ground running? Is it going to be a rapid fire of product or are you going to continue building on this latest brand message?
Melody Lee: Well, as you know, we don’t have any product news this year. Starting next year, we will. I think you’re going to continue seeing a brand building message because we know job number one is to build an emotional resonance to the brand that people will spark to. We need that next generation of luxury consumers to say, “Hey, there’s something going on at Cadillac and maybe it is a brand for me.” So when the products start to come out in 2018 (these consumers) are primed and ready as luxury car buyers to come to the brand.
I think this is the big task of brand building that’s going to happen in 2017 and why you see in “Pioneers”, “Pedestal” and even “CTS-V” that the message is very much about how forward looking this brand is because we need people to be surprised in all of the best ways and be very optimistic about it.
GMA: What are some of the fastest growing demographics for Cadillac?
ML: Well, I can tell you that we’ve been able to shift our customers in both affluence and age at a rate that’s greater than even our German competitors. We’ve been watching our buyer get younger as well as wealthier, which is the exact direction we’re trying to go. I believe the only other brand that has had a similar amount of progress is Volvo.
So, we’re definitely seeing shifts as a result of a comprehensive amount of work going on at the brand. But not just in marketing and communications, because we know that advertising alone is not going to solve all of our challenges. It’s because of all of our work at the dealership level with Project Pinnacle, Dare Greatly, efforts to improve residual values and our products being in the right segment at the right time.
All of this taken together holistically is really starting to pay off for the brand.
GMA: When I saw “Pioneers”, it felt like Cadillac had found its voice. I also remember seeing the very first rollout of “Dare Greatly” and also felt it had a lot of potential, but was met with silence as time went on.
ML: Believe it or not, it’s all a very deliberate strategy. We executed it with a lot of discipline and we really felt we needed to take the time to establish “Dare Greatly” in the marketplace for it to be recognized, memorable and associated with the brand. Really for people to grasp it as our guiding principle. We knew we had an opportunity this year to answer the question: how does this all come to life for Cadillac?
*laughs* We appreciate the patience on behalf of all the people that follow us because I think it’s a manifestation of not only how much people love this brand but are rooting for it.
GMA: There’s been a lot of talk about how Cadillac is not another alternative or that it isn’t just another German luxury brand. What makes Cadillac so quintessentially American? Whether that’s in the branding, product, design.
ML: There are so many ways to answer… But I think from a design standpoint, Cadillacs are so distinctive. If you’re driving down the road at night and you look behind you, you can immediately tell it’s a Cadillac, or if you’re behind a Cadillac with the design of the head and taillamps. I love that about the design. Some call it polarizing, but I call it distinct. I love the fact you know exactly what you’re looking at. I think that’s a very American hallmark, that kind of individualistic expression of self.
In terms of the communications and experience, I think the thing that sets Cadillac apart is that emotionally focused trait. I think the design of the cars, the way they make you feel, the fact we still make driver-focused cars is all around this notion of passion. It’s what people feel that work on this brand and pour into it is what you should feel as the end result as the driver in our cars.
While our competitors really stand out on technology and engineering prowess, we have those things, but we think we can differentiate because of the way it makes you feel.
GMA: Do you feel you and the marketing team as a whole have begun to accomplish what you set out to do? That is, talk about the brand itself.
ML: Yeah, I really do think so. We just posted the best global sales since 1986. Globally, we’re really starting to build this brand and take it into the places that we wanted.
I acknowledge in the first two years of launching “Dare Greatly” there was a lot of curiosity about where we were going to go next. I would even take it as far as impatience. Because I think people were like, “What are they doing? Where are they going to go with this Dare Greatly platform? How does it apply to the brand and products?”
We not only heard that, but it was always a part of our strategy to create intrigue and get people talking about the brand in the first couple of years. And this year we really answer the question of “what is Dare Greatly and how does it apply to Cadillac?”
That’s what you see with “Pioneers”, “Carry”, “Pedestal” and “CTS-V”. This is Cadillac, and this is what daring greatly means.
GMA: Where does “Dare Greatly” go from here? Should we expect more of a “Pioneers” tone or will we see something like “Don’t You Dare” from last year’s Oscars again?
ML: I think now that we’ve turned the spotlight back on us, and we’ve made Cadillac the hero of the story, we will continue to do that. How it manifests itself in creative remains to be seen. It’s a long process, but we have to be very responsive.
I think the same thing holds true this year, as it will for years in the future, that you’ve got to balance the short term and the long term. We’ve got to meet our business objectives, sell cars and build volume while balancing this long-term brand building effort. No matter what, to bring new people to this brand, we’ve got to continue sparking curiosity, spark fascination and pull them in via emotion to make them believe Cadillac is a brand for them. In order to do that, we’ve got to balance between brand and product messages.
At the same time, those two are not mutually exclusive, which you see in “Pioneers.” You can tell a beautiful story that celebrates our heritage and what we’ve always stood for and still really feature the beauty and substance of our products today. We will always try to thread that needle very carefully.
I think now that you’ve seen our ability to push into this territory we’re going to remain there.
GMA: What does “daring greatly” mean to you personally?
ML: *laughs* Wow, that’s such a good question. That’s the first time anybody has asked me that. What it means to me is that it’s a permission to take the right risks. I think it’s an understanding that risk is part of the journey of life and that failure sometimes does happen. But, you’ve got to get back up, continue to innovate and find new ways in. That’s what it means to me. I think it’s a uniquely American thing, but has also been embraced by a lot of other countries in the world.
If you believe that the best is yet to come, if you believe that things can always get better, if you think that the future is brighter, that allows you a certain degree of taking risks and trying things and then trying them again.
Again, I think that’s such a hallmark of the American dream, right? For me, as a child of immigrants, that really resonates with me as well, whether it’s at Cadillac or in my personal life.