Cadillac was once a top end car, but now their brand is slipping away from them. Cadillac executives are taking a huge risk in the branding campaign that is illustrated in the first TV ads for their new “Dare Greatly” positioning. They will air Sunday night during The Oscars telecast on ABC, and General Motors GM -0.13% is hoping they score the kind of emotional connection with viewers that was achieved by Chrysler in 2011 when that brand telecast its now-iconic two-minute commercial starring Eminem during the Super Bowl. That ad, titled by insiders “Born Of Fire,” catapulted Chrysler into its new “Imported From Detroit” identity, and the brand has never looked back.
Certainly the moment could be that big for Cadillac, CMO Uwe Ellinghaus and even CEO Johan de Nysschen. They have reached an important intersection in their efforts to turn around the General Motors luxury brand, whose U.S. sales trailed off by 6 percent last year amid an overall market — and, especially, a luxury segment — that was up strongly. In the wake of some price cuts on its vaunted sedans, and with the the lack of a compact sport-utility vehicle leaving a gaping hole in its product lineup, right now Cadillac hugely needs to redefine its brand in a way that stands out.
“The Cadillac brand needed to change,” Ellinghaus told me. “We’ve lost some of our old customers and we’re not conquesting enough new customers — because we lack relevance. We need to have a new point of view to show why we’re relevant and to get across how much Cadillac has changed. You can’t just put product — even great product, which we have — in front of people. If the brand isn’t relevant, people don’t care.”
But as admirable and out of traditional character as this bit of risk-taking might be for Cadillac, even to “Dare Greatly” alone won’t cut it; Cadillac needs to succeed greatly with this effort. The brand has been in tatters for a while. Cadillac owners, dealers, GM executives and third-party arbiters have agreed that its sedan lineup comprises the best the brand has ever had, and an expanding line of “V” super-charged versions is enhancing the credibility of that assessment. Meanwhile, on the large-SUV front, Cadillac is selling every Escalade it can make.
Fortunately for Cadillac, the actual merits of its vehicles add up to a huge advantage enjoyed by the brand as it nears its moment of reckoning in the 87th Annual Academy Awards broadcast this weekend, compared with the threadbare lineup that afflicted the Chrysler brand when Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and CMO Olivier Francois took a huge gamble on brand elevation with the “Imported From Detroit” campaign.
And Cadillac will be unveiling its new top-end CT6 sedan at the New York auto show in a few weeks, the first fruits of a $12-billion commitment to new products — including a hurry-up small utility — that de Nysschen managed to secure from GM CEO Mary Barra. Will this be enough?
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