Dare Greatly, But Don't Be Pepsi, Says Cadillac
Days after Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner “protest” ad went flat, a brand marketing leader from Cadillac said she wouldn’t take a chance on making the much-lauded #DareGreatly commercials now, because they would seem tone-deaf.
In order to have the brand success Cadillac had with its 2017 Oscars commercial in February, the 115-year-old auto manufacturer had to match its iconic American brand with the pulse of its audience — which was very attuned to the political climate post-Inauguration — and created ads that were “culturally relevant at that time,” said Melody Lee, the brand marketing director for Cadillac. She was speaking on April 12 during MediaPost’s Marketing Automotive Conference at the New York Auto Show.
The result of that research and daring created an ad that aired during the Oscars and, after being published on Feb. 23, had more than 5 million views on YouTube alone as of Wednesday afternoon. Pepsi pulled its ad down last month.
Researching American Love of the Cadillac Brand
“We've had the privilege to carry a century of humanity,” Cadillac writes in the YouTube description of its 2017 Oscars ad, which was part of the #DareGreatly campaign. “But maybe what we carry isn’t just people, it's an idea: that while we're not the same, we can be one. All it takes is the willingness to dare.”
The commercial shows a cross-section of America, as well as iconic imagery from the brand’s heyday in the ’50s and ’60s — when driving a Cadillac showed its owner had achieved the American Dream.
“Cadillac’s a part of culture … in a way that’s really rich,” Lee said during the conference keynote interview, “Cadillac Dares Greatly With New Marketing Offerings.”
She joked that Cadillac’s part of American hit songs, but she doesn’t remember any about BMW.
Lee said the current branding efforts, from the #DareGreatly campaign to the New York headquarters showroom transformed into an art/working/fashion space called “Cadillac House,” are aimed at restoring Cadillac to tip-of-the-tongue status. While Cadillac will continue to cater to Baby Boomer luxury car buffs, it’s adding in long-term efforts to much younger consumers — many of whom may not yet be able to afford to buy the cars outright.
“Really,” she said, “without any risk, we don’t believe there’s any reward.”
At the same time as brands are provocative, they have to remember that they can’t bridge political divides. So even though the #DareGreatly commercial was about unity, it got angry reactions. Such is the nature of relevance.
Bringing a brand back to its height takes at least a decade of a lot of hard work and consistency, she noted, adding that she comes from a crisis communications background.
“You’re not going to turn the brand around overnight,” Lee said.
Auto Marketing Dares Greatly
Brand marketing needs to be relevant to resonate, Lee said.
So for long-term brand-building, Cadillac wants to attract younger drivers? Dare greatly, she said.
In January, the brand announced “BOOK by Cadillac,” a pilot “subscription service” program in New York aimed at sharing-economy Gen Xers and Millennials.
After they join for $500, members can pay for just one month — $1,500 — for use of white-glove-concierge-delivered-and-retrieved Cadillacs. They then have “app-enabled on-demand access to the latest premium trim Cadillac models to keep in their possession” once the beta program goes live, the BOOK press release says.
As of April 12, Lee said PR and earned media-only efforts had already gotten the pilot program 7,000 wait-listed members, 90 percent of whom had never owned a Cadillac.
Lee said the idea is not to eliminate tradition, but enhance it.
“I think the love of driving is a very uniquely American thing,” she said.
And that won’t go away in the sharing economy or with self-driving cars, Lee added.
What do you think, marketers?
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Related story: Pepsi ‘Missed the Mark’ in Protest Ad