Escalade’s Great Dare: 5 Questions with Cadillac CMO Uwe Ellinghaus

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Cadillac Escalade The Herd

Cadillac is gearing up for the most exciting product news it’s had in a long time, as it prepares to launch its all-new sedan with all-new nomenclature, the CT6, early next year.

But in the meantime, the GM luxury brand is backing its best-selling vehicle, the Escalade SUV, with a new TV advertising campaign during the holidays. The 30-second spot, titled “The Herd,” finally places Cadillac’s huge-selling SUV in the context of the brand’s “Dare Greatly” brand repositioning that began earlier this year in an effort to get luxury buyers to think differently about the traditional premium automotive brand.

The Escalade ad, for instance, puts the vehicle on the same New York City streets that have served as the backdrop for the other elements in the brand’s Dare Greatly campaign, while at the same time referencing the flashy exterior design and lush interior amenities that have kept it growing as a robust sub-brand even though sales of Cadillac sedans have fallen off over the past couple of years.

Cadillac famously, of course, moved its sales and marketing headquarters to Manhattan this year from Detroit.

“The current Escalade has a beautifully crafted style that lends it a great deal of substance and embodies all our core values as well,” Cadillac CMO Uwe Ellinghaus told brandchannel. “It is bold; it is an optimistic statement; and it is sophisticated insid and out.”

This is the first broad campaign for Escalade since the latest version was introduced about 18 months ago. The third-generation Escalade has continued to sell out at Cadillac dealers, assisted by falling gasoline prices, though supplies have slackened a bit lately.

brandchannel spoke with Ellinghaus about the new Escalade campaign, the progress of “Dare Greatly,” and upcoming launches of the CT6 and the new XT5 utility vehicle.

brandchannel: What’s your take on how Dare Greatly is working out at this point, qualitatively and quantitatively?

Uwe Ellinghaus Cadillac

Uwe Ellinghaus: We’re pleased, mostly because Dare Greatly expresses Cadillac’s core values as a brand for those who are not afraid to challenge the status quo. This is a point of view which did not exist for the brand prior to Dare Greatly. It has given consumers permission to rethink what might have been false perceptions of what Cadillac represents.

Dare Greatly gives us the platform to communicate in a more cohesive and consistent manner the world over. We’ve seen a good response from consumers new to the brand—either people entering luxury for the first time, or younger buyers or owners of competitive brands who now maybe are more intrigued by the new things Cadillac is doing.

An important datapoint is that in the US, our average transaction price—literally the value consumers place on our products—is above $52,000, a jump of more than $5,000. This is proof that our brand is elevating in consumers’ minds, thanks to our remarkably improving product substance.

Cadillac Dare Greatly

bc: Are consumers responding as you expected, or are you having to tweak your approach?

Ellinghaus: That is difficult to say. If there is any surprise, it’s been how passionate our owners and followers really are—so there is no shortage of opinions. And we welcome that honest dialogue. It’s superb. Also it’s been good to see that there is receptivity among consumers who maybe have not previously shown a lot of interest in Cadillac.

In terms of tweaking …we are marketers after all! But with Dare Greatly, we have full commitment to be consistent and continue down this road strongly. We have to be confident enough to allow this theme to mature and resonate. After all, we are merely one year into this new approach. Dare Greatly is who we are and that will continue. You will see us introduce new executions, new aspects and ideas—but always centered upon this core idea.

Cadillac CT6

bc: Is Dare Greatly resonating more internationally or in the US?

Ellinghaus: I think you have two very different situations. In the US, Cadillac is so very familiar. In fact we battle the issue of “false familiarity” with some consumers because of their very nostalgic memories of Cadillac from the past, and therefore not being up-to-date [about the fact] that the brand and its products are transforming.

Outside the US, Cadillac is famous. However it’s not that familiar. So there’s a process in many countries of us really introducing ourselves and the Dare Greatly message. We launched Dare Greatly successfully in Canada, Mexico, Middle East and Europe, and it resonated very well.

As for China, where we will launch together with CT6 in the first quarter, we have promising research findings that it will resonate as well, in an appropriate translation, of course. If there is one country where the entrepreneurial spirit is universal, it is China.

Our global sales are increasing strongly in many markets, so this is indeed proceeding well. Of course we have our strong growth in China, but we’re also seeing improved results in markets like Canada, Mexico and the Middle East. The brand has grown by about five percent this year globally, which is a good start on our journey.

Cadillac Escalade The Herd

bc: How are you blending Escalade with the Dare Greatly brand language even though its name, function and legacy don’t fit very well with your new direction?

Ellinghaus:  I do not agree with the idea that Escalade does not fit with our direction. Yes, it’s a unique vehicle in a very specific segment at an extreme end of the market. This is true. But luxury brands should have special vehicles that address distinctive parts of the market.

Branding is about differentiation, even more so in luxury. Escalade has a style and position in the marketplace that many luxury competitors simply cannot duplicate. It’s authentic, certainly “daring.” So while the product has aspects that are inherently unique, this is a very good thing and something we showcase in the new advertising execution.

If there’s a balance, it’s that we want to ensure the new direction of the brand is captured within a product like Escalade that does have a legacy. But it’s a terrific legacy from a marketing standpoint.

bc: How will you balance marketing resources for Escalade with the huge needs that you’ll obviously have for the two big launches upcoming in early 2016?

Ellinghaus: The Escalade work we’re doing is smaller-scale than what will take place with our launches coming next year. However, it’s important that we emphasize the product we currently have while at the same time planning for our future entries. We have to do both. December is a very strong month for luxury purchases (cars included) for obvious reasons, and therefore important to us and to our dealers that we expand our reach.


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