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Cadillac is Back at Hero Status
By: Don McLean
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On June 14, 2013, Bob Ferguson, Vice President of Global Cadillac, spoke to a large group of industry professionals at the Adcraft Club of Detroit GM Day. Ferguson is clearly focused on the long-term brand strategy to bring Cadillac back. After some neglect and declining market share for more than thirty years, Cadillac recently has had its highest sales spike since 1976.

Ferguson focused his discussion on Cadillac as an epic tales of sorts. The hero is the automobile, with various sections of the story revealing its true character. Ferguson describes it as a tale with three acts.

  1. Act One: Cadillac is described as the hero in its infancy. It is born. It leads. It is iconic. It holds the virtues of the American public. As many know, Act One lasted for many years, from approximately 1902 through 1976.
  2. Act Two: Things were shifting and the hero that is Cadillac was lazily focusing on size and its past status. Cadillac, the hero, slumped. It was caught off guard by its enemies and the new idea of what an iconic car should be.  Act Two lasted a lot less longer than the previous act, from approximately 1976–2012.
  3. Act Three: Cadillac is described simply as redemption. The hero emerges a better version of itself. "If this story is written properly, dreams will never end," announced Ferguson. This act started in approximately 2012 and, according to Ferguson, will continue to last for generations.

“Cadillac is at the heart of the international growth plan for GM.” said Ferguson. Focusing in further on Cadillac, Bob Ferguson gave the crowd these statistics:

  • 50% of ATS buyers dispose of Mercedes and similar model competitors.
  • 70% of customers are new to the brand having never owned a Cadillac before.
  • There is a 96% satisfaction rate among owners.
  • Sales are up 15% across the Cadillac brand on the West Coast and in New York.
  • 25% of buyers are under the age of 30.

“Detroit is hugely under-rated,” Ferguson went on to say. Throughout the talk it was evident that GM chose the right person to lead Cadillac back to icon status. The Detroit advertising community was completely tuned in and enthralled with the intent in Ferguson's voice. The room was buzzing after the sell-out event held at GM global headquarters in the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit.

There is a uncommon resilience that bonds the city of Detroit and the Cadillac brand. In a surprising twist of conversation, Ferguson said he is also rooting for the renaissance of the Lincoln brand, simply saying, "Their success helps our success and vice versa." To hear a Vice President of a luxury car company wish a competitor his genuine best was a breathe of fresh air to attendees.

To continue on the path to success, Cadillac recently went through an advertising agency review, firing previous agency, Fallon. Leading up to this event it was announced that Cadillac would be 'Going Rogue' in creating a partnership between iconic advertising firms Hill Holiday, Campbell Ewald, and Lowe. The first advertising pieces to come out of the group should be arriving shortly.

Bob Ferguson finished his talk describing the customers of Cadillac as "achievers." Achievers are the hard workers who have earned every dollar they spend. "They'll buy a Cadillac off a shelf at Costco," says Ferguson. "Luxury is their destination and validation of success." It looks like Cadillac the hero is aimed at bringing that back to those "achievers."

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About the Author
Don McLean, MBA is an account supervisor at Airfoil Group, an independent marketing and public relations firm serving tech companies and innovation-centric brands with offices in Detroit, New York and Silicon Valley. Follow Don on twitter at@mclean_don.  
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