Cadillac is a brand that needs no introduction. It is an iconic company—a larger-than-life brand that people associate with luxury.
But Cadillac’s legacy is also its biggest challenge. When consumers think of the future, they don’t necessarily think of Cadillac. Many people associate Cadillac with the yesteryears—back to the era of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis—but not with the innovation leaders of today.
At least not yet.
As a member of Cadillac’s global launch and lifecycle marketing team, I am obsessed about changing that perception. In the last few years, we’ve been rethinking our approach so that drivers become aware of our innovations and get behind the wheel of a Cadillac today and for years to come.
At the core of our strategy is a commitment to put our customers in the driver’s seat. We recognize that the best way forward is to be truly customer centric.
This focus on putting customers at the center of our business benefits us in several important, strategic ways:
1. Navigating a changing horizon
Luxury, the market that we’re in, is in flux. What consumers see as luxurious has changed, and that perception continues to evolve. Historically, luxury brands were defined by status, opulence and popularity. A brand that was imported, such as Gucci, had cache, as did the Prada label. These brands remain strong, but modern luxury is shifting towards brands that have a purpose and resonate with a customer’s lifestyle.
Today, the brands growing in the luxury market have a clearly articulated purpose. Well crafted, many of these brands also embrace minimalism. Often, these are brands that are embedded in popular culture. For example, Beats headphones and Yeezy, a collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West, are seen by many consumers as luxury products today.
In tandem with the changing definition of luxury, we’re also grappling with evolving demographics. By 2020, Gen X and Gen Y consumers will drive the majority of purchases across markets, including cars. These young, affluent consumers have high expectations for luxury—and we need to meet those expectations to remain competitive.
Getting closer to car enthusiasts and owners allows us to keep a pulse on the changing luxury market and the wider demographic shifts. It allows us to make business decisions based on insight on evolving consumer preferences.
2. Focusing on customer experience
There’s no doubt innovation is important in the automotive business. At Cadillac, we’re mapping our own route to modern luxury through innovative products such as the CT6 PLUG-IN, our top-of-range luxury hybrid electric sedan.
While recognizing the importance of pushing the limits of innovation, we also believe customer experience is the new battleground. Earning credibility among luxury customers means not only having the best products, it requires providing an overall positive brand experience. And as a marketer, that’s my passion: to provide consumers with unforgettable experiences.
Cadillac has done many things to improve both the purchasing and ownership experience, including sending a personal letter from our president to CT6 buyers, and inviting car enthusiasts and potential customers to an exclusive museum reopening event. We recently launched “Cadillac House,” a public meeting place where innovators, creators and the curious can find inspiration. The first 12,000-square-foot brand experience center in New York proved so successful we’re opening pop-up Cadillac Houses across the globe. We recently opened locations in Munich and Seoul, and we look forward to future openings in the Middle East, China and in other North American cities.
3. Building closer relationships with consumers
More than ever, Cadillac is focused on customer insight and engagement. A key part of this initiative is Cadillac Collective, our insight community of car owners and enthusiasts. The community’s purpose is to get us closer to our customers and deliver insight that informs decision-making and strategy.
We see Cadillac Collective as an extension of our brand. We’re particularly interested in understanding potential Cadillac customers and those with interest in the new CT6 PLUG-IN. One of the great things about the community is that 77 percent of members are new to General Motors; this gives us a unique perspective into the broader market. The community will help us make informed product marketing decisions based on customer feedback to support aggressive U.S. sales volume targets. We’re also exploring ways to measure conversion rates of community members who went from “hand raisers”— those who expressed interest before CT6 launch—to purchasers.
4. Rethinking marketing
The idea of “outwitting luxury” is a driving force at Cadillac. We’re not just benchmarking ourselves against other luxury auto brands, but also against companies such as Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. We recognize that purchases in the luxury market are driven mostly by emotion, not logic. Making a real connection with our customers is key.
To that end, we no longer solely rely on “push marketing.” Rather, we make a concerted effort to listen to car owners and respond to their feedback. This is epitomized by our “ask me anything” (AMA) sessions with our insight community that connect our product designers, engineers and executives directly to consumers and car owners.
"We make a concerted effort to listen to car owners and respond to their feedback."
Recently, I made personal contact with one of our most enthusiastic community members, Peter, who is a turbine engineer and passionate about sustainable tech. We have become text buddies, and he will be featured in an upcoming AMA session in the community to share his ownership experience as a recent owner of a new CT6 PLUG-IN. Peter went from interested consumer to member of our exclusive community and, now, owner.
Through ongoing dialogue with car enthusiasts, we believe we can get people excited about the Cadillac brand, build our reputation and turn them into brand evangelizers. As a marketer, it doesn’t get any more rewarding than this.
Ultimately, our goal is to drive word of mouth. By improving the customer experience, engaging our customers in a more human way and launching innovative products in the market, we’re confident we can increase positive buzz for our products and measure the results of our efforts.
The competitive auto industry is driving Cadillac to find new ways of engaging with our customers. It’s also helping us understand how consumers perceive modern luxury. Our approach is to enable our team members to engage directly with car owners and enthusiasts. By developing our relationships with this audience, we can build a brand that people love—and hit the metrics that matter to us.