Last year, General Motors announced that Cadillac would be moving its marketing and sales operations to New York from Detroit. It was part of Caddy President Johande Nysschen’s plan to assert that GM’s luxury division was an authentic luxury brand, not simply a producer of quite nice cars.
Adding a bit more oomph to the move, GM also announced that Cadillac would start reporting its financials separately from its parent.
Now, with a new advertising campaign by new agency Publicis (Cadillac switched agencies last year), a brand that for better or worse has been closely connected to Detroit for over a century is now basically a New York car company that builds its vehicles in the Midwest.
The new tagline is “Dare Greatly,” borrowed from a speech that Teddy Roosevelt delivered in France in 1910. The gist of TDR’s message was that you need to get in the game and aim high in order to achieve great things — and not fear failure.
For Cadillac Chief Marketing Office Uwe Ellinghaus, the 100-plus-year-old dictum is just the thing to capture the spirit of a 100-plus-year-old brand that has gained the appreciation of the motoring press over the past decade and a half, but that hasn’t been able to take a bite out of BMW and Mercedes’ chunk of the market.
Ellinghaus argues that the “Cadillac world” he, de Nysschen, and Publicis are trying to create is defined by global luxury and what he calls “entrepreneurials” — global “rock stars” who embody the “Dare Greatly” attitude.
You have to admit that this sort of branding thrust can take full advantage of our current cultural moment. Ellinghaus’ goal is to meld the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley and the creative energy of New York City (specifically, Downtown New York City). And while the cultural importance of creativity, New York style, may not hold quite the same power it did in the late 20th century, entrepreneurship is currently riding high in the American imagination.
Cadillac went big with the campaign during the Oscars this weekend, in three spots showing the new CT6 sedan rolling slowly through the gritty streets of Soho, with appearances from Steve Wozniak, designer Jason Wu, and Oscar-nominated director Richard Linklater.
Another spot involves a lot a heavy duty New York-ness and avoids showing the car altogether.
While the campaign may not decisively revamp Cadillac’s image in the same way that Matthew McConaughey’s trippy spots for Lincoln have, there’s no question that Cadillac has now fully ensconced itself in New York City and cast the brand’s fate with a New Yorker’s idea of luxury.
Last year, De Nysschen insisted that Cadillac wasn’t a truly separate luxury brand — in the sense of being independent from Chevy, Buick, and GMC, GM’s other brands. Now he’s set about addressing that problem.
This is actually a big deal. For all its bold design and general slickness, Cadillac has always been connected to Detroit. The “Dare Greatly” campaign seeks to change that, perhaps for good.
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