Gearing to Shake Things Up? Take a Lesson from Cadillac

Mar 22, 2017

Gearing to Shake Things Up? Take a Lesson from Cadillac

by Mar 22, 2017

by | Mar 22, 2017 | Brand

In 2013 Cadillac sold 182,543 cars. That’s 15,211 cars per month, and 507 per day.

That seems like a lot.

And, in many ways, it is. In fact, those numbers sound like a healthy company. At an average price of $62,352.50, that’s $11.3 billion (with a “B”).

Which is precisely why Cadillac immediately decided to shake things up.

The decision was not made out of a lust for money. Rather, the decision to change everything was driven by a single statistic… which is a pretty amazing fact, considering we are in the whirlwind of big data right now.

The transformative fact was this: the average age of a Cadillac owner was 59.5 years of age in 2013.

To build a growth brand, that age bracket simply won’t work.

So the company hired a new Chief Marketing Officer, brought in a new marketing team, and moved the team from Detroit to New York.

The wheels of freshening the brand began to turn.

The first, and most important decision (besides the decision to drive down the average age of a Cadillac owner) was to enter the world of sportscar racing in a significant way.

For decades car companies have treated sportscar racing (the wine and cheese fancy sportscar racing stuff… not NASCAR which is monumentally boring) as both a laboratory for testing new technology for their road cars and as a means of being “cool” and attracting a different type of buyer for its cars.

Specifically, a younger buyer. Younger people like sportscar racing. Hence, if your company is good at racing in front of a bunch of hungry prospective buyers then younger people will identify success with the brand and be more attracted to your cars.

So, in 2014 Cadillac intensified its stagnant GT racing effort (the cars that look like sedans). They hired experience drivers to develop the cars, and started to progress the car’s development to be faster and faster.

The company also made the decision to enter the top class of sportscar racing, called Prototype racing.

For those unfamiliar with it, Prototype racing is sportscar’s top form. These are cars that are built for only one purpose – racing as fast and as long as possible. These cars participate in races like the 24 Hours of Daytona, where the cars switch drivers but race without stopping for 24 straight hours. That’s twice around the clock. Winners of these races elicit maximum prestige from a younger demographic.

Cadillac’s Prototype racing program has taken two full years of development before the car even hit the track for testing. Once testing began, it was another several months to hone the car. Two different teams purchased the Cadillac race car and were ready to enter it into the top sportscar races.

Finally, after several months of testing, it was ready for its first race, the 24 Hours of Daytona… which it won.

Then, this past weekend, it won the 12 Hours of Sebring, arguably the toughest and most challenging race on the calendar. The track is an old Army airport, complete with 17 grueling turns and ferocious concrete bumps that hammer the underside of a car for 12 relentless hours. Surviving alone is impressive.

But, Cadillac won again.

So, two races for this new car, and two wins.

Folks are taking notice, especially the younger fans of the racing series. The team that won has a trio of young and appealing drivers that have a following from a young audience. It’s ideal for Cadillac’s marketing wishes.

The marketing initiative of lowering the average age of the Cadillac owner is not a one, two, or three year initiative. It’s a 10+ year initiative. Currently, Cadillac is in the first few months of reaping the benefit of nearly three years of preparation, planning, and strategy.

Cadillac is willing to make the investment because it’s very important for the future success of the company to have an average age of its owner around or below 50 years old. It could help the company sell another 25,000-50,000 cars per year.

The basic, tactical marketing stuff that gets most of the headlines in marketing magazines – like email marketing, social media, search marketing, brochures, events (like car shows), etc. – are still important. But, they were the last pieces to reflect the change in Cadillac.

When was the last time you brainstormed something about your business that was not a basic tactic of marketing communications?

We spend so much time on the channel of marketing and the detail of getting a message out that we often miss big opportunities.

Let’s take a lesson out of Cadillac’s playbook and challenge ourselves to think bigger.

Take the time to discover insights about your business and build a focused strategy.

What’s the insight about your business that could transform it?


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