March 02, 2015

Daring Greatly And Failing Miserably

My favorite car campaigns of all time were Doyle Dane's Volkswagen, Ammirati's BMW, and Scali's Volvo.

These 3 campaigns had one thing in common: They didn't try to tell me who I was, they told me who they were. They told me why their product was great, and in so doing, created great brands.

They understood that the best way to build most brands is with product-focused advertising.

Which leads us to Cadillac's new campaign. You can read all about it here. As you probably know, Cadillac changes campaigns more enthusiastically than Bruce Jenner changes sexes.

Supposedly, this new campaign is not a campaign, it's a re-branding. Well, technically, according Cadillac's CMO, it's not a re-branding either. It's a "re-invention."

What is a "re-invention," you ask? As far as I can tell, it's exactly like a re-branding, only way more expensive.

First, Cadillac is moving its headquarters to New York City's Soho area. How cool is that?

I guess some people from Detroit think of this as the height of hipness. To a lot of New Yorkers, Soho is where you go to admire Korean tourists. On the other hand, if I was the CMO of Cadillac, I wouldn't mind having breakfast every morning at Balthazar either.

Next, Cadillac is "tapping into the Millennial mindset." Of course, you can't do anything in marketing these days without invoking the M word. Just one little problem. Last I looked, Millennials were buying about 12% of new cars and about 0% of Cadillacs.

But maybe it's just their "mindset" he's targeting. This could be problematic because mindsets often have trouble getting car loans.

I don't really care much for the campaign. It's called "Dare Greatly." It feels like an ad school version of "Think Different."

One problem with the campaign is the problem with so much advertising these days. It's full of lofty thoughts and is devoid of persuasion.

Another problem is in the imagery. The CMO seems to be so enchanted with Soho that in addition to moving there, he also shot the spots there. When Chrysler shot in Detroit, they "dared greatly." But leaning on the imagery of Soho seems to me like daring tentatively.

A third problem is that the execution doesn't match the strategy. "Dare greatly" is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt and and his boys were called the "Rough Riders." They were famous for a brave charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. 

But this campaign is very fey and artsy. It features some people we're supposed to admire for following Roosevelt's dictum. I have serious doubts that the Rough Riders would consider fashion design "daring greatly." Their idea of daring greatly was getting up on a horse and shooting something.

One of the people featured in the campaign is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who I actually do admire. Only problem is he looks more like he swallowed a Cadillac than drives one.

Which leads me to a little poem..
Some ads are merely regrettable
And some are completely incredible
I can't see Steve Wozniak
Buying a Cadillac
Unless the damn thing was edible
“Luxury brands don’t sell products, they sell dreams,” says Cadillac's CMO. Yeah, maybe. But car dealers sell products. And when they don't, CMOs have very bad dreams.

The Cadillac re-invention needs to arrive very quickly at advertising that persuasively extols the exceptional qualities of the product -- not the purported mindset of Millennials.

Otherwise they may find they have dared greatly and failed miserably.


Cecil B. DeMille said...

They should maybe start thinking logically and leave the daring greatly to the X Games people they're targeting – whose only ride in a Cadillac will likely be after they die.

Annie Pettit said...

There was no need to bring up Bruce's personal life here. Disappointed. :(

Tim said...

It's not even original. Mazda came out with a similar campaign a few months back using quotes from the famous on courage - as if it take courage to make a Mazda. Maybe so, but it takes a lot more engineering skills and design chops. I think Mazda realized this and yanked most of the spots. I wonder if Cadillac will have the sense to do the same.

bob hoffman said...

Who's Bruce?

Annie Pettit said...

A former elite athlete, no relevance to the arguments made here. "As you probably know, Cadillac changes campaigns more enthusiastically than Bruce Jenner changes sexes."

Bryan said...

As a Millennial, nothing makes me want to run out and spend my nonexistent money on a Cadillac more than seeing the brand endorsed by eccentric artists and visionaries I figure don't give two shits about the type of car they drive, which is part of why I admire them to begin with. I'm sure Richard Linklater filmed "Slacker" because he dreamt of one day being able to drive a Cadillac.

I think they were on the right track with the Rogue spot where the rich guy talks about how being a corporate knob-job and buying lots of stuff is awesome. THAT seems like it'd sell the cars.

TCWriter said...

What's sad about this is that Cadillac's been building some pretty nice cars the last few years. Even the Top Gear boys think so. But why sell cars when you can sell Teddy Roosevelt?

Jeffrey Summers said...

don't their parents drive a Cadillac?

Ben said...

There was 'no need' to write the post. Why can't Bob use Bruce's transgender process as the basis for a metaphor?

Valentine said...

Funny how Jenner desperately "brings up" his personal life as often as he can and for profit. But now that he wants a bigger cup size he's hands off?

You're a hero, Annie.

Doug Garnett said...

Love this - especially as an advocate for product based ads. Nothing builds brand faster than a good product well advertised.

But the serious challenge we seem to have in advertising is that product based advertising is really, really hard - far harder than hiring a few "hot" portfolio school grads and teaming them up with a "hot" production company based on theories like this one from Cadillac.

And the reality is that this kind of theory is easy to match with creative execution that makes everyone involved feel real cool - like their portfolio will get them another anyone asking if the ad worked.

THAT is a feedback loop that will never help anyone to do things any better. But it's the one that seems to dominate our biz.