Cadillac’s New Brand Positioning Is Perilous Marketing
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Billy Xiong Trend Report: Cadillac’s New Brand Positioning Is Perilous Marketing

Will Cadillac’s new brand positioning be successful? Will this new positioning help in redefining Cadillac as a great, luxury brand again?

First, luxury is not the same as most expensive. Luxury has been described as one of those things where you know it when you experience it, however it does have specific attributes and benefits. Luxury has magnificence, grandeur, lavishness, splendor and sheer elegance. And yet, according to Coco Chanel, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” Luxury is experiential but it is product-oriented. Luxury is a description of the product or service. A luxury apartment, a luxury vacation, a luxury hotel, a luxury car must first be of the highest perceived quality. 

Luxury and prestige is not the same thing. Luxury describes the product or service. Prestige describes the brand character (values and personality) of the product or service. Prestige confers personal status. Prestige is all about standing, stature, recognition, esteem, prominence, self-importance, fame, honor and renown. Prestigious brands allow a user to associate with brands that shout, “Look at me! I am someone now.” Prestige is The Age of Me on steroids.

Now, let’s look at the concept of American Luxury. What brands come to mind? Are these brands considered to be prestigious? It is a list dominated by fashion and beauty. Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Tiffany, Harry Winston, Gulfstream, Hatteras Yachts, Wolf stoves, and in their heydays, The Waldorf Astoria and The Plaza. Cadillac was once considered a standard of quality and prestige. Cadillac was not only a luxurious product; it was a prestigious brand. Cadillac has lost this stature.

Product and service quality come first. A brand cannot be a luxury brand if it is not superior quality. Mercedes, BMW and Lexus built their luxury brands on quality: Mercedes – German engineering with traditional, classic design; BMW – singular driver focus, performance, control and technology; Lexus – perfectly constructed, standing the test of time, well built, perfectly luxurious arrangements, reliable. Infiniti was designed to be simplistic beauty and grace with dramatic, provocative

In the 2019 J.D Power Initial Quality Survey (IQS), Cadillac is woefully insufficient. The initial quality survey records just the first 90 days. In the IQS, the industry average is 136 problems per 100 vehicles (PPV). Cadillac is below the industry average at 100 PPV.

A look at the 2019 J.D Power Vehicle Dependability Survey (VDS) shows that Cadillac continues to fare poorly on quality over time. As a reminder, the VDS measures the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PPV) during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old model-year vehicles. The industry average is 136 problems per 100 vehicles. The leaders are Lexus (106), Porsche and Toyota (108 each) with the fewest problems per 100 vehicles. Cadillac is significantly below average. Cadillac comes in at 166 PPV!

The initial quality survey registers quality among new car owners and lessees after 90 days of ownership. The dependability survey tells you if the vehicle has quality over time; the pattern is consistent. Cadillac has quality problems at first and this experience is persistent over the first three years. If Cadillac is below average on product quality, it cannot claim to be a luxury. Advertising will not make the product a luxury product.

This brings us to the new Cadillac positioning. According to an article on the online news site, The Drum (, Cadillac’s new CMO is positioning Cadillac as a prestigious brand, Saying it is prestigious does not make it true. To be a successful prestigious brand, the product must first be a luxurious quality brand.

Instead of talking about product quality, the new strategy is to talk about the owner. Cadillac is now positioned for people who are proud of their Cadillac ownership, people who create their own success and whose self-perception is achievement that now allow them to own a Cadillac. The brand calls it “earnership.” How proud will the owner be when the Cadillac they purchased is of below average quality? Will this be prestigious? The owners who “earned” their status will be horribly disappointed.

Instead of focusing on claiming prestige for a high-priced, poor quality product… fix product quality first. Be best in class.

By skipping over quality and going directly to the individual’s desire for prestige, Cadillac runs the risk of disappointing owners. Instead of “earnership,” the potential for embarrassment exists. The new Cadillac positioning is a cover-up for the fact that the brand is not competitive in terms of quality. Trying to sell a high-priced, low quality vehicle by focusing on the potential owner will lead to customer disappointment. Claiming a feeling of prestige built on a low quality product is perilous marketing. 

Billy Xiong

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