Cadillac: A Brand that’s Driving Its Way Back to the Top

Back to advertising this week and with a winner…at least I think so. Let’s see what you think.

Cadillac is a brand I don’t normally pay much attention to. Who does? They’ve been back in the pack for quite some time now. The word “Escalade” seems like the only time we hear about Cadillac anymore.

But that could change. Cadillac’s new wave of advertising—and cars—shows promise.

Check out this new commercial for the Cadillac SRX Luxury Crossover SUV:

What’s not to like about this ad?

It’s so understated, elegant and positive, it evokes a sense of what this brand wants to be all about.

Concept and attention to detail

The man in the SRX is not driving down a noisy city street. He’s driving in a beautiful neighborhood on a rainy day. The start of the ad with just the noise of the tires moving through the soaked streets and then the quiet inside of the car with sports news on the radio sets that “everything’s just right” tone.

Then, a trash truck, big and noisy and representing the opposite of elegance, almost ruins this man’s perfect day. His life starts to flash before him as he hits the brakes, bracing for what he thinks is certain doom. But the car stops immediately and all is well.

“Your life will have to flash by even faster,” says the voiceover, as his flashback screeches to a halt also.

I love that line, and it’s tied to all the positive music and imagery we saw in the driver’s flashbacks. The commercial then sends you off with the same happy music and the car driving off to a sunnier spot.

Understated, positive, perfect.

For those of you who don’t know, when driving in rain or through puddles, you’re supposed to tap your brakes here and there to get the water off before you brake to stop. Cadillac introduces a feature that does that for you.

In commercials lately, we’ve seen cars that park themselves (Ford, Lexus) and cars that stop themselves (Mercedes). What I like about this Cadillac is that the driver still has control. The driver stops the car, but the brakes make that stop better and quicker.

Smart marketing

Cadillac sounds and looks like a brand that finally knows what it’s doing. Even their tagline has a bold confidence to it that sounds like a brand that’s not leaving room for any doubts.

We don’t just make luxury cars, we make Cadillacs.” A statement that gives the impression they’re already in the top spot.

They’re close.

Cadillac understood that incentives were the way to go in the darkening economy, that even luxury buyers were looking for deals. And it worked. For the first time since June 2005, Cadillac sales topped those of Lexus and Mercedes and were only second to BMW’s.

Jim O’Donnell, president and CEO of BMW of North America, said Cadillac’s edgy styling and its popular SRX SUV have helped the brand emerge as a legitimate competitor to BMW. (Source: Bloomberg)

“There’s a new generation of people buying Cadillacs,” O’Donnell said. “They used to say that people wouldn’t buy their father’s Cadillac. Well, now it’s the grandchildren that are buying them.”

Knowing their target audience is one big reason for Cadillac’s success. Cadillac seems to be making some very smart moves and this latest SRX commercial is another one of them.

Mercedes still doesn’t see Cadillac as a competitor, but they might want to rethink that. With impressive styling, strong advertising and a clear vision of its target audience, Cadillac may just surprise them…and you.



  1. Kristine Brogley Elkins · September 13, 2011

    Great article. I drove a Cadillac for a short while. It was my husband’s grandmother’s car, and we inherited it. It was a huge, fire-engine red Seville, and I have to admit, I felt a little foolish tooling around in it. On the other hand – it was the most comfortable driving I’ve ever done. When I see a Caddy, I can’t help it – I think to myself “Old Person Driving!!” It will be interesting to see if Cadillac is able to change that perception.

    • ctmarcom · September 13, 2011

      My friend’s mom had a huge, red Caddy too! Tip: Never let your 16-yr-old kid drive a car like that–can fit too many friends. That car was comfy! I do think Cadillac is doing a better job at changing that “old” feel than Buick, and I think they owe it all to the Escalade. Without the success (and pop/rap culturization) of that model, Cadillac would still be struggling.

  2. Engage In This Age · September 13, 2011

    Really informative post about Cadillac. What’s so great about that commercial is the fact that it really touches on people’s emotions with the images of his children flashing in his head.

    Cadillac also does a nice job with that by having Lawrence Fishburn as their narrator. His voice is so recognizable and different that it draws the viewer automatically in. They also know how to incorporate music that plays on people’s emotions. To get people’s attention, perfect the sounds and images – and they are doing it.

    • ctmarcom · September 13, 2011

      I agree! They seem to have hit every point perfectly. Thanks for adding comments about the narrative with Laurence Fishburne–great catch and definitely agree. His voice sets the right tone.

  3. professorwizard · September 14, 2011

    This is very nice marketing, The Marketing firm should be commended. – But I don’t buy it! Cadillac has no chance of truly competing with the likes of BMW, Audi or Acura… I have an 09 SRX, and it is currently in the shop – getting the 45th issue fixed. (Yes, that is not a typo – I have had 45 individual things wrong with my SRX!) Cadillac current slogan is “We don’t just make Luxury Cars – – We make Cadillac’s”.. So, It is a TRUE statement, Cadillac does not make luxury cars… Heck, they barely can make a functional car! After calling Cadillac Customer Service, I strongly get the impression I am one of many with such a Cadillac.

    While Cadillac is truly making some awesome looking cars – they fall way short in luxury amenities, Service at the corporate level, and quality in workmanship of their cars. Cadillac will struggle, Leaving the competition to walk away with the unhappy previous Cadillac owners, because too many of “Us” are, or will be, leaving Cadillac for good.

    • ctmarcom · September 14, 2011

      I feel your pain! I had a Nissan Sentra SE-R that was a piece of crap! I will never buy a Nissan again because of it, but many of my friends drive Nissans and love them–have had no problems. And, I agree, Cadillac does have a long road to travel, but they are stepping in the right direction. We’ll see if they take comments like yours to heart and start fixing all the problems that make Caddy owners (and former owners) such as you want to never buy from them again. There’s nothing stronger than a brand that can turn dissatisfied customers around. I wish you much better luck with your car–45 problems sounds like a lemon to me. I urge you to put your complaints in writing again and address them to Cadillac, see what happens. Thanks for your comment! It’s great to hear from someone who has recent experience with this car.

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