Cadillac, a 112 year-old brand, has recently focused on innovation and brand elevation, hosting cultural events at their brand hub Cadillac House and forming fashion-forward brand partnerships with everyone from Saks Fifth Avenue to Vogue.
Director of Brand Marketing Melody Lee has been at the helm of this renewal, focusing on marketing strategy, brand management and global communications planning. We asked her some questions about her role, her start in the industry and the future of Cadillac.
I oversee brand and marketing strategy development, brand management, partnerships and experiences as well as global communications planning. But ultimately, the job is to make Cadillac cool again. It was once the brand and car that the coolest people aspired to own, and we believe we can restore it back that iconic status. My team and I feel that we’ve been entrusted with the Cadillac brand, and that is a job that we take very seriously.
How did you get your start in the industry and what’s been your path to the position you currently have?
I’m not a marketer in the traditional sense. I got my start in crisis communications and public affairs, but what it taught me early on my in career was that a brand’s reputation takes a long time to build and can be lost in an instant. I began on the agency side and worked with Fortune 500 clients. I picked up GM as a client between its bankruptcy and subsequent IPO in 2009 and transitioned over to Cadillac’s marketing department in 2012.
How is the Cadillac brand reinventing itself?
By rebuilding its relevance with the next generation of luxury automotive consumers. The beautiful thing about Cadillac’s heritage is that it has been squarely at the heart of pop culture for nearly 70 years. It’s a tricky thing trying to restore Cadillac back to that place — it has to be done in a way that doesn’t read as an appropriation of culture, but instead gives the brand a credible role as a co-creator of culture. Our partnerships in fashion, art, design and entrepreneurial thought leadership, along with the mindset-focused Dare Greatly communications platform are all part of that strategy. Cadillac’s aim is to be as much a lifestyle brand as it is a car brand and fortunately that’s true to our past.
What is the best part about the work you do?
I love turnarounds. It must come from my crisis management background! I find it far more fun to be handed a challenge and told to turn it around than to be handed something pristine and told not to mess it up. The Cadillac brand challenge is one that will have to play out over decades, not years or months. And I work with an incredible team of colleagues who feel that the cause of reinventing a brand so beloved around the world is much more than just a job. Cadillac’s still being written about in Top 40 pop songs and the phrase “the Cadillac of…” is still in the vernacular. That is a lasting relevance any brand would kill to have, but now we just have to live up to it for the next generation.
What will be your major marketing initiatives in 2017?
We’ll be in year three of marketing communications under the “Dare Greatly” platform, and working hard to translate what that means as a 114-year old brand as well as what that means in terms of our terrific vehicles. We’ll continue to be focused very intently on building relevance for the brand with rising Gen X and Y luxury buyers. We hope that by identifying shared interests, shared passions and shared aspirations — and building bridges to them — we’ll form the basis of our future of growth.
Where does the brand hope to be in 5 years time?
We’re in the midst of what we refer to as our “brand elevation” phase. In five years’ time, we hope to be well into the “brand expansion” phase, where a revitalized brand image will set a strong foundation for the release of several new products between 2018-2022. And if there are even more songs that come out about Cadillac and more analogies comparing various products to the brand, then all the better!
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