Cadillac - Resuscitation without Nostalgia nor Provocation? - Interview with Uwe Ellinghaus, CMO

April 26, 2017

Uwe Ellinghaus is CMO of Cadillac and on a mission to revive this icon of American luxury. But rather than starting with automobiles, his vision of Cadillac is one of "an experience that young people associate with modern luxury, ... of a brand that happens to also make cars.' That sounds like a page from our 'Ueber-Brands' research, so we dig deeper in our interview (click play button below).

Ellinghaus tells us that he does not count on rekindling the flame of lapsed Boomer drivers or seek to change the acerbic opinions of skeptical Gen Y-ers.  His focus is on people who are young enough not to have witnessed the clunky Cadillac of the late 70ies through the 90ies but are curious to (re-)discover the brand through a cultural lens, from pop-art and photography to Hollywood movies and Motown music.  And that includes the Chinese many of whom revere American icons and make them part of their modern lifestyle.  What they have in common is "a perception that all their neighbors - and their dad - drives a BMW", he says.

But the CMO does not want Cadillac to be "a nostalgic piece of Americana", either.  'Dare Greatly' is the internal rallying cry and campaign slogan.  TV ads first aired during the Oscar awards in 2015 link the brand to personalities who have dared to dream and did greatly from Teddy Roosevelt to Jason Wu (links below). And, of course, there are the cars, themselves.  One could describe them as the luxury version of the American muscle car (in electric, if desired) - with the Escalade at the over-sized, most daring (or 'bullying'?) - end of the spectrum.  An icon of power in its own right and and across generations, Ellinghaus says.

Yet, the 'daring' seems not to always come easily or without a need for some moderation: Yes, the gallery at Cadillac House in Soho is intended to be an autonomous art space and the Cadillac ad shown during the Oscars urges America to overcome a 'Nation Divided'. Yet the CMO emphasizes that the brand does 'not want to take sides' or 'polarize' with its messages or choices...  Something we are used to hear from brands owned by large shareholding companies seeking to scale. 

In the interview, we also talk about...

  • the role of NYC, fashion, art and casual luxury in Cadillac strategy
  • who he is looking for to join his group (hint: not 'car guys')
  • what luxury can learn from 'boring industries' like banking or insurance
  • why Tesla is an admirable model but not one to follow

Take a listen and a look and let us know your take on these brand building efforts.

 

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Cadillac House Soho and 'Toiletpaper Paradise.' Amateurs do a photo shoot in the walk-in exhibit.

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Cadillac as a Lifestyle: Joe Coffee, cars, casual work space and ... Art

FURTHER READING:

For more insights what drives the success of modern Prestige brands - Ueber-Brands as we call them - read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands” and other case-studies on this blog.

Here is a link to the Cadillac website and the 'Dare Greatly' site. This is the film which uses a speech ('Man in The Arena') by Teddy Roosevelt where he asks Americans to 'Dare Greatly'. The film aired during the 2015 Oscars and kicked off the campaign.   Here are some of the later executions with Steve Wozniak and Jason Wu.

This is the 'Nation Divided' film that aired during the Oscars and a critical review by James B Stewart at the New York times of it and socio-political messages by other brands.

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Burt’s Bees - Mission, Myth and a Buzzing Business – Interview with Jim Geikie, General Manager

January 6, 2017

Yes, Burt really existed. The wild-bearded man on the brand's logo was a documentary photographer turned beekeeper after moving from Manhattan to Maine and leaving the trappings of a rather privileged upbringing behind him to live in a converted turkey coop in the backwoods (where he also died in 2015).  But it is unlikely that you or I would ever hear about Burt and his bees and it is certain we would not be able to moisturize your lips with one of the iconic balms that bear their name, if it was not for a woman: Roxanne Quimby. It turns out that Burt played the role of mentor and muse, of an enigmatic, spiritual Ueber-Father of the brand, while Roxanne was the ingenious product developer and business builder who really made 'Burt's Bees happen' as Jim Geikie tells us.

And Jim should know.  He is the General Manager of the business today and a Vice President at Clorox, the parent company which bought the business in 2007 for a whopping $925 million in cash.  Burt had been bought out by previously by Roxanne for just $130,000 but apparently never complained  ... which provides just one of the many ingredients to this mythical story that is the man, the couple, the bees, the product... But before we get into the myth, Jim lays out Burt's Bees guiding mission.  For, while Burt's Bees is no Luxury brand, its nature and health-centric mission and befitting myth have allowed the brand to carve out a premium position within the mass personal care and beauty segment. Jim and I will also talk about:

  • what makes the business buzz despite a 300% price premium and no discounts
  • when to say 'No' to the easy way forward and how to justify it
  • how to balance the needs of brand, parent company and consumer
  • who works at Burt's Bees -why and how they join
    and
  • why Jim thinks corporate ownership of mission-driven brands in not only the norm but a good model for everyone involved.

 

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FURTHER READING:

For more insights what drives the success of Ueber-Brands like Burt's Bees, read our Ueber-Brands blog and book “Rethinking Prestige Branding”.

 

Below is a document on Burt's Bees culture that Jim shared and which reflects some of the values he talked about and the growth model Burt's Bees' organization  follows (click to view/download the full document)

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Below are the 'Memorial Hive' on the outside facade of the headquarter and Burt's hut that was being re-build in front of the building while I visited.

One can't miss the detailed bees painted across the brick facade. They were painted by artist Matthew Willey with the help of Burt's Bees employees. Willey has pledged to paint 50,000 bees (the number of bees in a healthy hive) to help awareness for Colony Collapse Disorder (we talk about it briefly in the interview) and raise funds to help find a cure for this phenomenon that threatens to wipe out native bees across North America (article in the local newspaper).

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Profit and/or Purpose? – Interview with Venture Capitalist and Social Activist David Batstone

December 5, 2016

David Batstone is not one to be easily typecast.  As you learn more about David you might get a bit perplexed not only by the uncounted, very public projects in which he plays a leading role or the multitude of positions he holds but by their often different, seemingly opposing character: theology scholar, journalists, venture capitalist, ethics professor, businessman, human rights activist…

Among many other things, David is Founder and President of ‘Not For Sale‘ a non-profit organization and campaign that seeks to eliminate factors which facilitate modern slavery around the world. He also is Co-Founder and Senior Managing Partner at ‘Just Business,’ a San Francisco a much for profit venture capital firm and very much personally invested in its holdings such as REBBL a line of “super-herb health drinks that grows faster than any other in health food stores,” he says.  A declared liberation theologian, David teaches ethics at the Jesuit Catholic University of San Francisco, writes books and still somehow finds time to come up with- and start-up new businesses on his own such as Z-Shoes a line of ‘biodegradable shoes’ that are sourced from the Peruvian Amazon. Actually, his son is a co-creator and the first round of investing went through kickstarter …

How might this all fit together?  David says he is leveraging his disciplined venture capitalist approach to create a vertically integrated ‘group for good’… ‘where people in developed markets can buy according to their values’ and where socially disadvantaged people in remote areas like the Amazon are provided with the funds or tools needed to provide their local goods and talent rather than be driven into poverty and slavery.

 

Ingenious? Too Good to be True?  

Meaningful Marketing or Marketing Ploy?

 

Listen to the interview with David and let us know what you think on our blog!

 

 

FURTHER READING:

To read more about how other brands seek to create meaning beyond the material check out other case studies on our blog, podcast and read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands”.

 

 
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Patagonia, the Activist Company - Interview with Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy

November 3, 2016

Patagonia is the quintessential Ueber-Brand. This brand is fascinating and we have written extensively about what we think drives and sustains its success in our latest book as well as on our blog.  But it is quite another thing to hear it all directly from 'one of the family' - quite literally.  For Vincent Stanley is not only Patagonia's 'Director of Philosophy', previously VP of Marketing and Communications as well as co-author with company founder Yvon Chouinard of "The Responsible Company," the bible for leaders who seek to do good while doing business. He is also Yvon's nephew and became one of the very first employees in the early 70'ies when he helped him extend the chicken coop in the back yard that served as 'equipment forge', as he will tell us.

In this interview we will touch on most of the elements of Ueber-Branding beginning with Patagonia's strong sense of Mission, the brand's Myth, the product to Behold, how the organization 'Lives the Dream', 'Un-Sells' and how they strive for Responsible Growth.  We will also get insights into:

  • why the choice was to run Patagonia, not a foundation to protect the environment
  • what is authenticity vs 'putting on a show' when it comes to maintaining the myth
  • how content marketing and social media come naturally to Patagonia - since 1972
  • who and how they set themselves up to evolve and grow while keeping their soul

And, of course, we will talk about the famous ad Vincent ran not to sell more but to change the way we feel and think about owning a garment (despite his denying, we still think it also helped sell more Patagonia ;-)

Patagonia Activism in a Chicago store. A call to help save the air, earth, water and recycle your worn gear.
Patagonia Activism in a Chicago store: A call to help save our air, water, soil and to recycle your gear.

If you liked what you heard in the 'official' part you will love the take-outs from the chat we had after the official interview was over. Hang around to hear why:

  • poor people and nations pay the price for fast fashion and cheap garments
    (Or: Why $29 for a trucker hat is not creaming but rather not charging enough)
  • environmental consciousness is a great engine for innovation and attracting talent
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Yvon Chouinard and that mission statement Vincent talks about - more relevant now than ever.

FURTHER READING:

For more insights what drives the success of Ueber-Brands like Patagonia, read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands”.  For a detailed case study of Patagonia, background materials  and other case-studies, check out our blog.

Want to compare and contrast the Patagonia story with another environmentally conscious brand that 'shines from the inside out'?  Then read about our visit to the Freitag bag making plant in Switzerland here.

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Audemars Piguet - Adversity and Complications Make a Brand – Interview with Tim Sayler, CMO

October 8, 2016

Audemars Piguet is up there, even in the already elevated world of 'haute horlogerie' and the Swiss Alps.  Le Brassus in the high valley of Joux is the birthplace and still the place of hand-crafting AP watches as Tim Sayler, Chief Marketing Officer of the brand is proud and precise in pointing out to us. And pride, precision and a strong sense of place are some of the key ingredients we talk, as we discuss what has made this brand and how it stays up there in the firmament of desired objects - despite the meteoric rise of first industrial quartz watches and now smart watches. Or because of it.

We will also talk about:

  • how a hostile environment, boredom and a complicated way can guide success
  • what keeps AP up there in the cold and remote valley of Joux
  • who pays a fortune for a watch when time can be told with precision by their phone
  • why complications, constraints and pulling back can be a great way to grow


Above Tim Sayler framed by the watch on his wrist which is the same iconic 'Royal Oak' model featured in his advertisements.  The copy reads 'To Break The Rules You must First Master Them.'  These watches are 'skeletonized' -ie hand-carved - out of a block of metal, as Tim will explain.  'Obsessively complex', indeed.  -  Enjoy

le-brassus-ap-office-and-museum-collage.AP headquarters and museum in Le Brassus and the valley of Joux


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here

ap-watchmaking-collage

FURTHER READING:

For more insights what drives the success of Ueber-Brands, read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands” as well as further case-studies on this blog.

Here is a link to the AP websitethe backstory on the photography of Le Brassus used by AP by Dan Holdsworth and an article on the spectacular architecture of the AP watch museum (see pictures above).

Want to compare and contrast the AP story with that of lifestyle watch maker Shinola? Then listen to our interview with Shinola CMO Bridget Russo here.

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Lakrids – A Liquorice Brand To Long For – Interview with Peter Husted Sylvest, Director of Sales

August 22, 2016

If you are familiar with the ‘Hero’s Journey’ as described by Joseph Campbell, then the trials and tribulations Johan Buelow went through to concoct and share the perfect batch of liquorice – and create a thriving company on the way – will sound mighty familiar.  It … Continue reading

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Seedlip: Beyond Making Teetotaling Totally Trendy – Interview with Ben Branson, Founder

June 22, 2016

What do if you like cocktail parties or ‘having a drink with the mates’ but not the alcohol that usually goes with them? Ben Branson often felt silly, sometimes socially stigmatized with his glass of (sugary) water, juice or ‘mocktail’ in hand – who … Continue reading

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Shinola: From Shining Shoes to Lifestyle Star – Interview with Bridget Russo, CMO

May 20, 2016

One of the founders commented ‘You don’t know shxx from Shinola!‘ during a meeting – This is how an American saying lead to the rebirth of the formerly popular shoe polish it is referring to … at least according to Bridget Russo, CMO Shinola who shared … Continue reading

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Renova: Toilet Paper to live, love and style with, also. – Podcast with Paulo Pereira Da Silva, CEO – #07

April 19, 2016

“If toilet paper can make you happy… Why not? Life is hard enough! …” – In this podcast episode we muse with Paulo Pereira Da Silva, CEO of the Renova about how he has transformed this long-standing Portuguese tissue maker … Continue reading

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Johnnie Walker: Appeal at $1 and $1,000 a sip, alike. – Interview with Matteo Fantacchiotti, Diageo – Podcast Episode 06

February 18, 2016

In this episode we talk to Matteo Fantacchiotti, Global Vice President, Diageo Luxury Division in Singapore. Diageo calls their high-end liquors the ‘Reserve Brands.’ These brands have grown well above category average and well past the previous segment leader in the … Continue reading

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