Cadillac breaks new ground in auto industry marketing with an old idea.

I was speaking with a colleague the other day and we were trying to think of an instance where an automobile manufacturer (or any brand for that matter) looked back into its own history and re-introduced a brand tagline that had been thrown in the bin.

We couldn’t think of any and we began to talk about what a mistake that was.  We were able to rattle off a number of instances, where great automotive brands walked away from positioning or taglines that perfectly encapsulated their brands.  Mercedes-Benz left behind “Engineered like no other car in the world.”  Volkswagen threw away “Drivers wanted.”  Chevrolet moved away from “Heartbeat of America.”  A few months ago, BMW, one of the most consistent marketers in the industry, looked as if they were moving away from “The Ultimate Driving Machine” in favor of  “Joy.”  In the case of BMW, this has been hotly denied and “TUDM” still appears at the end of the ads but it has certainly been demoted.

Why does this happen?  Why does it seem so difficult for marketers to realize that they have a real asset that needs to be protected and nourished?  A lot has to do with the constant pressure to increase volume and the find something new to “take the brand to the next level.”  The other factor is the constant churn of marketing management and agencies.  New marketing leadership needs to demonstrate that it is moving the business forward and that means doing something new.  Every agency is genetically coded to do something “new and unexpected” to burnish their reputation.  Bringing back an old idea can also be seen as a copout.

So it struck me this morning when I read an article in Advertising Age where Joel Ewanick was interviewed and he said that Fallon (Cadillac’s new agency) had developed the brand’s soon to be introduced tag-line: “The new standard of the world.”

Here’s what’s fascinating, that slogan was developed in 1908, shortly after Cadillac won the prestigious Dewar Trophy for excellence in manufacturing.  The original line was simply “Standard of the world.”  The line may never have been a “tag-line” in advertising but it was certainly part of the company’s logo and therefore used from a marketing perspective:

This makes it different from Mercedes-Benz new global campaign, which uses an idea from the company’s archives,  “The best or nothing” (Das beste oder nichts). This statement was first written by Gottlieb Daimler but until now was not used for marketing, so they haven’t brought back an old idea.

I think “The new standard of the world,” admittedly with a slight modification, may be one time where an agency and its client has had the courage to look back and rather than reinventing the wheel (pun intended), acknowledge that something done before perfectly captures the essence of their brand and be willing to re-introduce it.

Good for them.  “The new standard of the world” already positions Cadillac more clearly than it has been in decades.  It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

Please comment if you can think of any other instances where an idea has been resurrected.

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26 Responses to “Cadillac breaks new ground in auto industry marketing with an old idea.”

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  18. Iron V says:

    It’s about damn time. Truly one of the great slogans of any era for any product. It makes an unambiguously bold statement. Since the 60’s however, Caddys haven’t lived up to it. They do again and it’s the perfect time to make that declaration once again… My god, how far how we come from “the Caddy that Zigs…?”

  19. Aaron says:

    My favorite recent example of an automobile manufacturer not knowing what they had in a brand/name/tag would have to be Ford throwing away the name Taurus in favor of the Five Hundred.

    What were they thinking?

    How long did it take for them to realize they made a mistake? How much damage was done because of the change?

  20. Jeff Elliott says:

    I find “the new standard” to be heavy handed and miles beyond reality.

  21. You are dead on, but you failed to consider what I consider the number one reason why advertisers walk away from their equity tag lines and positioning: They simply get tired of it. Most car marketers are not advertising people. Over the years I have seen sophisticated clients walk away from their own standards of excellence. They live, eat and breathe the brand every day and get tired of their own positioning precisely because they are not advertising people.

    Dunkin Donuts walked away from the donut baker (there were other issues which necessitated a change, but not a complete walk away – Messner lost the business because they argued with the client over this). Mercedes has completely abandoned its engineering positioning.

    It is a brilliant stroke on Cadillac’s part to bring back the standard of excellence. How many brands become so well positioned as to have a common everyday expression lifted from their heritige – “Its the Cadillac of….”. While there are issues there because other brands have no replaced Cadillac at the top end, perceptually Cadillac is at the top of the American car chain. Let’s see what Fallon (and GM) do with it over the long term.

    Paul S. Gumbinner, President, The Gumbinner Company,

  22. Cam

    When the line originated it of course referred to winning the Dewar Trophy for establishing standards of measurement that allowed them to disassemble 5 cars, throw the parts into a pile, and from that pile reassemble 5 cars. A gigantic achievement when most iron was ‘fitted’ by mechanics and parts were far from interchangeable.

    Unfortunately, the reference here isn’t clear. I guess they’re talking about style, which is in the eye of the beholder.

    But the point you’re making – that continuity has value – is 100% spot on.

    With any luck, you can become part of the language – cf. “Ask the Man Who Owns One” which, if you run it in an Amazon query box refers to four pages of books in which the phrase appears that have nothing to do with Packard cars or cars in general.

  23. Cameron says:

    Thanks Craig. I hadn’t thought of “Have you driven a Ford lately.” It’s amazing when you think about that companies and their agencies have such trouble using a good idea again.

  24. Craig Sussner says:

    Ford did bring back an old slogan. In the 80s they had “Have you driven a FORD Lately?” Then about 5-6 years ago “If you havent driven a ford Lately think again” Now they have a short version “Drive one” Thats the closest I can think of. I love the new Cadillac Slogan. Ex Cadillac General manager Mark LaNeve wanted to one day bring back that slogan.

  25. Cameron says:

    I think you’ve hit on the real issue..can Cadillac keep the promise of the tagline. I too would like to hear someone explain the difference between “The new class of world class” and “The new standard of the world.”

  26. Curvin O'Rielly says:

    I’ll give “The new standard of the world” high marks for simplicity, though I’d definitely quibble with the actual truth of the tagline. It’s interesting, by the way, that Buick calls itself (or one of its models) “The new class of world class.”

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