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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  32. Jeff Elliott says:

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    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.

  37. 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.”

  38. 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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