GM’s Cadillac Marketing Chief Plans to Keep Ad Agency
General Motors Co. (GM)’s new marketing chief for Cadillac said he plans to keep the brand’s advertising agency and focus on building its image in the U.S. and China.
“Cadillac is today probably an admired brand and also well-liked brand but not a particularly -- as we marketeers call it -- relevant brand,” Ellinghaus, 44, said. “My biggest job is to explain to people why they should go for Cadillac, why it meets their daily requirements, why the expression of style is right for them.”
Ellinghaus’s hiring is part of efforts by Bob Ferguson, GM’s global Cadillac leader, to elevate the brand in the U.S. and China to compete at the level of BMW, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG’s Audi. He’s been helped by new products, such as the redesigned Cadillac CTS that arrived in U.S. showrooms last month.
The CTS scored a marketing win this week when it was picked as Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.
“If it’s not obvious yet, the CTS’ intended function is to take the fight to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi -- and win. It had to beat them on style, on performance, on comfort, and on quality,” the magazine wrote online. “It has.”
GM rose 2.1 percent to $36.66 at the close in New York. The shares have climbed 27 percent this year, compared with a gain of 24 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
The CTS is one of 10 new or redesigned Cadillac vehicles GM is bringing out in the U.S. by the end of 2015. The product push includes the ATS compact sedan, which helped increase Cadillac’s U.S. sales by 27 percent this year through October.
Ellinghaus’s hiring is one of several moves Ferguson has made within Cadillac since taking control of the brand last year. The changes included naming Interpublic Group of Cos.’s Rogue as Cadillac’s ad agency; hiring Steve Majoros from Campbell Ewald, where he was a managing director, to be global marketing team director; and moving marketing executive Don Butler to a role as vice president of global Cadillac strategic development in April. Butler left GM in August.
“I have no plans for the time being to change” the ad agency, Ellinghaus said. “Give me some time to assess the situation, to assess my own people and the agency network. For the time being, of course, we’ll continue to work with Rogue.”
In general, he said, ad agencies “are only as good as you steer them. As long as you don’t know the direction for the brand yourself, don’t ask your advertising agency what the brand strategy could look like. This is like asking a hair dresser whether you need a new haircut.”
The design of Cadillac models should help take customers from German luxury competitors, Ellinghaus said.
“As great as these cars are they’re almost a little ubiquitous,” he said of the competitors. “Design is No. 1 purchase reason in China. It’s No. 1 purchase reason in Europe and it’s No. 1 purchase reason in the U.S.”
Cadillac’s U.S. deliveries totaled 148,206 this year through October. That trails Mercedes at 245,125 and the BMW brand at 240,139. Audi’s sales for the period were 127,412.
Ellinghaus is joining GM from Montblanc International in Hamburg, where he was executive vice president of marketing and sales at the maker of pens, watches and accessories. He worked in several marketing positions at BMW from 1998 to 2012, according to GM, including as the automaker’s chief marketing officer from 2010 to 2012.
“I need one thing more than anything else in my job life: This is to be part of a passion brand,” he said.
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