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Cadillac’s Marketing Boss Calls Germans “Sterile”, Doesn’t Care How Much You Hate Alphanumeric Badges
blog.caranddriver.com
November 21, 2014
By: Robert Sorokanich


Cadillac chief marketing officer Uwe Ellinghaus is an energetic guy—the kind who taps the tabletop for emphasis in conversation—and he doesn’t mince words. We sat down with the man at the L.A. show and got his lively, spirited take on Cadillac’s plans to match the German marques’ sales volumes—with new small sedans, more crossovers, and, yes, a passionless alphanumeric naming convention—as well as the importance of the high-performance V line and how Cadillac can succeed against what he calls “cold, soulless, sterile” competition.

More at the Link
 

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Yet the new alphanumeric naming convention seems so European, so German.

Yes, I know, I know, and everybody is accusing me of lip service when I say we are not German and that’s a good thing, and how I want to reinforce the Americana. But honestly it is not [lip service]. My issue is that we need to give our cars proper mental places in our own hierarchy and across the competition. And ATS, CTS, XTS, you need to be in the car industry to figure out where they are size-wise. When you say A4, A6, A8, 3-series, 5-series, 7-series, you immediately realize. My argument is simple: BMW, Audi, Mercedes have a clearer nomenclature than we do. Many others as well. We need to play within the laws of the brands that make 80 percent of the volume of luxury cars. And our customers come to our showrooms and—whether we like it or not—they say stupid things like, “Cadillac, what’s your 5-series? Cadillac, what’s your A4?” Hierarchy is not a German invention, they just adhere better to it.
But you have such a rich history of evocative names—Seville, DeVille, Eldorado . . .

Yes, DeVille was far more exciting, Eldorado was far more exciting. But I don’t want nameplates to be exciting, because I want to build a Cadillac brand. The brand must be the driver of passion, and the cars and nomenclature should just sort themselves out. So I take all the blame—oh boy, and I have tons of it, on my desk, on all the blogs—and I fully accept it, but there’s no way around it. Don’t forget, we will expand our product portfolio, and if we keep the three letters, we will definitely confuse customers.

So I know [the nomenclature] sounds German, although it isn’t—it’s just logical and hierarchical. People outside of car nuts and automotive journalists have a hard time memorizing all the names Cadillac used in the past anyway. They are no longer meaningful. Let’s face it, those cars weren’t anywhere near as good as today’s cars are, so those names are not arousing for those that still remember them.
I might not agree with all is points in the article, but I'll give him this: At the very least he's passionate about the brand and where it's going. That doesn't seem to have existed at Cadillac's front office for some time.

I get his point about past names and the like. And no one can contest the fact that the products of today are vastly better than the products of yesteryear (with a few possible exceptions for subjective things like styling, etc). On the one hand he's saying that he doesn't want to be Germanic, but then adopts a Germanic naming scheme. However, to give him the benefit of the doubt, I suppose what he's really saying is that --- for good or for ill --- this is the de facto way that mainstream luxury customers view their vehicle portfolios. Can I truly blame him for going the route that he has? Perhaps, but I also understand the logic behind it.

However, to retort to his comment about "...if we keep the three letters, we will definitely confuse customers", I'm not so sure about that. They could have made everything CTA, CTB, CTC, CTD. However, looking at it globally, perhaps it seemed a bit too much like what Lincoln has done with their MK* scheme.

So we have what we have and no amount of complaining will change that. All hail the CT6 and it's progeny.

I think my problem with the whole thing is that I don't like CT* and XT*. I'd almost get behind the whole revised alphanumeric scheme if they came up with a different rubric; something more appealing. The justification for using the "CT" was because it was the close to Caddy's most recognizable product, the CTS. If that was the rationale, then I suppose that using "SR" would have made sense over "XT" since the SRX was/is a huge seller (though I'm sure they would have run into trouble since Toyota uses the SR5 moniker on a version of their trucks).

And what does the "T" stand for in their rubric? Is it "touring" the way that the original Seville STS was different from the Seville SLS?

It's just my two cents, but I would pay homage to city their namesake founded: Detroit. In doing so, I'd use "DT*" or just "D*" would have worked better than "C". And for the crossover/SUVs, I'd think that "DX" or "XD" (I'm sure no one would confuse a Cadillac XD3 for a Scion xD).

But what do I know.
 

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I find his responses "sterile" more then the Germans he is attacking
his responses to me where rehearsed and he was going to "stay on point" at all costs NOT some one with Genuine PASSION for the brand

I do agree with NOT using the "OLD" names as they ARE confusing
Deville is it bigger/smaller then the SeVille?
and Eldorado IS FWD as it "created" FWD for America so is the XTS the Eldorado?
and for German-ness of the "system" the Germans denote there engine size/place VS the NON German ones that ONLY tell the car class
 

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If the products (and marketing) evoke passion, the naming scheme becomes irrelevant. As long as the customer says "I need one of "those"...the cash register rings.
Does the styling of any current Cadillac evoke passion? Performance, perhaps, but styling is getting stale from the "A" pillar back...except for the way-overpriced ELR and just maybe (for some), the Escalade. Much work to do.
 

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Insulting your competition is downright stupid. Especially when said competition is kicking your ass month after month in sales.

No need for these comments. It only makes Cadillac look bad IMHO.
What insult?
 

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He can call the German autos "sterile," but about the "poolside" commercial, he says, "We will not poke at other nations."

I understand the distinction, but I LOVED that commercial.
 
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This one:


No need for the "cold, soulless, sterile" part.
Exactly. It's not professional AT ALL.

If he wants to know cold, soulless, and sterile (once he's finished running his mouth) point him right in the direction of those gauges in the Cadillac's without the LCD screen.
 

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Exactly. It's not professional AT ALL.

If he wants to know cold, soulless, and sterile (once he's finished running his mouth) point him right in the direction of those gauges in the Cadillac's without the LCD screen.
Don't forget those plastic fillers where the optional LED light blades go. :lmao:
 

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Overall good German responses. No doubt that Cadillac has a huge advantage over the sterile Germans, style-wise at least. Not that it has to translate into instant success, unfortunately. It's still curious to me that the domestics haven't copied the German model of one design, different sizes. Instead Americans have to wrack their brains with every new model because they won't come up with one design language for a brand. Not a bad thing in itself necessarily, just inefficient these days.

In terms of the Cadillac's naming convention, most of the old names had to go. It did nothing to build a brand. Even worse when they came up with logos for models and the brand was nowhere to be found. Just look at the new Mustang. Where does it even say it's a Ford? And what was it anyway with Americans picking the names of cities, many European, for their car names? The same applies to Chevrolet. They've got to get rid of some of their lame names. "Malibu", what the heck? Dumb name AND awful sounding name. The new Cadillac names are obnoxious and meaningless. ATS, BLS, CTS, E__, X__ was a good middle ground between silly names and the ridiculous .
 

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He can call the German autos "sterile," but about the "poolside" commercial, he says, "We will not poke at other nations."

I understand the distinction, but I LOVED that commercial.
It could get nasty l can just see the Jaguar response, best not get into poolside beer ad banter.



Really sad thing is the only reason a lot of people buy BMW & Mercedes Benz is because of the 'badge" rather than the car, to try to impress the Jones who live next door.
 

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Why do people remember Bugatti Veyron? It's not because of the name. It's because of the product behind the name. Make the cars right--be a marketing guy--not a CEO...

I never understood how Cadillac and American manufacturers in general focus their effort on marketing (I think a little too much). If they took some of that marketing and put it to better use (higher quality materials and workmanship) then I think the marketing will work itself out--later on.
 

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I don't think going back to the old names would work but I was hoping they would use some of the new names that the concepts had:
Elmiraj, Provoq, Evoq, Ciel
Don't give the concepts cool names if you aren't going to use them
 

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Why do people remember Bugatti Veyron? It's not because of the name. It's because of the product behind the name. Make the cars right--be a marketing guy--not a CEO...

I never understood how Cadillac and American manufacturers in general focus their effort on marketing (I think a little too much). If they took some of that marketing and put it to better use (higher quality materials and workmanship) then I think the marketing will work itself out--later on.
and spend a LOT of time "copying" the formula of there competition VS making a different offering
 
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