My favorite example of how to do it right is Cadillac and the brand refresh it executed way back 2003 when it launched its “Breakthrough” campaign featuring Led Zeppelin’s iconic “Rock N Roll” in their ads.
I recall that campaign vividly because it came as such a shock to me. I grew up in a generation where Cadillacs were what your grandparents drove. They were reliable, big, bulky boats with wheels that were everywhere and yet were never considered cool.
The commercial launched with pounding drums of John Bonham and the growing guitars of Jimmy Page and a Cadillac sedan barreling through a desert salt bed. There was a more “everyday” version of the commercial that ran in non-Super Bowl placements, and it was just as jarring. Cadillac based its new branding on the shoulders of rock and roll giants coupled with a dramatic new design for its cars.
My first reaction was that it didn’t make sense, but quickly changed my opinion with the ads’ frequency and consistency and the car’s design. The design of the new cars delivered on a promise that was made in the sound of the music. It was the perfect example of synergy between promise and experience.
Fast-forward to this past June when I was strolling past a parking lot with my family enroute to grabbing dinner. We noticed a new ell-electric Cadillac. I can’t say what model it was, and I am pretty sure there are not a lot of them, but this was a plug-in Cadillac and it was brand new and it turned some heads.
I live in an area where every third car is a Tesla, so electric cars are not abnormal, but seeing one from an iconic American brand is.
My reaction was “of course, why wouldn’t Cadillac be pushing into an electric future?” That’s an innovative brand.
Therein lies the impact of the brand refresh from 2003. Cadillac tried to specifically shift its image from that of a worn-out, old-generation automaker to an envelope-pushing innovator that wins awards and consumers’ hearts at the same time. It was able to reposition to gain brand momentum. Consumers who are paying attention will automatically connect with the new ideas and see the value of a brand like Cadillac bringing them to market.
Cadillac succeeded where many other companies have not by reinvigorating its brand. They surely spent a lot of time and money in doing so, but at the core was a simple truth: It promised something different and they delivered on it. You can change the logo, update the font, redesign the look but the promise you make when you install that change has to match the actual delivered and in this case it did.
Refreshing a brand is an important exercise and something that should be done by all departments, not just by marketing. Are you looking at your brand refresh holistically?