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Keeping Cadillac relevant: all about the product

This morning Cadillac visited General Mills to discuss their brand success story.

"The story begins and ends with product", said Don Butler, VP Marketing for Cadillac. He also touched on customer experience and other classic luxury attributes. However, it was the product aspect that really intrigued me.

At Carlson I learned the value of maximization. Marketing, Finance, Operations... all the functions are very good at maximizing a great product. In my Marketing courses I learned about segmentation (which is why Cadillac carefully chooses its grassroots events). In the Finance classes I learned about contribution margin (which is why Ford continued to produce the Ranger truck long after demand dropped off). In Operations I learned the ripple effect of one small customization (and I immediately thought of the decline in Cadillac's interior color choices).

Yet this morning a successful brand manager told us over and over the product was king, especially in the luxury auto segment. For those interested in marketing, this interview link will be interesting. Cadillac's new ethos of "red blooded luxury" is certainly succeeding. But for those interested in the "maximization" functions, it's a humbling moment to admit that well-maximized Cadillacs nearly destroyed the brand. It's one thing to efficiently make a million Chevys, but quite another to make five thousand bespoke Cadillacs.

It's a timely reminder that 1) you can turn around any decline with great product, and 2) heritage doesn't count in a fickle market.

http://video.forbes.com/fvn/cmo/don-butler-cadillac

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