Akshaya Sikand, Head of Brand at Cadillac Middle East, discusses the "Be Iconic" campaign, the automotive brand's rebranding, and its strategy to stand out in an increasingly crowded EV landscape.
What drove the decision to conduct the rebranding of Cadillac?
Last year, we marked 12 decades of Cadillac raising the bar and setting industry standards in the luxury vehicle space. The occasion was also a celebration of our loyal customers, many of whom have been with us on our brand journey through every stage and are now heading with us toward our all-electric future.
There is an image of luxury and sophistication that is attributed to owning a Cadillac vehicle, that our customers have resonated with over the years. Beyond our product portfolio, this brand image allowed for a deeper connection with our audiences, which has stood the test of time.
Yet, now we are at an inflection point in the automotive industry, driven by the need to do what is right for the future. More than 75% of Americans say that by doing business with companies that address social and environmental issues, they feel like they are partners in these actions (Porter Novelli/Cone 2019). Whilst brands with purpose have taken over the marketing landscape, Cadillac has always had a clear purpose: to innovate.
Cadillac is currently in a transitional phase to spearhead the electric future. We entered this decade as an internal-combustion-engine (ICE) vehicle brand, and over the next few years, our ICE and electric vehicles (EVs) will coexist as we aim to leave the decade with a fully electric portfolio. Our ambition is to leverage groundbreaking technologies that set industry benchmarks in the luxury EVs space.
As we evolve, it is essential for our visual identity to reflect this transition and continue resonating with our customers, while appealing to a broader range of consumers. This particularly includes the youth, the future generation of Cadillac owners.
How would you describe this rebranding?
We see this as more than rebranding. A brand’s visual identity is at the forefront of its strategy. Accordingly, changes in the strategy ought to be reflected in the brand’s identity to keep it current.
We’re currently transforming our brand strategy. We are refreshing our brand purpose, look and feel, and the way we manifest our brand to the people through our new “Be Iconic” tagline.
Cadillac is an American icon and a brand that has always been known for luxury. We’re certainly retaining this positioning, while simultaneously reinterpreting it for a brand-new fleet and a new generation of consumers.
The rebranding is our way of communicating our brand values in a fresh and youthful way, that mirrors the ground-breaking products and services we are bringing to our markets. These include electric vehicles spearheaded by the Cadillac LYRIQ, set to reach the region this year and be followed by five other nameplates in the coming two years.
What are the challenges to rebranding a brand like Cadillac and how do you address these challenges?
There are those who believe that “If it is not broken, don’t fix it” and those who don’t. The thing with the former group is that they play it safe, and that is acceptable when not seeking growth and sustainability.
At Cadillac, we’re known for bringing groundbreaking innovations and industry firsts. These do not come from staying in the safe space and avoiding challenges.
Yes, experimenting with new things is certainly challenging, particularly with the knowledge that things can always go south. For any brand, changing the branding that customers have been accustomed to and resonated with for years, without disappointing them, brings a risk of alienating people.
After long research, trials and errors, we’ve attempted to mitigate this risk by maintaining our core Cadillac values that our customers love – “bold, sophisticated, optimistic” – but repackaging them in a way that appeals to a more contemporary sensibility.
The EV market is increasingly crowded. How does a brand like Cadillac differentiate itself from a marketing perspective?
There is no doubt the future of cars is electric. According to McKinsey (2022), battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) will be dominant across all luxury-segment tiers by 2031 and globally, more than 70% of current owners of premium and luxury ICE vehicles are willing to switch to EVs during their next vehicle purchase.
Cadillac plans to redefine the luxury EV space and set new industry benchmarks with our line-up of exciting new electric vehicles, packed with 12 decades of technological advancements designed to revolutionize the role of transportation.
Having said that, many other automotive manufacturers in the luxury space have also announced their ambitions when it comes to EVs.
Keeping this in mind, with increased competition, standing out becomes less about the product itself and much more about the brand that resonates with people in the region. Just like the ICE vehicles era.
As the products become more and more commoditized, the more significant the role brand value takes in setting one product apart from another.
The "Be Iconic" campaign is global. Were there adjustments made regionally/locally and if so, what were these adjustments for the Middle East?
Cadillac is an American brand that has called the Middle East home for over nine decades. While we endeavor to make communications that reflect the region and we’ve always aimed to cater for the specific needs of our customers in the Middle East through our product portfolio, our values do not change from one market to another.
The “Be Iconic” campaign is about communicating our values, which cut across geographies and accordingly, we haven’t made any changes to it.
Who is the target audience in the region and how are you targeting this audience?
The “Be Iconic” campaign targets affluent luxury consumers with a global mindset.
We are speaking to people who are looking to stand out from the crowd and make statements with the products they own.
Our methodology for target and channel selection is based on a combination of psychographic profiles, customer research, and trial.
Ultimately, it varies based on our objectives, but the goal is always to expose our brand to a broad luxury audience with a message that is uniquely our own.
We can’t try to be everything to everyone or we will end up saying nothing, and that defies the purpose.