Branding has evolved to be one of the key pillars of the auto industry, especially with the customers who buy according to an ongoing emotional bond with certain auto brands. Global leading automotive brands are now required to bridge the gap between their brand promise and brand delivery. The Brandberries chatted with Nadim Ghrayeb, Head of Marketing at Cadillac Middle East, about brand associations, luxury branding and millennials.

BB: All brands hold associated meanings in the market place. Powerful brands establish a competitive brand association with layers of meaning to both differentiate themselves from their competitors and to connect with their audience. Can you shed some light on Cadillac’s brand association?

NG: Cadillac has been a leading luxury automotive brand since 1902 and has formed an integral part of the American social fabric ever since. In 2015, this evolved further as we moved our headquarters to New York, reflecting the sophisticated, modern, cosmopolitan character of the brand. We also renewed our core values in a new ethos, ‘Dare Greatly’, to communicate our mission to consumers. ‘Dare Greatly’ embodies everything we’re passionate about as a brand and inspires us as we shape our future.

Throughout our history, we have collaborated and inspired a wide variety of creative individuals, including artists, musicians and photographers. Notably, they have included the renowned pop-artist Andy Warhol, and more locally, at Cadillac Middle East we have collaborated with Saudi photographer Hussain Daghriri and Jordanian designer Nafsika Skourti. This is all part of a global effort to focus on art and culture.

As part of the ‘Dare Greatly’ initiative, in the Middle East we recently launched ‘Arabs of New York’, a brand campaign which shines a spotlight on entrepreneurial Arabs living in New York and the passions that drive them. New York is at our core and we want to showcase our home and our brand in the Middle East.

BB: The marketplace of luxury car brands is divided between the Brits and the Germans. However, Cadillac has been able to carve its positioning as an authentic American luxury car brand. What’s the secret sauce behind Cadillac’s brand positioning?

NG: British and German brands have product entries in almost every segment of the luxury market and have gained brand appreciation with decades of customer interaction. However, with over a century at the forefront of the automotive scene, Cadillac has long been a brand synonymous with excellence and innovation.

To avoid convention and clichés, or fall back on more dated concepts of luxury, we aim to appeal to people who want to differentiate themselves from the crowd. We are reaching out to younger drivers who are entrepreneurial, fashion-forward and art-focused. We are doing this by developing cars with a very distinct design and distinctive driving characteristics and by tailoring experiential opportunities around the interests of consumers. This is particularly relevant in the region with over a quarter of the population aged between 18 and 36 years, presenting us with some of the youngest potential fans worldwide.

2017 Cadillac CT6

BB: Cadillac, today, is a 116-year old brand. Longstanding brands are always faced with the dilemma of how can they constantly appeal to younger generations. From your perspective, what youngsters of today embrace in a car brand?

NG: Across all sectors, Generations X and Y are increasingly on the lookout for innovative technologies and unique design. We are appealing to this demographic by developing cars that fit the lifestyles of the younger generations and by embracing art, fashion and culinary experiences and collaborating with inspirational partners. Starting in 2018, our incredible product offensive will include nine new launches and four new entries all providing a uniquely Cadillac experience.

We have always looked to push the boundaries of what is possible and to spark conversations, whether that being the automotive manufacturer to unveil the first regular production V8 engine in 1915 to debuting the first automotive application of infrared technology in 2000 in the Cadillac DeVille. More recently, we introduced the Cadillac CT6 – the first vehicle to include an industry-first surround-vision video recording system designed to enhance situational awareness and safety for the driver.

BB: Auto brands won’t win consumers’ hearts with horsepower, consequently, the need to resonate with people to create and nurture an emotional bond has emerged. Was Cadillac able to tap into its consumers’ emotions? Please explain.

NG: From the outset, Cadillac has typified the ‘American dream’: reaching for and achieving the highest goals and aspirations. Throughout our history we have looked beyond our identity as a luxury automotive brand, working with artists, musicians, and designers to demonstrate that we are a player in the realm of the creative arts – an area we see as being highly emotive for our customers.

Earning credibility amongst a global audience means not only having innovative products but also providing the best possible overall brand experience. Whether that be holding exhibitions featuring renowned pop artist Andy Warhol’s iconic paintings, or including a fashion pop-up store and art gallery in Cadillac House in New York, Cadillac has a legacy of striving to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

BB: It has recently been announced that Cadillac is to be the technology lead brand inside the General Motors portfolio of brands with unveiling electric and self-driving cars by 2023. What’s the implications of such an announcement on the brand positioning? Do you see it as a shift that embraces the digital transformation?

NG: As a luxury automotive brand, we are focused on providing our customers with the most up to date technologies without compromising our identity. Indeed, we recognize that the modern concept of luxury necessitates the incorporation of the very latest technology. As such, we are not only accepting a move towards new technologies but, as industry leaders, we are actively championing them and will progressively roll out models as part of our product offensive which is starting in 2018.

We are setting new industry standards with ground breaking driver assistance technologies such as Super Cruise where we have delivered on our promise of true hand-free driving for the highway.

In addition, We all know the experience of getting from point A to B for many has changed, and Cadillac is at the forefront of innovation ensuring we provide the products and services that our customers need. Last year, we launched BOOK by Cadillac in the US, and we are working to expand the number of markets in which this service is offered in the very near future. This is truly a unique offering in the automotive world, whereby our customers can enjoy the full line-up of Cadillac vehicles with just one monthly fee, providing them with worry-free and white glove access to the vehicle that suits their needs one month… and changing it the next.

BB: Can you shed some light on the disruptive trends that will reshape the automotive industry in 2018?

NG: Over the next year, I anticipate that certain trends will transform the industry, including, but not limited to, electric vehicles and autonomous driving.

In terms of electric vehicles, starting out in our home market, we are leveraging General Motors’ expertise in battery cell technology with the Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid. The model is designed to provide all-electric driving for most daily commutes, while maximizing fuel efficiency by providing blended power from the engine and battery at higher speeds and higher loads, even when energy is stored in the battery. We will also see a number of other electrical vehicles coming to the Cadillac line-up in the near future.

Looking to the future of autonomous driving, starting in the fall of 2018, our semi-autonomous technology, Super Cruise, will be offered as an option on the 2018 Cadillac CT6 prestige sedan in the US and Canadian markets. The technology is capable of fully automatic steering, braking and lane-centering in highway driving under certain optimal conditions. We believe that this is the future of motoring and have developed the world’s first true hands-free driving system for the freeway, a driving experience in a class of its own and the pinnacle of design, technology and comfort.

As mentioned, platforms like ‘BOOK’ will begin to be more prevalent as some customer’s preferences in vehicle ownership changes. We can already see this shift take place in many other industries with the likes of Netflix and Apple Music allowing you to access content with one monthly fee, and we can already see people’s appetite for it in the automotive industry as we expand the program in the US.