Its a Cadillac.

If you were looking for a great example of a premium product, offering premium value, sold at a premium price, what brand name do you think of?  And conversely, what is the brand at the opposite (i.e., low) end of the spectrum?

I’ve been laughed at a few times recently when in conversation, to describe such a product, I’ve used the term “Cadillac” as that reference point.

“Bill, don’t you realize that most people under 40 have no affinity with the brand Cadillac, or that it stands for premium, if they even know it at all.  Oh yea, and remember that General Motors is in financial distress.”  More laughter (at Bill).

Yet twenty years ago; maybe even ten years ago, that expression would be spot on.  I guess old (expression) habits are hard to break.

So I surfed a bit on this topic stumbled upon the blog post  What makes a premium brand premium? by David Murphy, a brand strategist.  He says we are willing to pay more for a premium product or service despite other offerings providing equivalent function because…

…a premium brand is built upon specific tangible and intangible attributes that give it a sense worth:

  • Sensuality — it is sensory, tactile and a bit mysterious.
  • Rarity — it represents a discerning choice, intriguing because it is uncommon.
  • Confidence — it projects a feeling of intrinsic worth.
  • Authenticity — is has a sense of “true north” and remains true to this ideal.
  • Quality — it is consistent and shows extreme attention to detail.

Makes sense.  And I still associate each of these attributes to Cadillac.  But in my next conversation, I’m going to try a different premium brand to see what reaction that incites.

7 responses to “Its a Cadillac.

  1. Bill,
    Maybe a good alternative to ‘Cadillac’ as a premium product would be to use the ‘BMW’. Isn’t a car just a car? What makes a consumer justify the inflated price of a BMW when compared to a Buick or a Nissan? Isn’t it really just about perception of the status you’ll enjoy when you own that product? It reminds me a lot of the definition of a credit card as a way to buy something you don’t need with money you don’t have to impress other people who really don’t care.


  2. Somebody used the “it’s the Cadillac” metaphore recently in a requirements discussion. In Germany we use to say “it’s the Mercedes” of something. So quite similar to the north american expression.
    It seems the Cadillac brand really dropped. My girlfriend was recently looking to buy a car. The Cadillac was her emotional #1. Everybody around was telling her: “It’s an old men’s car”. She ended up buying a Camry for the same money, 3 year newer, 20,000 miles less – but at least it’s a V6 🙂


  3. Apple certainly has all the premium brand characteristics. As does BMW. As does Mercedes. I like the car illustrations better because people see the full range of brands (value to premium) everyday while driving, whereas people don’t as often see a full range of brands of computers (or consumer devices).


  4. For those of a certain age, the “it’s a Cadillac” stick because that was one of their marketing slogans (from 1982 to 1985) according to this enthusiast site:

    I think the Cadillac (and for German audiences) the Mercedes example resonate because for most households, the family car remains the single most expensive purchase after a home. So the marquee value of a premium automobile still carries an emotional weight that a Macbook Air does not.


    • Hi Bob and thanks for the link on Cadillac branding history. Thats a great read and I find amazing consistency in the slogans as a premium brand. Only “You Can Kill a Horse but not a Cadillac (1905)” doesn’t really fit as a premium brand message – that is more of durability. Every other one is all about being the premier automobile. I agree with your statement of emotional weight and size of purchase. Macbook Air might be more comparable to a Rolex. Regrettably, I don’t drive a Cadillac, type on a Macbook, nor wear a Rolex.


      • Robert H. Heath

        Hi Bill.

        Rereading my comment, it appears that WordPress and my iPad conspired to edit my first line.

        “… the phrase “it”s a Cadillac” sticks”


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