DETROIT -- On Sept. 23, we had our Automotive News Marketing Seminar in New York and I listened to Matt VanDyke, director of global Lincoln marketing, talk about how Ford moved the operations of the Premier Automotive Group to California many years back. That was when Ford owned Aston Martin, Volvo and Jaguar/Land Rover.
He said the biggest issue was that the move ended up being the same people relocated to a new geographic area. Now, Lincoln has developed Hudson Rouge, a team of luxury and fashion folks that helped launch the new Lincoln Motor Co. in late 2012. This team works on marketing and vehicle launches out of New York. Matt says these non-automotive folks give a different perspective. The Lincoln leadership still works in Dearborn close to product planning and design.
General Motors announced last week that Cadillac will be moving its headquarters to New York. They're setting up an office in trendy SoHo. I'm not sure if it will be the headquarters or just a marketing office, but it seems to me they're missing an opportunity. I know I'm biased, but I can't think of many cooler places to have a marketing office than Detroit. They don't have to be in the Renaissance Center. They could build a new space in Corktown or Eastern Market and take advantage of all the creativity that is exploding in the city right now.
Technology will have to play a large role in how the brand communicates. The president of Cadillac will be in New York and all the product planning, design and manufacturing will be elsewhere.
GM is a heavyweight when it comes to supporting Detroit with its RenCen investments and many philanthropic investments, especially in education. But I find it extremely interesting that the only automaker really embracing Detroit in its branding is owned by an Italian, now Dutch, company. Chrysler has done a great job of using the Detroit brand. It's impossible to fully measure the positive impact of the "Imported from Detroit" campaign.
There is a reason why premium watch manufacturer Shinola chose to have its headquarters in Detroit -- and not SoHo or Brooklyn. All the data and focus groups said they would sell more watches if they were stamped with "made in Detroit." I understand the difference in the brands, but you would have to think Detroit can do luxury, too.
We should just hope the Cadillac team in NYC can feel from a distance the vitality of the resurgent Detroit creative vibe.
KC Crain is executive vice president/director of corporate operations for Crain Communications Inc. and group publisher of Automotive News, Autoweek, Crain's Chicago Business, Plastics News, Rubber & Plastics News and Tire Business.