NEW YORK -- Matt Russell has owned several BMWs and has raced them for years. He fulfilled a childhood dream by working for the stalwart German automaker for more than a decade -- until June, when he left BMW to take a marketing post at Cadillac.
He's among about 60 newcomers to join Cadillac's global headquarters here recently; it relocates this week from temporary digs to a permanent home in a lower Manhattan office building overlooking the Hudson River.
Some, like Russell, have come from marketing roles at other luxury auto brands, including Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Audi. Others arrived from the world of high-end consumer goods: Godiva, Ann Taylor and Belvedere vodka, to name a few.
Why would these relatively young marketers leave such established, top-shelf brands for a daunting reclamation project -- one that even Cadillac's top executives acknowledge could take a decade?
In short, they see an unprecedented chance to reboot a 113-year-old brand, a name once synonymous with greatness.
That opportunity has attracted a diverse mix of marketers, several of whom shared their reasoning during interviews in New York this month. They like what they describe as a startup atmosphere, a vibe nurtured by Cadillac's relocation to New York. They have bought into the comeback story outlined by brand president Johan de Nysschen and marketing chief Uwe Ellinghaus. Many say they favor the frenetic pace of a turnaround project over maintaining the status quo at an elite brand.
That was the motivating factor for Russell, 38, who helped launch the Mini brand while at BMW.
"I've never forgotten how exciting it was to go out and find growth like" the Mini launch, said Russell, life-cycle marketing manager for Cadillac's ATS and CTS cars. "BMW is slow and steady growth. I was at a point where I wanted to take some real risk."
Cadillac's new global nerve center is run from the top two levels of a 16-floor, century-old office building in a neighborhood that abuts three of Manhattan's trendiest areas: SoHo, Tribeca and Greenwich Village. A ground-floor space of cement floors and bare lightbulbs will house a Cadillac experience center by next year -- think lounge area with a mix of new and classic Cadillac cars and digital displays. It will share the street level with an exposed-brick coffee shop that has a latte tap and sells an 8-ounce bag of exotic Panamanian coffee beans for $58.
The headquarters houses mostly marketing and brand-strategy people. The roughly 60 newcomers are joined by about the same number of Cadillac or General Motors veterans.
Of course, thousands more support Cadillac back in Detroit, where designers and engineers are working on a slew of new vehicles that Cadillac badly needs to compete with BMW, Mercedes and others in coming years. But the people working here just might face a tougher task.