When presenting Super Cruise to the masses, Cadillac's marketing crew works to avoid misunderstandings by letting consumers know that the tech doesn't free them of all responsibility. The advertising depicts attentive drivers behind the wheel, not those looking to zone out and let the vehicle do all of the work.
Staff Reporter Vince Bond Jr. spoke with Jason Sledziewski, 36, Cadillac's director of product marketing, about the dynamics behind marketing Super Cruise in an era of growing vehicle automation. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: How do you feel when seeing videos of drivers doing unsafe things while using Tesla's Autopilot? How does that impact the narrative around driver-assist systems?
A: I'm not going to comment on Tesla's system, but I can comment on our system and how we go about our system. If you look at what we do in digital, social and other places and even down into what we've done last year in some of our TV spots, we really do focus on our technology, and you'll see in all of that communication that we start with the customer aware with their hands on the wheel. It is still ultimately up to the driver to control the vehicle. From a marketing perspective, we are always going to show how the system works. As much as people have called it in the past a safety feature, I would say it's a refreshment feature. When you use it on the freeway in long distance, you just fundamentally show up to your destination much more refreshed than you would otherwise in a non-Super Cruise vehicle.
Is that a message Cadillac wants to send — that this is a refreshment feature?
Yeah. That's one way to describe it. For me, it's always about finding the consumer benefit of the technology.
I think one of the things is the way you feel after a long ride. How do you feel in traffic? It's as much a feature about long trips as it is a feature when you're stuck in traffic and you can have your hands off the wheel and feet off the pedal while the system reacts to traffic, with your attentiveness.
With this system, Cadillac can't just go out and shoot rolling footage as it would with a regular car. Doesn't the brand have to be a lot more detailed in the planning?
From a taking footage perspective, that's more of when we start to look at locations and where the vehicle can be used. It's been a freeway-based system. We've shown the vehicle in freeway environments. It would change locations of where we shoot, but otherwise, I don't think it's changing too much about how we have to creatively capture anything. In those specific spots, we pay a lot more attention to the driver and what the driver is doing, and showing that they're starting with their hands on the wheel and they are still attentive as the vehicle is moving.
What do consumers in focus groups say about Super Cruise?
Feedback from consumers overall is very positive, especially for customers who have it. We've now had the vehicle out there for a while, and we've had people experience it all over the U.S. and Canada and continue to have a lot more miles put on through Super Cruise. We leverage our consumers to learn about how we can make the system better.
If you look at it as we come through the next variation of the system, one example I love to use is when you pass a truck on the highway, your tendency is to move a little bit to the left in your lane because that is what makes you comfortable.
As we've continued to refine the system, we've used some sensor technology of the vehicle to shift the vehicle a little to the left as you're passing larger vehicles. The system was great, but we wanted to continue to learn from the experiences of our customers.
How will customer feedback affect future campaigns?
As much as we've talked in the past about it being a freeway-based system, you will see us also represented in some traffic environments. That's a piece that we haven't leveraged too much. We continue to develop the system. To my example of it going around a truck, using updates and showing updates such as those sort of benefits is something you'll likely see us do in the future. Maybe not in the TV spot, but definitely driven down through our website and other digital properties.
Outside TV, how is Cadillac educating consumers about Super Cruise?
We get a lot of traffic to our website, cadillac.com, especially to CT6 and Super Cruise pages.
As an example, we have a map of where Super Cruise can be used. It shows what freeways today can be leveraged. We also continue in our digital advertising when we talk about CT6; it's a feature we continue to talk about. We do have product videos that we leverage about CT6 as well, either on our website and some campaigns through YouTube and other digital properties.
What is Cadillac doing at the dealer level to explain Super Cruise to consumers?
We do national training across all of our vehicles, and as we talk about CT6, we do train our consultants and dealers about Super Cruise and how best to explain it to a customer. We offer test drives of Super Cruise for customers with trained consultants to help make that experience seamless.