HP’s Best Road Map Lies in Connecting the Dots

What do you do with a company that makes 75% of it’s business from B2B and 25% from a nascent portable market and the dying consumer computer market? You could do what the late CEO thought: sod the consumer and jump all the way in to B2B. What’s the problem with that? IBM and Oracle to start and perhaps SAP to end. Essentailly, you’re getting into a market with already established competitors in an area of industry that’s not very excited about change.

Then there’s the idea of blowing out a quarter of business which sits at just past the tipping point. Sure , the market for conusmer desktops will only be a shadow of itself in the near future, but the technolgy that HP now has could eclipse this.

What would be the right thing to do? Do both, but connect them. HP is in a unique place where it could, in fact, connect the dots from the mobile/portable/tablet market and big business systems and have the clout to make it work. The genius is the making the end-to-end work.

HP would actually become what everyone thinks RIM was. The business portable device company. They would be the trusted company that business would turn to to integrate from mainframe to cloud to cell phone. No more hunting down patch programs or looking through tables to see what’s compatible with what. They could just buy the whole system.

You see, this is a race. And that race is to see who can close the circle between the secure server, the cloud and the portable. The world is moving away from desks in office buildings and becoming mobile and fluid. This is made possible by having the internet everywhere, absurdly portable devices and the need to reduce operating costs. Right now we all have each of the components, but the integration is certainly not at the depth we need.

The big problems companies face in connecting the dots is essentially bespoke hardware and software and the notion of trust. This is where HP could shine. HP is a trusted name in the corporate world – certainly trustworthy enough to enlist the help of managing important data. Most importantly, HP owns their operating system, and can open or secure it at any depth or expand it to any who asks. Something companies using android cannot do. It also controls the hardware on the devices (hopefully) guaranteeing a quality of service just like iOS but in a more business-friendly manner.

By becoming business’s mobile solutions integration company, Hewlett Packard sits in a market it arleady knows and against players who arguably haven’t figured it out yet,  namely Microsoft and Research in Motion. This positioning also takes itself out of the more cut-throat competition in the consumer space, where HP has shown it has no clue on how to compete. Finally, if HP is truly serious about moving totally into the B2B market, being the integration company would be the ultimate leveraging platform to own the rest of the market.

What Will Happen to the Droid Brand Now That Google Bought Motorola Mobility?

Curiously, I was talking with a friend of mine about Motorola’s plans this past weekend and we had gotten on to a discussion about the equity in the Droid brand. Our conversation revolved mostly on how Motorola’s then plan to introduce another operating system and the destruction of the Droid brand it would bring. Obviously, things changed on Monday.

Google’s purchase could mean a number of things for the Droid brand. The interesting aspect is that this will essentially be Google’s first real consumer brand that lives outside of the Internet. Brands that extend to the tangible world – and especially the product world – are different beasts than purely digital ones. The care and feeding of a brand like this is much more than what Google has experienced in the past.

The Nexus line was probably their best foray into actual products and it could hardly be called a success. Otherwise, you have the current push for the Chrome laptops, which I am sure that many who are reading this probably haven’t even heard of. Even the Android operating system, which is poised to be ‘the’ mobile device platform in the coming years has anemic advertising behind it, smacking of Business-to-Business bland-our.

Should Google notice, they may have lucked into a solution that could make their own branded phone a success. With Droid, they have essentially a turn-key branding solution for their mobile products, as well as the channels necessary to make it easy to get things in front of clients. More importantly, they have the cache to convince shoppers to buy.

Motorola put a lot effort into creating the brand, which is possibly the strongest Android brand on the market, even though it seems that Motorola has backed away from the push, cutting down on the more pervasive, high-value advertising campaigns. With a little effort, Google could breathe some life back into the Droid brand and perhaps own the market once again, just as Motorola had done initially.

The question is will Google understand what needs to be done to maintain and grow the brand? There has been a lot of talk about Google’s purchase being merely for the mountain of patents that Motorola had relating to mobile devices and not so much about the actual product lines. Perhaps Google just doesn’t know what they have. It is not without precedent that large companies lack the understanding of everything they receive when they buy other companies. It happens all the time.

The other issue that’s brought up in this Businessweek article is that Google may just have to scuttle the brand to head off an exodus from the Android OS and scatter us to a number of proprietary mobile OSs. Should that exodus happen, WebOS and Windows phones may become the heirs to Androids other-than-iOS crown.

What would be the best way to operate this purchase? I would think that allowing Motorola Mobility to operate as a somewhat independent subsidiary would yield the best results. Google would get its patent protection for Android. Google would also get a premium supplier of handsets to make sure their Android vision is properly executed. In order to do this right, Mr. Page would have to keep Google’s branding off of Motorola – a hard thing to do with mergers. When people buy things, they can’t help changing those things.

For the Droid brand, it would be massive mistake to push forward a co-branding scenario that’s all too common in these situations, like ‘Droid by Google’ or ‘Google Droid’ Ruining strong brands is easy when you dilute them with the misplaced necessity of staking claim.

Personally, I am a big fan of Motorola and their mobile products. The Droid campaign was genius and perfectly executed against everything iPhone. I am also a fan of Google and the products they put forth, although I am unsure that this plan will work out on in the most fruitful manner.

Did Borders Miss its Pivot?

We all know the sad demise of Borders. Some of us know the the rest of the story as well: crushing debt and poor timing on taking on competitors, amongst other things. Could the real problem be that Borders did not make its ‘pivot’ when it should have?

Borders was a bookstore chain, but Borders was more than that and perhaps in this ‘more’ was their solution. What else was Borders? We have to look at what people used it for to really answer the question. Within that answer was the direction Borders should have changed its business plan to.

Certainly, people went to buy books – or at least look at books. People also went because it had a coffee shop where people could look at the books in depth and decide to purchase. People also used the bookstore as place to meet with others, as you could easily do in the aforementioned coffee shop.

The manner at which Borders coffee shops were set up was different than other coffee shop competitors. The area was far larger and could be used (most times) by a working patron. It had lots of tables instead of plush chairs. You had a better chance of finding an open table there than at any Starbucks. The larger space committed to the coffee shop portion made it re-configurable for larger groups, so you’d normally see students studying or people talking with each other.

The three kinds of shopper who frequented the coffee shop were shoppers, workers and socializers. If these were the people who most came in to the store, shouldn’t it be obvious that the store be redesigned to attract more of these sorts?

This would be the little bell for Borders to pivot.

Perhaps Borders could become a coffee shop? After all, a coffee shop attracts people in much the same manner and the great part about it is that Starbucks’ stores are really not set up to handle the sorts of activities at the scale Borders could. With a ‘coffee shop’ the square footage of a Borders, a company could afford to have more people drink coffee for longer without worrying as much at turn over. Perhaps instead of removing chairs and tables from the showroom floor, they should have put more in.

What if Borders traveled down that path further? If Borders had thought not as a bookstore with a coffee shop but more as a socializing place for people, things would have been different. They would have to make a business of bringing people together inside the store, or better yet, make a situation where the shopper would be inclined to stay longer? What if Borders was to become a social neighborhood hotspot? Perhaps even they could have sold more books.

People come together for a united cause. Friends are friends because they share something similar, whether it be the same love of cars, live in the same neighborhood or play the same sports. People also spend to be united in cause. Finally, most people are desperate to socialize (We are social animals after all.) Bring enough people together and socializing happens and for Borders, the longer people are in stores, the better the chances those people will buy.

This could have happened easily enough for Borders. It could have been a grass-roots sort of affair. It could have started as innocuously as with author talks, then with book clubs (driving book sales). Borders could then hire cool hunters to sort out the new thing and bring that in for demonstration, thus driving socialization and in the process, sales. If one is not constrained by thinking of purely authors, there are a world’s possibilities available for attracting shoppers.

Borders could have seriously embraced technology as it had early in its life and worked to bring both the cloud-world and the bricks & mortar world together. When people leave a Borders they stop thinking of going to Borders until they drive past or feel a specific need. With the social capabilities of technology that they could have leveraged, they could have made a persistent presence in shoppers’ lives. They could do this with all of the store engagements they execute. What good is having them if no one knows about them.

Of course there are other gems that could have polished. Perhaps then with a digital reader app that allows one to preview books only at the local borders, thus driving people to physically go to the store. It could have been pushed further; coupons would be sent to be redeemed when they checked into the store. They could have further pushed tech by creating in-store apps that connected people in interesting way, and broke down the awkward barriers people have to talking to new people. It could have even had a (gasp) ‘singles night’ like my local grocery store has ( yeah, that’s for real!).

All of these suggestions could have helped to at least slow down the decline. They take money, yes, but so does making money. The only way Borders could have pulled out would have been if Borders would have understood that there was no more money in being a bookstore and it had to do something else: Pivot.

Sears & the Perilous Nature of Selling Private Label Brands into Other Stores

So we all know how Sears/Kmart is just not making it happen. It seems to be a beast that’s trying to get it’s groove back while coasting on its massive inertia. It also doesn’t help that the owner looks at the business as giant real estate investment.

The lastest plan Sears has is to create profitability by selling its amazingly successful private label brands in other stores – instead of using them to create a basis for driving sales into their own stores. In some ways I imagine that this could work out, but there are a lot of reason why this would be folly, at best.

One of the first things to think about is that this will be the first time Craftsman (or Kenmore or Diehard) will have to compete against other brands.

You could say that they’ve always have, but if you take it store by store, Craftsman has never had to compete at the shelf level. There has never been another brand that’s hung right next to a Craftsman product where a customer would hold both and decide between them. You came to Sears to buy a Craftsman tool. The world is different when people go to a brand neutral store like Ace where Stanley and even Ace have their brands.

Hmmm, I don't see any Craftsman packaging there, do you?

Why does this matter? While Craftsman has a strong brand (and that may be enough for a while), they will now have to compete on features and perception in direct comparison with other brands. If they fail at this, then all they’ll have left is to compete on price – a dangerous place for any company to be.

Sears will now have to work to make their packaging and marketing amazingly more effective. If you’ve ever compared Craftsman’s packaging to say, Stanley, you can see that the design work has gotten soft due to the lack of in-store competiton. This re-treatment will be costly. Hopefully, they’ll decide against creating two lines of packaging for Sears and then for others.

I think the real question is what does Sears get out of this? It’s one thing to plow Craftsman into Kmart, a wholly owned subsidiary. It’s quite another to spread your private brand equity around to any other store that wants to carry it. Sears stands to gain a lot more product sales, sure, but at what cost?

Allowing other stores to carry your flagship products destroys any reason for consumers to visit Sears stores. If I can get Craftsman tools at Ace, why should I drive to Sears to buy them, right? What’s the problem? Sears still gets a sale, right? They do certainly, but what they lose is shoppers in their store…shopping for other things and impulse buying, No longer do you have someone coasting through clothing to get to tools. There’s a reason why you can get into the mall through Sears and Sears seems to have forgotten it.

My thinking is Sears essentially looses its anchor brand draw to its stores, losing Sears store traffic and now has the added burden of converting a non-competing store brand into a national name brand. What happens to Sears, now?

The Future of Linux is with Android- A Call to Developers

No matter how you slice it, Linux never really captured that much of the desktop computing environment and to put a finer tip on it, never really hooked-up with the end user. Every desktop and laptop OS is going to have to battle pretty hard to stay relevant in the coming future dominated by things like tablets and cell phones. As desktops recede, what will happen to end-user Linux and what should it do next?

The goal of the desktop linux community should be to embrace these Android appliances if it wants to thrive, not just live in the future. It’s hard to imagine embracing the very items pushing you aside, but this could be linux’s moment to take the lead as a personal operating system. Linux can do this by speeding the integration between Android and Linux.

What does this mean? It means bringing the same apps that run on Android onto Linux. I don’t mean ones that are compatible. I mean THE SAME ONES. Linux should be able to do this as the underlying code for each is not too far away from each other and both open source.  Perhaps create a Wine-like runtime environment or even better a native patch for the desktop to run them.

The benefit of this capability would be incalculable. Linux would side-step the torment of coding for natively compatible apps, freeing the developers from the numerous strains of Linux, that has always plagued Linux as a development platform. It would also give Linux hundreds of thousands of  immediately available and relevant, name brand pre-written applications – none of which run on Windows.

The next step is to integrate the desktop environment into one that’s pretty comfortable for the average Android user. A feat that wouldn’t be that hard to do and Gnome is well on it’s way in its latest incarnation. The hard part is to create a UI that’s congruent with the functionality of Android. Meaning, The menus have to start looking kind of the same, or at least have the same general information in the same general spots. It’s been a slow slog for the linux community to embrace the sort of ease of functionality that you get natively with other OSs, even though it’s made great strides in the last few years,  it really needs to be done now for Linux’s end-user future. This ease of functionality is the big gift Google gave to Linux to make it successful as Android. It is time for Linux to embrace that gift as well.

I am sure that Apple is working on this right now and eventually over the course of the decade, Windows will figure it out, too. The plus here is that if Linux as a community can capture this compatibility, it could very well thrust Linux to the end-user spotlight like it always pined for. Think about it: there are hundreds of thousands of Android users out there using their mobile devices almost all the time with seemingly incompatible Windows or Apple machines at home. What if they could have that exact same functionality at home as they do on their phones?

The other win for Linux, if it can pull off this integration is that the Android market segment (and the loan it made from Linux) can push into Linux. Users of Android items, already  understanding and feeling comfortable using ‘droid items will find it easy to translate this operability to Linux – if the integration is done well. This is really the same scheme that has worked amazingly well for Apple and the iOS to OSX machine up-sell.

I would really like to do this myself, but the time it would take me to learn, other more talented folks could have it running like a top, so I urge the talented developers out there to take up the cause! The Linux community has to strike now (or really last year) with this concept, if it is to secure it’s future and it’s growth for the next 3-5 years, otherwise it will fall away, like so many other good ideas, and we’ll all be stuck between two giant non-listening companies.

Why Minimal-looking Packaging Only Works for Apple

From time to time, I get requests to make packaging that is ‘minimalist, like the iPod’s’. Once we get to work on it and a few revisions later, we’re pretty far away from the minimalist concept and much closer to the standard packaging look, kind of like this great video that came out a few years ago:

While this video is comically funny and at poor Microsoft’s expense, it hints at why most other companies can’t do the Apple packaging. The real reason is that Apple’s packaging isn’t really designed to convince the shopper that their product is the best at the shelf level – and it doesn’t have to.

Apple’s marketing and branding is set up so that the sale happens well before the shopper even gets into the car to go to the store. The packaging only serves as reassurance for the customer, rather than something that has to convince. They do this by having a very rich saturation of advertising that sells to a lesser extent the product and to a larger extent the emotional conductivity to the brand and the perceptions this entails.

Most companies, whether they sell consumer electronics or Macadamia nuts just doesn’t have the pervasive outlay that Apple puts out, so they rely on the packaging to be the final decision maker at the shelf level. The packaging, then is salesman and has to convince the shopper that the product is the one they want.

It becomes a big gamble then to leave the packaging clean, perhaps too big of a gamble for any marketing person to take. Important information must go onto the package in order to guarantee the competitiveness of the item, or so it seems.

Perhaps the real issue here is that Apple doesn’t sell personal media devices, they sell a lifestyle. People buy more on the idea of engaging in the Apple lifestyle rather than the actual features of the item. In this world, the Apple packaging is perfect as it sells the awesomeness of living in Apple-world. 5Gb as opposed to 32Gb is not in the vision of the person who wishes to live the Apple lifestyle – this information can certainly be left off of the package.

As a further aside, Apple has also done a very good job of separating their products at shelf level where the plain opportunity of comparing the items is difficult and speaks to the lifestyle concept: either you are looking at just the Apple products or you are not – and we all want to be part of the cool club…

So, if you really want the clean, minimal packaging for your products, the most important things to copy from Apple, is  to at least create a pervasive and rich advertising campaign, but the optimum thing to have is to sell your product as something that doesn’t have features but has the means to transport the consumer to their ideal life. Then features become less important and the exciting world that the brand creates – if done well- is far more enticing than battery life or the kind of salt on them nuts.

Billboard Space is Important to Brand Packaging Design

If you want to build your brand then you need to be serious about your packaging’s billboard space. What do I mean about ‘billboard space’? This is the area you have on your package available for messaging, and more importantly, your brand messaging. Obviously. the most important area is the space available on the front of the package.

There are other considerations about how much space you could have. Issues like available shelf space, standardized packaging or the sizing dictated by shipping requirements.

I see a lot of die lines where area has been sacrificed for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s for a better look at a product or perhaps it’s a mis-guided attempt at saving a little materials cost. There is savings to be had cutting back on materials, and there can be a lot said about showing your product, to be sure, but what about your brand?

There are a lot of great reasons to spend a bit more or put more focus on branding in packaging. The most important in my mind is that when the brand features prominently on a package it tells me that the company is proud enough of its product to broadcast authorship. Perhaps it’s the brand’s promise.

Some companies do a really good job of going out there and making more billboard space than what more cost conscious folks do. Take this Swiss Miss package. Seems like a fairly compact package, just about the size for 10 servings?

Having a look inside suggests otherwise. This is exactly how it looked when I opened it.  Yes, there was 10 packets in there ( and I guess we all know that I am a bit waistband-conscious)! Now, I have to say that there could be a number of reasons for Nestle’s selection of this size, but the real benefit is that they gain much more space to tell their story on the front. They get to own twice as much shelf space as well.

If you look back at the first image you can see that artwork and elements are really un-hurried on the package. There is room to allow everything to breathe, giving the product a feeling of confidence that you couldn’t have in a smaller form factor. Nestle uses nearly all the space on the front for its logo, making a large distinction from every competitor on the shelf and certainly from private label brands.

Certainly, the back panel also sees the rewards of the larger size, making room for a lifestyle photo that supports the product’s healthy lifestyle posturing. On a package with only the necessary size in mind for 10 packets this certainly would not be available.

What are the effects of these increased capabilities? Overall, the Swiss Miss packaging comes off far more confident than competitors and there is also the feeling that Swiss Miss stands behind their product far more than competitors due to the larger-than-life logo. The confidence comes directly from marketing managers being able to step back from extolling every virtue a product has and cluttering the faces with blips of marketing points. The uncluttered look also supports the notion that you are, in fact, purchasing a far higher quality product than others who rely on myriad marking blasters for convincing.

In a nutshell Swiss Miss is saying, “we are the best product on the market and we want to make sure you to know it” – and that is successful packaging.

Google Books to Encourage E-Reader Design?

This week’s buzz is all about Google’s new ebook venture. There are a lot of reasons for this, like Google muscling in on Amazon or whatever but the thing that interests me is that Google’s method of delivery poises the market for perhaps an increase in e-reader competition.

Currently, most large e-reader offerings are locked in to only one system. The Kindle can really only work with Amazon, the Nook pretty much is stuck with Barnes & Noble’s plan and the iPad with Apple’s iTunes. To heap it on, these readers are pretty much the only devices you can buy for each of them (Sure you can read a book on your phone, too. but really? who does that?). If you’re an independent e-reader manufacturer, you’re pretty much out of luck getting into these things.

Why does this matter? It makes a sort of oligopolistic silo system where innovation doesn’t really have to flourish and prices don’t have to really come down. Everything can stay the same. There will only be one price point for entrance into the wonderful world of ebooks for the consumer and those same prices for the readers will remain at a level that will basically hasten the obsolecence of the e-reader at the the hands of lower-end tablets. This would really be a shame if that were to happen.

The e-reader concept is a great one: a simple device where you just read things on. The root cause of it’s death, up to this point is their price. Let’s face it: an e-reader (and especially not a color one) should be below $100. Ideally, it should be a shade over $50. What would you get with that? a basic book-reading device that has adequate storage, WI-FI  and maybe a media player. The end.  Prices of $250 or even $140 are just too high and begin to compete with cheap tablets, and while cheap tablets are not completely here right now, oh, boy! They will be! Just have a look at some Chinese companies’s sites, you can get an Android tablet right now and cheaper than a Kindle!

This is where Google comes in.

Now that nearly any device with a browser can access their collection, they’ve essentially democratized the ebook market, allowing for e-reader manufacturers to compete with each other to not only strengthen and streamline their offerings but also serve to drive down product costs.

I imagine that this incumbent battle will yield some pretty nifty desgin, like hopefully e-readers with larger displays, perhaps text-book sized or even coffee-book sized ones. There could also be markets opening for specialized versions, perhaps designed for specific tasks like an element-proof kitchen book or a ruggedized version for working in the shop or under your car. While these seem like things that would be excellently serviced by a tablet, the savings of the more simple reader could be rolled into the specializations for specific environments and uses.

In short, Google’s platform agnosticism may actually bring about a cheap accessible world of e-readers that may finally drive the coffin nail for paper – or at least get a cheap-ass like me to buy one!

An Example of an Interesting Advertising Venue

I’m always looking out for novel ways of merchandising. Going to my local, but not chain, coffee shop I spied something pretty nifty. Normally, a generic cup of coffee looks, well, generic. Here is an example that we all know.

What did I find at my coffee shop last night? This clever bit of advertising on a previously generic accessory.

To me, this is a wonderful bit of advertising that works for both the advertiser and the coffee shop, if things are done well. Obviously, it is great for the fresh breath people, they put their ads right where people get a case of bad breath, and to be honest, I think a lot of people need that ad-reminder! I hope that this works out well for the coffee shops, where they get these insulators at least free if not get a little stipend from using them.

My one thought about these pieces is that they have a bit of a flaw, and that happens when someone goes to handle the drink. Another concern is that the coupon is kind of unuseable as a coupon. I am sure the bar code is scannable, but I am not sure who would clip this and take it to a store for redemption, but then again, I don’t know any coupon-cutters….

When the customer grabs the drink the ad becomes obscured by the act of holding the beverage. I am sure there’ll be a bit of “gee! what does your drink say!” push when these things first hit the street, but it won’t last long after there’s a lot in the wild. The configuration really only works when a person is not holding the beverage – probably not the best situation for a carry-out item.

I think the better solution is to place advertising on the lid of the drink. The real estate is far smaller but the ad is visible at nearly any time the container is in view, not to mention every time someone drinks out of the container. I made a quick and dirty version of this below, so you can get an idea of what I am getting at.

Detractors might say, hey what if the user takes the lid off? The answer is that they can take the insulator off as well, but I think the number of concentrated views one would get by placing it at the exact point that everyone looks at when taking a drink, is really real estate that’s nearly priceless. If you could get away with it, the best thing to do would be to completely brand-color the lids and get that whole area sort of effect. I can’t see any reason that Solo® couldn’t tint the plastic to any color of the rainbow for the right price. The biggest issue would be how to get it into coffee shops or wherever. Even a less brand-driven establishment might push back on you owning the tops of their coffee, but a nice stipend for carrying it and some good styling and someone could make it happen.

Now, by releasing this to the interwebs, if anyone takes it, I’d like to see a little kick-back!

Why Cadillac should think carefully about their brand before launching a small car

Cadillac plans to add a new small sedan to it’s lineup. Right now, there’s not too much detail about the car. It’s a bit disconcerting, though. I am not so sure Cadillac needs a small car in their lineup. The reason I think this is when you think of the sort of brand structure GM has with their lineups, it would seem out of place at best and diluting at worst.

The most dangerous part of this small-car idea is that GM has tried to do this before and failed every time. The thing that does them in every time is that budgets come into play. Cost-cutting happens. The car is based on another, cheaper model and quality goes down. The brand gets a black eye and by the sheer token of releasing a cheaper car, they destroy the equity in the higher-end offerings.

When you think of GM, you see three brands: Cadillac, Buick and Chevy. It would seem to me that if you were going to structure these car brands off you’d do break them out into something like the following: Cadillac would be the luxury / luxury-sport brand at the top end of the offerings, meaning it would compete with lines like Lexus and Mercedes. Then you would have the mid-line Buick. This brand would consist of the business-class of vehicles, facing the the Toyota Avalon,   the Volvo S70 and others of that size where they’re designed more for the mid-management business-person. This leaves you with the Chevy line, picking up the entry-level and various sport models (Ideally, I’d discontinue the Chevy line of pick-ups as you already have the similar GMC line).

If this brand structure were to be followed, then Cadillac would be chipping away at the other brand’s markets by introducing a smaller vehicle. Why does that matter? A few reasons: first, GM would start competition between its own brands, stemming from a duplication of models – we’ve all scratched our heads at this through the 80’s up to the melt-down. The most important reason, though, is that it wrecks the brand’s identity, which is probably the most valuable part of the whole experience.

Cadillac spends most of its days (or should be) being America’s premiere luxury auto manufacturer. This is a very tough prospect, as it has to face some severe competition in the likes of BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, and Infinity. To be a luxury brand, it takes a certain amount of ‘aloofness’. It needs to be its own company or at least division on its own so that Cadillac can establish a high grade of product without a large connection to its non-premium cousins. That means it cannot look like any model shares parts with a Cobalt or something. Lexus does this very well – so well that most people don’t even know that they’re a part of Toyota.

Cadillac really needs to focus on their identity. The buyer they are competing for is far different from the buyer for any other model in the GM line, especially if they want to woo the foreign luxury buyer. Although over the last few years, Cadillac has been doing a superb job of creating a world-class brand (for being part of the Big Three), they really need to keep moving it forward. I don’t have the research in front of me, but I would be inclined to believe that Cadillac hasn’t become an option with the Infinity or BMW buyer yet, though they’re starting to get some looks. The reason is that there is a critical something missing from the brand and I think it’s the opposite of ‘affordable luxury’.

Instead of a small car, Cadillac really needs a halo car that they can really hang their hat on. The XLR was a great start. The new stupid-powerful coupe is another great step, but they should really put together a big car (they sell luxury sedans predominantly, right?). One that has the attention to detail, the styling, and the distinction that their wood-be competitors have. A car that people can aspire to get. Something an up-and-coming executive uses as a yardstick to measure if they have made it, much like the S500 or the 700-series. Cadillac needs to have the car that everyone thinks of when they say “Cadillac”. Perception and projection are very powerful when it comes to sales. Cadillac may think they have that already, but they don’t.

For at least one or two models, Cadillac has to stop thinking about being affordable and large production runs. Sometimes exclusivity comes at a loss – file the money under ‘marketing’  if you’d like…  In fact, a small run would be better, as it adds to the exclusivity – which is the piece of the puzzle that the brand is missing. Once they can grasp that identity of exclusivity, then they’ll begin to start seeing a market – and customers –  for a small luxury car.