Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – General Motors Co. Vice President Susan Docherty says revamped marketing strategies will tighten Cadillac- and Chevrolet-brand messages and enhance their positions at a pivotal time for each.

Docherty, who heads all of the auto maker’s U.S. marketing, says a swath of new products at Chevrolet and Cadillac provides a unique opportunity to polish their images.

Chevrolet, for example, will have turned over its entire car and cross/utility vehicle lineup within the next 12 months, while Cadillac will complete the addition of four variants to its CTS range later this year after redoing the SRX CUV last summer.

“This is a good time for us to hone the positioning and really take a fresh look at our advertising,” Docherty tells Ward’s during an interview at the New York auto show.

Fresh advertising for both brands breaks in 30 to 45 days, she says. Longtime Chevrolet agency Campbell-Ewald combines with Publicis USA on the bow-tie brand, while the New York offices of the U.K. firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) will handle Cadillac. BBH replaced Boston-based Modernista! earlier this year.

“We think BBH is going to be a great partner for us,” says Docherty, who arrived to the New York show a day early to familiarize the agency with GM’s expectations.

“I also like that they are located here, because where we need the biggest improvement on Cadillac is in the ‘smile states’ (in the South) and on the coasts,” she says. “It is most appropriate we would get help from them.”

For Chevrolet, the biggest change will be uniting the division’s car and truck marketing, which previously were separated.

“It’s a good time to have a more unified message for Chevrolet,” Docherty says.

Much of that work currently is in consumer testing. Docherty says feedback has been positive and, on some fronts, pleasantly surprising.

“I hear from consumers, ‘We need to see more of your interiors in your advertising.’ So when I think about the approach going forward, I’m definitely going to do that,” she says, crediting outgoing GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz for richening the auto maker’s cabins.

Docherty says shedding sales duties gives her time to focus more closely on marketing. In a shake-up earlier this year, newly installed GM North America President Mark Reuss took charge of sales.

“It’s thrilling, because it is giving me the opportunity to do some things I haven’t had a chance to dive deeply into,” she says.

Docherty cites GM’s recent marketing presence at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX, where she and Chevy marketing boss Jim Campbell spent the day in a parking lot with potential buyers of the Volt extended-range electric vehicle.

“If I was still doing my job with sales, service, marketing and OnStar, I couldn’t have done that,” she says. “It would have been impossible.

“This is giving me a chance to get closer to the agencies and closer to the customer, and in marketing that’s what it’s all about.”

jamend@wardsauto.com