"This is a new way of doing business at Cadillac. It's a structure that will enable us to pull out all the stops to bring this car to market the right way," said David Nottoli, newly appointed brand manager in charge of the automaker's Catera brand team.
Catera (rhymes with Sahara) is the name of the $30,000 Cadillac that will make its debut in mid-1996 as a 1997 model. To be built in Germany by GM's Opel unit, it will compete with small import-luxury sports sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3-series and Toyota Motor Sales USA's Lexus ES300.
The car is crucial to Cadillac's attempt to freshen its image and attract import-leaning baby boomers. Mr. Nottoli said GM now has no models in the fast-growing "entry-level luxury segment," which accounted for sales of more than 325,000 units last year.
Mr. Nottoli, who had been director of merchandising, heads a team that draws its 10 members from areas such as customer satisfaction; public relations; engineering; and sales, service and distribution.
The Catera team is responsible for the car turning a profit, the first time Cadillac has assigned that sort of authority to such a unit. Mr. Nottoli reports directly to John Grettenberger, VP-general manager of Cadillac.
At the same time, DMB&B has assigned several high-ranking executives, such as Senior VP-Account Director John Johnson, to its Catera team. Also on board: Charlie Stannard, senior VP-research director; Linda Witulski, senior VP-media director; and account supervisors Christine Bunia and Keith Naughton, who is working on PR. A creative director will be named soon.
"They're going to live and breathe Catera," said Robin Smith, managing director of DMB&B's Bloomfield Hills office.
The structure has some similarities to the brand management system established last year by DMB&B and another GM client, Pontiac division, to put more focus on developing brand identities for car lines such as Bonneville and Grand Am.
The approach has led to inevitable comparisons with another DMB&B client, Procter & Gamble Co. GM Chairman John Smale is a former P&G chairman-CEO, and has worked behind the scenes to get GM executives to rethink how they build and sustain brands.
Mr. Smith said the agency's relationship with P&G "gives us the opportunity to tap people familiar with the sort of deep involvement with a brand more common in package goods."
The complexities and long lead times in building an automobile make for some differences between managing package goods and car brands, Mr. Smith said.
But in either case, he said, "branding has to do with building a trusting relationship with consumers."