After a 1992 model-year software program proved less than successful, Cadillac scuttled the project for 1993 and waited until halfway through the 1994 model year before trying disc-based marketing again.
Now, Cadillac claims to be happier withthe results. And its commitment to interactive media is strengthening.
Cadillac and Inmar Group, a San Antonio, Texas, software company are putting the finishing touches on a 1995 model-year disc expected to be ready before yearend. Inmar is also working on a CD-ROM version, due out by next March, said Diane Spencer, Cadillac marketing management analyst.
In addition, an interactive Cadillac ad will appear on an upcoming Popular Mechanics New Car Buyers Guide, a CD-ROM that will allow buyers to access information on more than 800 models. Created by interactive agency Einstein & Sandom, New York-a unit of Cadillac agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles-the disc is expected to sell for about $25 to $30 when it appears in the next month or so in computer software stores.
The General Motors Corp. luxury car division also has begun advertising on Prodigy and CompuServe, where users can pull down information on products, Ms. Spencer said.
Cadillac's drive into interactivity is fueled by a need to give the brand a more contemporary image with highly educated, affluent baby boomers.
"In trying to attract a new generation of owners to Cadillac, we need to establish an image as a high-tech company," Ms. Spencer said. "The younger, more affluent buy-ers who are inclined to purchase imports want to know that a company is progressive."
Bringing in younger buyers is critical to Cadillac's future. The division is the leader in luxury-car sales, a position based largely on the loyalty of older buyers.
Cadillac already is planning a major new effort to reach younger buyers in 1996, when it brings out a $30,000 "baby Cadillac," code-named LSE.
The automaker first began targeting boomers when it redesigned its Seville and Eldorado models for the 1992 model year, making them more performance-oriented in the style of European and Asian luxury models.
At the same time, the division brought out its first interactive disc, from SoftAd Group, Sausalito, Calif., but was unsatisfied with the results.
From the first trial, Cadillac learned that it needed to market the disc more aggressively to get it into more homes.
"We really changed the way we marketed the disc," Ms. Spencer said. Cadillac opted not to charge consumers for the 1994 software, as it had in 1992, and tightened the focus of its marketing mix.
Cadillac also decided that inclusion of a game would generate more use. So when Cadillac went back at it midway through the 1994 model year, it included a golf game based on the front nine holes of the "Blue Monster" at the Doral Resort and Country Club in Miami. The game is hosted by professional golfer Lee Trevino, who provides comments and advice on each hole.
"People who own computers tend to have active lifestyles," Ms. Spencer said. "And the favorite game of luxury car buyers is golf. So we're appealing to both their passion for golf and their passion for computers."
Nancy Newell, director of sales for Inmar's automotive division, said inclusion of a game increases a disc's pass-along rate.
"A game gives someone a reason to use the disc again," Ms. Newell said.
Also, development of interactive discs as a marketing tool ties in with consumers' growing interest in obtaining detailed information before they go to a dealership.
"An auto is a high-ticket item, and people are doing much more research because of the expense and the proliferation of models from which to choose," Ms. Newell said.
"Those who own computers would prefer to use them to get that information, because you can put a lot more information on a disc than you can put in a brochure."
The Cadillac disc provides detailed explanations on a number of technological issues, such as the V-8, 32-valve Northstar engine, traction control and anti-lock brake systems, and various safety features.
The computer user also can access basic information, from pricing to interior and exterior dimensions, on specific Cadillac models and competitors. There's also a section that explains owner benefits, such as warranty coverage and a roadside assistance program.
Cadillac ran page ads, created by DMB&B, in issues of PC Magazine and Home Office Computing that touted the interactive disc, available in DOS and Macintosh formats by calling an 800-number.
Ms. Spencer said Cadillac has distributing more than 20,000 discs since May, when they first became available.
"The response far exceeded our expectations," she said.
Cadillac will market the 1995 model-year disc similarly: via 800-number and page ads in computer magazines. Subscribers to Prodigy and CompuServe will also be able to order the disc online.
The disc again will feature a golf game hosted by Mr. Trevino, this time covering the back nine holes at Doral.
The interactive efforts are meant to complement, not replace, Cadillac's traditional marketing programs, Ms. Spencer said.
"People want a lot more information today, and this gives [us] a larger variety of communications tools to reach them."