CADILLAC AND AMERICAN AIRLINES PARTNER TO BRING PERKS
Cadillac and American Airlines have launched a partnership to bring a broad array of exclusive benefits to travelers, ranging from on-site airport transfers in Cadillacs to awarding of frequent-flier miles to American Airlines customers who test-drive new Cadillacs.
At four major airports, American will identify members of its exclusive ConciergeKey program who face tight transfer times and escort them to their next departure gate in a Cadillac CTS, SRX or Escalade. Already underway at Los Angeles International Airport, this program also will be rolled out to New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports and to the airline’s hometown Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
In another key aspect of the partnership, American’s AAdvantage frequent-flier-program members can earn 7,500 AAdvantage miles in exchange for test-driving a new Cadillac at a U.S. Cadillac dealership.
“There’s a lot of alignment” between American Airlines and Cadillac brands, Suzanne Rubin, president of the AAdvantage loyalty program, told me. “We’re thrilled with this partnership that brings two iconic American brands together, both focused on improving the customer experience.”
Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac’s global chief marketing officer, added, “Traveling in style is a shared interest of premium customers the world over.” The partnership “allows us to engage customers and deliver valuable benefits in meaningful ways.”
Other facets of the program include displaying Cadillac vehicles at key American Airlines airports. “This is an opportunity to bring similar populations together and create a single brand experience,” Rubin said. “We’re excited that it extends beyond the tarmac to marketing in the airport where our customers can be in an American Airlines environment and see Cadillac products that are reflective of the image that we’re purporting. It’s also another unique way for us to extend value.”
Ellinghaus noted to me that airports “are one of the few places in the world where even the busiest people are slowed down, and not voluntarily so. Once through security, you have time to do things like go to the Mont Blanc store and buy something, or to the Brooks Brothers store and buy a shirt you don’t need, or look at that car that you otherwise wouldn’t have time to look at.”
The partnership with American extends naturally from Ellinghaus’s strategy to emphasize all sorts of experiential marketing over traditional advertising methods in the years ahead in an effort to re-establish and strengthen the brand’s sales and regard by premium customers and to differentiate Cadillac from German and Japanese luxury rivals.
Rubin acknowledged the existence of partnerships between other airlines and luxury auto makes. “But I would say that we’ve taken this relationship and this partnership to a very different level,” she said. And she said that while “we’ve started with a handful of elements in this relationship, we’re looking forward to continuing to evolve opportunities between the two companies based on things we know and see each other do in-market. There’s a lot of extendability in this relationship.”
American lately has tacked hard toward providing an improved travel experience for premium members, including new transcontinental service on Airbus A321 aircraft that includes fully lie-flat seats in a 1-1 configuration giving every seat direct-aisle access, enhanced digital networking of each seat, and a complimentary in-flight selection of dozens of movies, TV shows, games and audio selections rendered on 15.4-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitors at each seat with Bose noise-canceling headphones. The airline also has refined its flagship airport-lounge experience in international gateway airports.
“American has always been looked to as one of the premium air carriers, and if you look at our very recent investments, particularly in the premium customer experience, we are doing a lot of very innovative things,” Rubin said.
In fact, Ellinghaus acknolwedged that “to a certain extent, American is a little further in completing the new look and feel of the brand in everything they do” than Cadillac is likewise. “We haven’t revealed a lot about the new look and feel of Cadillac yet, and we won’t until the first quarter. Everyone will see that it includes a completely new spectrum of messages, color and tonality in all of our communications.”
“Cadillac doesn’t have an awareness or even necessarily an image problem — we have lack of familiarity with our new products. This is something that we need to put at the forefront of our activities. Just sponsoring something to have the name ‘Cadillac’ up there isn’t the way forward.” Rivals BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi “all do golf and motorsports; I’m more interested for Cadillac in art and fashion and design because the conceptual link to the Cadillac brand is so much stronger there, and because the Germans largely aren’t there — except for New York Fashion Week.”
Cadillac dealers also will benefit from the brand’s new partnership with American Airlines, Ellinghaus said, as it generates more test drives. “They look forward to this cooperation because they realize that they can struggle to get enough people to come to showrooms and ask for test drives, and they like the idea that we’re bringing them prospects who already area hand-raisers.”