The ducks are dead. The crown is surrendered. There is a new logo at Cadillac, General Motors Corp.'s luxury car and truck division.
The six ducks, "merlettes" in GM nomenclature, and the crown were sacrificed in the pursuit of under-50 customers, who make up only 14 percent of Cadillac's buyers.
The new Cadillac logo, introduced yesterday in Pebble Beach, Calif., is a less cluttered, more geometrical affair, bereft of any symbols, such as merlettes and crown, that have little meaning for buyers 50 and under.
But the new logo retains the famous Cadillac wreath and the multicolored, four-quadrant Cadillac crest, as well as the Cadillac script. Such is the nature of compromise in the design and marketing business, said Eric J. Olson, design director of Landor Associates, a New York/San Francisco brand and corporate identity consultancy owned by Young & Rubicam Inc.
"It is a very safe, smart way of indicating change," Olson said. "They had to be careful not to go too far with this and do something that would alienate their core customer base." That group, 86 percent of Cadillac's buyers, includes people 50 years old and older, according to a 1998 survey by Strategic Vision Inc., a San Diego-based market research firm.
The median age for all Cadillac buyers is 65.
Cadillac officials concede that they are struggling to catch up in the race for affluent youth.
"The new wreath and crest depicts a forward-looking and youthful image while maintaining distinctiveness and a sense of prestige," said John F. Smith, Cadillac's general manager. "It reflects Cadillac's new design direction and underscores our technological reach--key elements of our vision to be a leader in the global luxury market through the application of art and science," Smith said.
That is an interesting strategy, but it has little chance of success unless GM radically redesigns its products and reshapes its image, said Daniel A. Gorrell, vice president of Strategic Vision.
"Most young people simply don't identify with most of the people who buy Cadillac today," Gorrell said. "It's a people-like-us and people-like-them thing. And people like them, younger people, are buying Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz when they buy luxury cars."
Along with changing the logo, Cadillac officials say they are changing the division's model lineup by introducing technology-loaded, sleekly styled models such as the Cadillac Evoq ("evoke") over the next several years.
There is also the phenomenon of people who want to be like someone else, which is the case with many fiftyish baby boomers who are resisting the aging process, Gorrell said.
"I'm 50, and there is no Cadillac in my future," Gorrell said. "Why should I or any other aging baby boomer be seeking symbols and icons that suggest 'old'?"