Cadillac’s Melissa Grady Dias on performance marketing, multi-touch attribution and ‘vibrational’ resonance

The subject of unprecedented growth is not going away anytime soon. As a result, the need for performance marketing has never been greater. In addition, to run a successful marketing organization, you absolutely need to break the silos that once existed between brand and e-commerce if you want to build an impactful CX ecosystem that delivers the best results for both the customer and the brand.

With all of this in mind, I wanted to speak to someone who is very familiar with best practices for creating synergy between e-commerce and brand and successfully innovating in performance marketing. I recently sat with Melissa Grady Dias, Cadillac CMO, and a marketing industry leader who has worked at top brands like Jackson Hewitt, MetLife and Motorola. The following is a summary of our discussion:

Billee Howard: When we first spoke, it became clear that you really embodies the new model of what it takes to be a successful CMO today. A lot of it has to do with finding the synergy between brand and e-commerce. Can you tell me your thoughts on best practices that marketers should keep in mind here?

Melissa Grady Dias: An early conversation Deborah Wahl and I had when I was thinking about joining Cadillac was about “where are we aligned?” For us, that alignment was the idea that marketing is about performance. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to work with her. I think eventually, whatever you do, you’re trying to drive a certain kind of behavior against a certain measure. Staying focused on that really helps you at all levels of the funnel.

Lower down the funnel, you might be trying to look at “how am I going to drive a conversion to sales?”, “how do I get this lead to the dealer?”, or “how do I get this person interested to search while they go through the funnel?” These questions clearly reflect your tactics and are easy to measure. At the top of the funnel, you are trying to get people into your brand’s family and try to connect with them. Brand building can be more abstract, but we still have specific results and quantifiable results. statistics we’re trying to boost. I think if you understand marketing in that way, the science and the mindset of it, it leads to what I think are the best practices. What do you measure? What results are you looking for? What are your goals or objectives as a brand?

Howard: It makes perfect sense and aligns with the public’s inclination. Can you talk to me about the “funnel flip model” we’ve been discussing around this topic?

Grady Dias: if you look at the way I just went through how you measure marketing, I started at the bottom of the funnel and worked my way up. I think it’s an innate way of looking at marketing if you’re more of an e-commerce or digital brand background because the low-hanging fruit at the bottom of the funnel will get you your best search results everywhere.

We take that performance mindset and look at the people we need to convert. These are the people who may be a few months away from making a purchase, and I need to give them the information they need so I can convert them. Then here are the folks who are a bit further from that point and need a different type of messaging. We took that mindset and view of the funnel and built a propensity model for Cadillac based on a US-wide data set with our agency partner. Within that you have two dimensions. First, you tend to Cadillac. We’ve broken that down into whatever level or percentile we want. On the other hand is market timing.

If you look at it that way, you start at the bottom of the funnel and do the easy things that you can measure well and work your way up. This will help you develop a deep understanding of your audience and where they are, so you can try to talk to them in a meaningful way. As you go up the funnel, you add levels of people we’re trying to get into the Cadillac family. The propensity model helps us both who we are going to talk to and how/where we are going to talk to them. Think of filling a pot with stones and sand. The “rocks” of the plan are digital addressable and connected TV, and then linear TV is the “sand” that fills the gaps between them.

Howard: That’s a really good way to think about it. With that in mind, everyone’s heads are spinning around CTV and linear, and where all the dollars are going, which dollars work and which ones don’t. There is a lot of emphasis on measurement through the media lens. Personally, I think it’s a bit short-sighted to only think of measurement when you’re talking about TV or media. I’d like you to tell me about your thoughts on the things you think are most critical to success regarding the evolving definition of measurement, as broad as you can.

Grady Dias: Measuring is interesting because I feel like three years ago we were in a better place than we are now. Looking at the way the tech landscape has evolved, say with cookies, we looked at things like using the Google ad stack and started to understand behavior for the same kinds of things that other partners were offering. We were in a place where we could measure very well from a marketing perspective. We were also good on multi-touch attribution. As we start more and more walled gardens, what we used to do isn’t even a viable option anymore. But as the saying goes, what is old is new again.

We’re looking at media mix modeling again, but get more from a multitouch lens. It’s interesting because I remember a few years ago I was in a panel talking about unified attribution, and at the time unified didn’t make much sense because it was multitouch. Now we are in this more unified world where we can use a more traditional media mix. Let me see what the market conditions are. Let me see what the broad TV releases are. Let me look at all these things, but then let’s pull in impression-level data and personal poll data so that I can begin to understand “where do I know that someone has seen an impression?” Where do I think they saw an impression? And then, most importantly, what were the operating results of sales or other metrics that we look at? I think we’re in this place now where we’re doing this mixed approach and we’re looking at different metrics and trying to understand what’s happening and the best way to optimize things. The important thing is to understand that if we use one piece of information to optimize, what impact does it have on the net?

Howard: How should contextualization fit into this?

Grady Dias: I think contextual advertising is the future. However, the thinking behind it needs to evolve. I’m not going to put my ad on a cooking site because someone likes to cook. That example is relevant to us because we found out that we had a very high propensity for culinary and that drove our version of contextual. That’s when we created something called the ‘ELECTRIQ Kitchen‘ – ending in IQ, just like the LYRIQ. In short, we took inspiration from the LYRIQ for two Michelin-starred chefs and created a multi-storey restaurant that showcased car-inspired meals. We were able to talk about the car as people went through the experience and it was perfectly integrated. We partnered with 60 Second Docs to create content around the vehicle and the two chefs to reach anyone interested in culinary so they can learn more about the LYRIQ in their language. The event was also picked up nationwide by Access Hollywood. Both things gave us much more scale than the 150 people who attended the event.

For me, that’s when you start to see contextualization as number one. How do you address an audience in a way that will be meaningful to them and make them want to engage? The other is to remember the environment someone is in and not just pop your 15 second or 30 second ad in that environment. Think about what they are doing? How are you going to make sure they don’t skip? How are you going to keep them from getting frustrated when they have to watch it?

Howard: Very helpful and super creative. Thanks for sharing that. Why don’t we end up around our shared passion for creativity, and something else that we’ve talked about that I think is very relevant not only to creativity, but also to contextualization, which is understanding emotion as crucial to performing on a way that stimulates performance . Please tell me more about new ways marketers should think about understanding consumer emotions.

Grady Dias: If you look at insight and creativity, it has to match the brand and the future. Many people love Cadillac, but Cadillac has to be a brand that someone wants to be a part of. “I want that car in my garage and I want to get in it every day.” You have to look at the impact you make by being creative. It goes back to something I learned in high school that has stayed with me forever. I use the word resonate. Something has to resonate with people, and it goes back to the scientific definition of resonance. It is about the natural vibration of objects because each object has its own vibration. When you compare that, the gain goes beyond what the vibrations were on their own. When something resonates, emotionally or otherwise, it’s about this internal vibration that creates something so much greater. We need to use all the data to learn who people are and then we need to use it in a way that resonates to get the kind of relationship-focused engagement that is so necessary today.


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