Deborah Wahl on How Innovation Helps Reduce Friction Along the Consumer Journey

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Cadillac CMO Deborah Wahl (pictured above, right) joined a Brand Innovators fireside chat at CES to discuss the vehicle as "infrastructure technology."  She's proud of Cadillac's culture, she told Executive Vice President of Viacom Ad Solutions Val Bischak, explaining how a culture of innovation has allowed them to keep the legacy brand relevant to new consumers through a focus on technology and diversity of thought.

"Be nice, generous and kind … even as you're trying to blow s**t up," Wahl said, citing one of her industry mentors.  The tongue-in-cheek remark matches CEO Mary Barra's push to position General Motors as a technology company.  "That's why we're here at CES," Wahl said.  "Homing in on all the technology and capabilities for the things we all talk about: personalization, customer knowledge -- and making it work for us so that we are getting the right messages at the right time."

She told Bischak that, unlike other large brands, which tend to attempt big, bold and transformational marketing moves, Cadillac decided to focus on reducing friction along the consumer journey experience.  "It's the day-to-day things about what performs and where you go that are the most important, because that's a journey as well, and it's one that you focus on every day," Wahl noted.  

The goal is to position the vehicle as "infrastructure technology" and focus on the consumer's interactions with said tech.  "We're trying to reduce the friction," she explained, adding that making the experience more seamless has provided insights regarding what consumers value and what's the next solution to bring forward.  She admits the strategy is not easy.  "It takes a lot of perseverance to get it done," Wahl said about perfecting "the basics," those pieces in the customer journey that -- at the end of the day -- have a significant impact on the overall experience.

"There's a lot of talk about how much more complex the role of CMO has become," said Bischak.  "Chief Experience Officer, do you relate to that?"

"Yes," Wahl responded, as long as they create and promote a culture of innovation and use technology to better the overall experience. "That's always been the secret role of the CMO; how to navigate things so your talented and amazing team can get all their great ideas through," she added.

The fireside interview between Valerie Bischak, Senior Vice President of Ad Solutions of Viacom, andDeborah Wahl, CMO of Cadillac, was conducted as part of the annual Brand Innovators "Brands Bet on Digital" Conference, which was held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the Consumer Electronic Showcase (CES).

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