Cadillac cologne, for the scent of . . . bankruptcy?

The new GM is up and running with its re-branding campaign. Without much new iron to put on the showroom floor, it apparently has decided to start small -- small, as in the Cadillac Fragrance for men. (And no, the bouquet is nothing like Valvoline or Brylcreem.)

The company GM licensed to make this new line of scents, Beauty Contact Inc., describes it as "at once bold and sporty, yet luxurious and refined. [It] pays tribute to the opulence and extravagance of past eras, as well as the luxury and ease of today."
Oddly, Beauty Contact chose not to play up Cadillac as the favorite of drivers over 80, or the SUV best able to absorb a hail of 9mm bullets in a drug deal gone bad. This seems a bit strange, as both drug dealers and octogenarians are known for their appreciation of fine fragrances.

Cadillac cologne is described as having a real "guy" smell, composed with top notes of grapefruit and chamomile; middle notes of geranium, tarragon and cinnamon; and a dry-out of ebony, sweet spice, vetiver and incense. While this could be a promising fragrance, it seems worthwhile to remember that Cadillac is the company that repackaged the lipstick-on-the-pig Chevy Cavalier as the upscale Cadillac Cimarron. For those of us with long memories, the brand lost its luster a long time ago.

The cologne strategy, ultimately, doesn't reek as much as one might think. GM's Bob Lutz hopes that the new Cadillac will be able to take market share away from rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz. To that end, any product associated with the marque should also speak to world-class elegance . The ultimate question is whether the target customers, accustomed to Coty or Guerlain, will view Cadillac Fragrance as a erstwhile competitor or a sad pretender.

Lutz should hope that the bottles don't end up in the closeout rack at Odd Lots.

The conventional path of cross-merchandising is to start with a hot property and spin off products that take advantage of the public's desire to affiliate with them. Cadillac cologne seems like a strange reversal of that idea, an attempt to use a perfume to enhance the public image of a car. Will anyone really think "Hey, I like the perfume, so maybe I'll like the car?"

This doesn't pass the sniff test with me.

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