The Point of Attachment Podcast: The True Meaning of Luxury, Part II

Run Time: about 20 minutes

In the second part of our two-part episode on consumer attachment to luxury brands, we dive deeper into the automotive landscape. That’s due in large part to the fact that we just returned from the LA Auto Show where we unveiled the latest installment of the Brand Dependence Index, this time focusing on automotive brands. In this episode, we’ll share the results, hear what some true enthusiasts had to say about the top-ranked brand, and gather some insight from the marketing executive behind one of The Index’s star performers.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but out of the 23 leading auto brands that we studied in the 2014 Automotive Brand Dependence Index, the top five brands were all in the luxury category. Luxury brands scored an average of 68 points vs. 62 points for non-luxury brands. But the highest honor was reserved for Audi, which scored a 77 overall on The Index.

The top five brands were (scores in parentheses):

  1. Audi (77)
  2. BMW (71)
  3. Cadillac (70)
  4. Mercedes-Benz (69)
  5. Acura (69)



Audi was not only the top-performer, it was a top-performer by a large margin. Our study revealed that a big part of its branding success is related to perceptions about its personality. While it was viewed every bit as sophisticated as BMW, Mercedes and Cadillac, it was the only one of the top five to be viewed as “playful.” That playfulness can be seen in the brand’s styling as well as its advertising and communications. With Ricky Gervais on-camera in Audi spots, Audi has sent a signal that its for the disruptors, the self-made, and the iconoclast.

We heard echoes of this notion in our interviews with real Audi drivers.

Audi Driver

You don’t want to be seen as a conformist. I look at myself as not making my decisions based on what other people are doing. That’s my sense of taste.

Audi drivers strongly identify with the brand’s values, personality, and commitment to quality. And because of that strong showing, we were proud to present them with the first ever Brand Dependence Award.

But Cadillac was the brand that piqued our interest the most. It scored neck-and-neck with BMW and truly represents an American comeback story. While its marketing team was in our backyard, we sat down to discuss the brand’s recent success with Melody Lee, Director of Brand and Reputation Strategy for Cadillac.

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan (Image credit: Cadillac)


I think the best way to describe the brand today, the Cadillac brand, is a 112-year-old startup … For the first time we have a product that is actually outpacing our brand, and I think in almost any industry, that’s a good problem to have.

Cadillac has been winning numerous awards for the design and performance of its product, but our study reveals that the brand is also beginning to win attached consumers. Part of its success may be due to two seemingly conflicting ideas: heritage and innovation.


With our 112 year old history, we have a lot of heritage to celebrate. That gives us authenticity as a luxury brand …  You know, you look at the heritage of brands like Hermès or Cartier, it’s that storytelling throughout history that really helps them stand apart. And people in this day and age, even Millennials, are becoming really obsessive about provenance and history and storytelling.

You can download and read the full results of our 2014 Automotive Brand Dependence Index by clicking on the link below.


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Image courtesy of Nanuk Media, licensed through

The Point of Attachment is a podcast series developed and produced by UTA Brand Studio. It focuses on what draws people to brands through the lens of culture, design and storytelling. It is hosted by Larry Vincent and produced by Frances Harlow.

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