Cadillac: The Penalty Of Leadership

Cadillac was in trouble.  The year was 1915.  Cadillac had introduced a new V8 model and leapfrogged the competition, Packard among them.  However, Packard and others encouraged rumors — not without some cause — that Cadillac had brought the V8s to market too early, and that there were or would be inevitable problems with them.   One day, late in his office, Theodore MacManus, the lead copywriter for General Motors, dictated this piece to his secretary as he paced in his office, puffing his cigar.   It appeared in the Saturday Evening Post (the text is repeated below):

The Penalty of Leadership

The Penalty of Leadership

Here is the text:

“In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white glare of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in music, in industry, the reward and punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work is mediocre, he will be left severely alone—if he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongue a-wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done, those who are disappointed or envious, continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountebank, long after the big would have acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river banks to see his boat steam by. The leader is assailed because he is the leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy—but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as human passions—envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains—the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live—lives.”

Copyright Cadillac Motor Company

Read more in The Mirror Makers, by Stephen Fox, a History of American Advertising and Its Creators:

The copy did not mention Cadillac by name, or the V-8, or automobiles.  The ad ran once, with no illustration, and wide margins of white space around the text, in the Saturday Evening Post of January 2, 1915. When MacManus came to lunch at the Detroit Athletic Club on the day that the issue of the Post appeared, he was teased by his colleagues in advertising and the car business for writing an implausible, corny piece of fluff.  But it worked.  Cadillac was inundated by requests for reprints.  Cadillac Salesmen carried copies to give away to prospects.  Sales boomed.

A quote from Mr. MacManus: “The real suggestion to convey is that the man manufacturing the product is an honest man, and that the product is an honest product, to be preferred above all others.”

That is exactly what I think we need with Cadillac advertising today.  The more people understand about the engineering and care that the Cadillac Team puts into modern Cadillac Luxury Performance Vehicles, the more desirable they become to anyone who loves automobiles.

Cadillac is making an honest effort to make the best vehicles possible, and the modern Cadillacs are honest products that anyone can be proud to own.

Test Drive a new Cadillac, and “May the Best Car Win!”  You may find, as I have, that Cadillac is to be preferred above all others.

3 thoughts on “Cadillac: The Penalty Of Leadership

  1. Pingback: The King’s Speech. Revisited. « THEDAILYSQUEAL

  2. My grandfather worked in the auto industry from 1929 to 1968 as an engineer. This was framed above his desk. It now hangs in my hallway and I read it often. Old and yellowed with time, it remains an inspiration. I use it to remind me of what the world is as I lead a large team as a Chef in a hotel.

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