Mary Kay, a multi-billion dollar direct sales cosmetics company, operates in nearly 40 countries. Its products are only sold by direct sales, exclusively through its network of independent beauty consultants, and are not sold in stores.
Last January, Mary Kay held its annual Mary Kay Leadership Conference in San Diego, Calif., attracting more than 6,000 Mary Kay independent sales directors from around the U.S. and Canada. What made this year’s conference special is it also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the creation of the company’s Career Car Program and the birth of the Mary Kay pink Cadillac.
"We’re excited," said Allyson Sellers, vice president of sales force and marketing support for Mary Kay. "This is the 50th year of the Career Car Program. We were one of the first companies to offer this and we are very proud that it has been a strong program ever since." Sellers has worked for Mary Kay for the past 26 years.
Mary Kay career cars are offered to its independent sales force members who meet or exceed sales and recruiting goals set by the company. These goals are reviewed annually.
"We have three levels of the independent sales force: beauty consultants, sales directors, and national sales directors," said Daniel Berman, director of Career Car services for Mary Kay. "And members of each independent sales force level can earn the use of a career car. For example, independent beauty consultants can earn the use of the Chevy Malibu. Sales directors can also earn a Chevy Malibu or a Chevrolet Equinox, MINI, Chevrolet Traverse or Cadillac XT5. For our national sales directors, they can earn the use of a Cadillac Escalade, XTS, CT6 or XT5."
One of the highlights at the Mary Kay Leadership Conference was a display featuring the 2019 Cadillac XT5 painted in Mary Kay Pink Pearl. Long lines of independent sales directors queued to have their photos taken beside the pink Cadillac XT5. According to Sellers, sales force members use these photos as aspirational tools to help them achieve their sales goals so they too can earn a pink Cadillac.
"When we visit Mary Kay seminars, we get standing ovations from these ladies," said Ed Peper, vice president of General Motors Fleet. "When they drive the pink Cadillacs, it results in a lot of additional incremental sales for them. It becomes a sales tool for them, in addition to a recognition award."
Mary Kay has a very long-standing relationship with General Motors using its vehicles as incentives for its top sales performers. This close association between Cadillac and Mary Kay is tied to the company’s roots.
"Mary Kay Ash, the founder of the company, was even nicknamed Caddy growing up," said Sellers. In 1967, a few years after the company was founded, Mary Kay Ash ordered her first pink Cadillac Coupe DeVille from the Frank Kent Cadillac dealership in Ft. Worth, Texas, and asked to have it painted to match the pale pink Mary Kay lip and eye palette she carried in her purse. Since then, the color has become iconic and is now known as Mary Kay Pink Pearl. In 1969, she rewarded the top five independent sales force members with the use of their own pink 1970 Cadillac Coupe DeVille and in turn, launched the Mary Kay Career Car Program. In 1969 the retail price of a pink Cadillac was approximately $5,900.
Since then, a pink Cadillac has been the symbol of the highest achievement within the company, only available to the highest-earning sales consultants. "We like to call it our rolling trophy," said Sellers.
Currently, the company’s Career Car Program is comprised of approximately 4,100 vehicles dispersed throughout the U.S. "The most iconic brand in the Career Car Program, and the one most associated with the Mary Kay name is Cadillac," said Sellers.
Driving the Iconic Mary Kay Pink Cadillac
Cindy Sheppa is an independent sales director with Mary Kay. “In October 2003, I earned my first career car. Since then, I’ve driven three pink Cadillacs and eight career cars altogether. I am currently driving a pink Cadillac XT5,” said Sheppa.
One benefit from driving a pink Cadillac, according to Sheppa, is the additional business she gets. “I’ve gotten a lot of business from my pink Cadillac. It’s an icon for Mary Kay. It says success when you drive a pink Cadillac.
When people see me, they know that they can get product from me. I live in a small town, so they know I’m the Mary Kay lady because I’m driving my pink Cadillac.” Among the unusual places that people have stopped Sheppa to buy cosmetics are the grocery store and the gas station.
“When we earned the XT5, the Wagner Cadillac dealership in Tyler, Texas, threw us a party. All my consultants came. I got to pick up my career car with another Sales Director, so it was a double pickup. It was the first ever double Cadillac pickup in East Texas. The dealer had the news out there – radio stations, television stations, and the newspaper. They had little Bundt cakes for us and balloons,” said Sheppa.
Today, the pink Cadillac is an icon in America recognized by everyone. “Whenever I meet somebody new, and they ask, ‘what do you do?’ I reply that ‘I’m a sales director with Mary Kay.’ They say, ‘Oh, are you driving a pink car?’ And I say, ‘Yes, I am.’ When they hear that their faces are priceless. ‘They really give away pink cars?’ ‘No,’ you have to earn it,’” said Sheppa.
When describing the relationship between Mary Kay and General Motors, the term partnership is frequently used.
"It’s a true partnership between our two companies. We both succeed together, and we have worked together to make things work optimally for the past 50 years. It’s a real partnership, day in and day out. We have a focused team on our end that works with a focused team on their end. It’s just a great partnership," said Peper. "Mary Kay pink is part of it, but we also sell a lot of other vehicles to them as well for the different levels of attainment they have. They’re always trying to work with us and make our relationship – business and personal relationships – be even better," added Peper.
Since the inception of the Career Car Program in the United States, more than 164,000 independent sales force members have qualified or re-qualified for the use of a Mary Kay Career Car.
"If these wheels could talk, they would tell you about the many adventures of Mary Kay’s top independent sales force members—from bringing babies home from the hospital to delivering countless Mary Kay products to brand lovers nationwide. The Mary Kay Career Car Program is an integral part of not only our company’s story, but also the stories of thousands of successful Mary Kay entrepreneurs," said Nathan Moore, president of Mary Kay Inc.’s North America region.
"In the 50 years, vehicles from each of four of our brands – Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac – have been included in the Mary Kay Career Car Program," said Jason Ralph, the fleet account executive at General Motors Fleet, who manages the Mary Kay account.
"When the pink Cadillac is put back into market and resold as a pre-owned vehicle, it is repainted back to the original color. You can’t go to a Cadillac dealer and buy a used vehicle that’s painted Mary Kay pink. It’s exclusive to Mary Kay," said Peper.
During the past 50 years, Mary Kay has offered almost 24,000 Cadillacs. "We’ve had 24,000 qualifiers and re-qualifiers," said Berman.
Originally, Mary Kay offered just the very topline Cadillac model, the Coupe DeVille. "Over the years, we’ve adapted. Now, our National Sales Directors, who are the pinnacle of success for Mary Kay, can drive the pink Escalade," said Sellers.
"After five decades, Mary Kay is one of our strongest and longest-lasting customer relationships. Over the years we’ve been honored to include other Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles in the Mary Kay Career Car Program," said Peper.
In addition, Mary Kay has also expanded the program to other vehicle models, with the newest model being the Cadillac XT5 and Chevrolet Traverse.
"We turn heads when a pink Cadillac goes down the road. Everyone knows that’s Mary Kay, and they know that is a symbol of success for the person driving it. It truly is a trophy on wheels for them," said Sellers.
The top Mary Kay achievers earn the use of a career car on a two-year lease. As long as the independent sales force members maintain their sales at the qualifying thresholds, the vehicles’ lease payments and a bulk of their insurance cost is covered by Mary Kay. "The lease is between the leasing company and the independent sales force member participating in the Career Car Program," said Berman.
If an Independent beauty consultant or sales director meets sales and recruiting goals, year after year, they can keep the vehicles for two years with unlimited mileage on the vehicles. "One option they can get is all-wheel drive on certain models," said Berman.
At the end of the two years, when the vehicles are taken out of service, a driver has the option to either purchase it or return it. For those vehicles not purchased by the drivers, the leasing company sells them at an auto auction.
Employees of Mary Kay are not eligible for a career car, not even senior management. The Career Car Program is designed only for Mary Kay’s independent sales force members. "The independent sales force loves the Career Car Program. It is great to hear their kids talk about how they were taken home in a pink Cadillac from the hospital. It was a really big deal to grow up being a kid whose mom drove a pink Cadillac. Those are wonderful stories to hear," said Sellers.
Four Generations of Mary Kay Beauty Consultants
Mary Kathryn King is an independent sales director for Mary Kay, a position she has held for the past 18 years. “I have benefitted in many ways from Mary Kay career cars. To me, pink is the color of success. Everybody knows that it represents excellence in the company. When my customers and other people see me in a pink Cadillac, they know that I have a very successful business because I’m driving the trophy on wheels,” said King. “It’s an honor to drive the pink Cadillac because it represents an amazing company and the legacy of our founder, Mary Kay Ash.”
Early in her career, King said she took a photo of herself in front of a pink Cadillac and posted it in her office as an aspiration to achieve. “I couldn’t wait to see a pink Cadillac roll in my driveway. When it happened, my children were so excited and they grew up with pink Cadillacs. At one point, we had three car seats in the backseat of our pink Cadillac.”
King says her pink Cadillac generates additional business for her. “People will yell to me across a parking lot when they see my pink Cadillac: ‘Do you have any mascara in your car?’”
King has earned Mary Kay career cars for 25 years, starting as an independent beauty consultant and then sales director. Her career at Mary Kay spans 27 years.
It is not uncommon to have multiple generations of family members working for Mary Kay. King, herself, is a third generation Mary Kay independent beauty consultant. “My grandma started first in the early 1980s, then my mom, who is also a sales director, then me, and now my 18-year-old daughter, who started in December 2018, as a brand-new beauty consultant as well. My sister is also a sales director,” said King.
When King took delivery of her pink Cadillac at Schepel Cadillac in Merrillville, Ind., the dealership organized a party to celebrate her achievement. “They invited my whole team over, along with their families. They have a pink car cover over the pink Cadillac and when it’s time to take delivery, they whip off the cover. It’s a lot of fun. Afterwards, everyone takes a photo of themselves beside the pink Cadillac and has cake to celebrate.”
The Mary Kay Career Car Program extends beyond the U.S. The Mary Kay Career Car Program essentially works very similar in other countries as it does in the U.S. A team member earns the vehicle when they hit a certain goal. In addition to the U.S., GM currently supports Mary Kay’s Career Car Program in Canada and Brazil.
In Canada, independent sales force members can earn the use of the Chevrolet Equinox or Cruze Hatchback, or the Cadillac XT5. In Brazil, team members can earn the use of the Chevrolet Cobalt, Equinox, or Prisma.
"Mary Kay is an incredibly special customer to us. They’ve been side-by-side with us for 50 years. They’ve never left our side, no matter what happened. We feel the same way about them. It speaks volumes about who they are and who we are," said Peper.