Next year won't be a coasting period for Hyundai, which is rolling out of the demolition derby that was 2009 with nary a dent.
The Fountain Valley, Calif. marketing arm of the Korean automaker is preparing its biggest campaign ever in the U.S. for the redesigned Sonata midsized car, featuring a big media buy in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, and the Academy Awards. At the same time, or very close to it, the company is also launching its next-generation Tucson small SUV.
And for the first time, Hyundai will do something automakers like Honda, Toyota, Subaru and Ford have been doing for some years now -- spotlighting its corporate values and actions around environmentalism and social responsibility. Hyundai Motor America VP Marketing Joel Ewanick tells Marketing Daily the effort will talk about programs like: "Hope on Wheels," a dealer-driven pediatric cancer program; its efforts to soften its manufacturing footprint; the values of its leaders; and carbon-offset programs for buyers of cars like Genesis.
Ewanick says the effort reflects the values of its prospective buyers. "We call them 'modern expressives'," he says. "They are actually under-represented; nobody is talking to them, and they are also a great fit for where our brand has been and where it's going." He says they want both value and style, but are not likely to consider products from a company they believe doesn't practice corporate, social and environmental responsibility.
Ewanick says the idea to start talking more about the company came from research showing that consumers saw the company's Assurance program -- wherein Hyundai offered to buy back recently bought Hyundai vehicles from owners who lost their jobs or suffered other calamities -- as a social contract. "Hyundai took a leadership position; consumers saw us as more approachable, caring, that Hyundai seems to get it. In research, consumers said 'they are reading my mind.'
"It was less about job loss and more about a company that understands us socially, that gets the bigger picture. We started seeing the idea about Assurance as more about a brand proposition. The idea of socially responsibility really resonates with our consumers; that's what modern expressives are about."
Ewanick says the company will talk more about programs like one it began a year and a half ago when it launched the Genesis car. It began offering to offset the car's carbon footprint for a year via tree-planting programs in the Amazon basin. After that, owners can continue the program for $20 a year. "We will expand more of that thinking throughout all marketing," he says. "We will talk a lot more about it because it's natural to who we are."
"Starting in January, we will be on two months solid with Tucson. For the Super Bowl, we will advertise both Sonata and Tucson with five spots -- two in the game, three in pre-game," says Ewanick. "We loved what we got from last year's Super Bowl numbers -- they were off the charts. And it's perfect timing for us because we have both launches in the first quarter. At same time, it's a great platform for us to start introducing where the brand is going long-term."