Hyundai Promotes Sonata's Technology, Value

Sonata 2011As part of its title sponsorship of the Hyundai Sun Bowl, the brand will run eight TV spots on CBS's broadcast of the Dec. 31 game. Among the ads is the first for its first hybrid vehicle, the Sonata Hybrid. The spot, via Innocean Worldwide Americas, carries the message that sometimes being in the second wave of products is better than being first, as the second generation often demonstrates a big advance over its predecessors.

The ad makes the point by showing the car driving through an anachronistic city that is modern in every respect except that the things people use represent first-generation technology.

A guy walks around with a hair dryer-sized, first-generation cell phone, passing a guy carrying a portable record turntable, while someone rides past on a penny farthing bicycle. The Sonata Hybrid also passes a guy in a café writing on a Smith-Corona electric typewriter, and a bank of black-and-white TVs. The car also passes a house on which a game of Pong is being played, while a Hindenburg-type dirigible passes overhead. (Dirigibles may actually come back, but that's another story).



A voiceover by actor Jeff Bridges says: "What if we always settle for the first thing that came along? Then we never would have gotten here."

The automaker's sponsorship of the game, which is to be played in El Paso, Tex., will include other ads for the gasoline-engine Sonata and the Hyundai Holidays campaign.

John Krafcik, president and CEO of Fountain Valley, Calif.-based Hyundai Motor America, tells Marketing Daily that the company is not taking the direction of marketing the Sonata Hybrid as a separate unit, but as an extension of Sonata and its positioning around affordable technology. "What we do as much as possible is integrate it and use it to extend the brand."

The campaign for the redesigned Sonata launched on this year's Super Bowl, and then followed with an advertising push this fall to support the turbocharged version of the vehicle. "Each model carries the same weight of the core 'technology perfected and accessible for everyone' message," says Krafcik. But the hybrid model will get a stand-alone social media campaign extended through Facebook and Twitter, and more TV spots in the future. The company is also mulling doing a full-line ad putting all three Sonata models together.

Although the Sonata Hybrid is part of the lineup, its exterior design is notably different from that of the other new Sonatas -- a visual marker that is crucial to the hybrid segment as buyers of these vehicles want some kind of striking visual cue that differentiates their vehicles from gasoline cars. "[Hybrid buyers] want some social credit for what they are doing," says Krafcik.

The car is also an important halo for the Sonata nameplate because the automaker wants to be perceived as an environmentally forward company. "But for the rest of the lineup, the hybrid brings that credential and credibility," he says.

The Sonata Hybrid starts at $25,795 and goes up to $30,795. The hybrid version of the mid-sized nameplate is predicted to constitute between 5% and 10% of total Sonata sales.

Krafcik says that an explanation to consumers about how the vehicle is both less expensive and more advanced than the competition -- ditching the continuously variable transmission and torque converter for less expensive options such as Hyundai's six-speed automatic gearbox, and use of the electric motor to do some of what the torque converter does -- is a hard story to tell.

"The best way to tell it is in a smart way that doesn't condescend. We are doing that with the new TV spot and the overarching message about Sonata technology and design," he says, "and we are also doing deep print executions for the Sonata Hybrid with lots of text that takes a deeper look at the technology under the hood." The company is also launching a Web site Jan. 5. that will contain a more immersive look at how the vehicle works.

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