Hyundai Embraces New Message

Female empowerment and body issues campaigns have been big winners lately, scoring top video views. But in April one of the biggest surprises came from an auto brand: Hyundai.

Hyundai’s “Message from Space” is the brand’s most viewed branded video campaign of all time. Less than two weeks after its release, it had generated more than 30.4 million views.

The video is a story about 13-year-old Stephanie from Houston, Texas. Her dad works in a lab on the International Space Station and, as a result, is gone for long periods of time. Stephanie misses him and wants to send him a message all the way in space. And that’s where Hyundai comes in.

The brand brought 11 of its Genesis sedans (fitted with special tires that would leave very visible tracks) to Nevada’s Delamar Dry Lake and coordinated their driving patterns to write a note in the sand for Stephanie’s dad.

Hyundai has used all sorts of creative approaches in the past, from celebrities in its 2014 Super Bowl campaign, “Nice,” (16.9 million views) to humor -– and a cute baby –- in its recent “Exobaby” campaign (14.7 million view). It’s done event sponsorship with its World Cup campaign, “Glorious Journey for All” (12.9 million views). It’s even done large-scale stunts before, as it did with “Empty Car Convoy” (13.0 million views) when it sent autonomous vehicles out in a convoy.

But “Message from Space” marks a new turn for Hyundai. Instead of showcasing its sedan’s handling in a straightforward product demo video, the automaker makes its cars characters in a moving, emotional story about a daughter and her father.

As we well know, online audiences love an emotional story, especially one that is uplifting. Online audiences also love a large-scale stunt. So it should come as no surprise that this campaign has performed as well as it has.

What’s more interesting, however, is that this campaign is indicative of a shift happening in the auto category.

Auto brands often target men, in the past relying heavily on product demos –- demonstrations of car features –- and humor to engage with their audiences. But during this year’s Super Bowl we saw Nissan release a campaign called “With Dad” and Toyota release one called “To Be a Dad,” both of which tell emotional stories of fathers and their children. Both campaigns were well received and garnered more than 31.8 million and 16.1 million views, respectively.

Hyundai, it seems, is following the path of these other brands and trying to engage men with emotional stories in the same way that a brand like Dove engages women with heartfelt stories. Hyundai, like Dove, uses a stunt as a means to tell that story.

But the difference between Hyundai and Toyota or Nissan is that Hyundai is telling that story while still very much demonstrating some of its cars’ features. Whether or not that will lead to more success for the brand can only be told by the sales figures, but it has surely made for an exciting video.

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