Hyundai's Marketing Veep Spells Out Brand Plan

Joel Ewanick of HyundaiIf Hyundai's efforts in North America to change its raiment from bargain basement to Mayfair are to succeed, success will be measured in sales of its new Genesis nameplate.

In February, the Fountain Valley, Calif.-based Hyundai Motor America will be in the Super Bowl to both tout the Genesis coupe and buff Hyundai's brand equity. Since the sedan version of Genesis went on sale in July, the company has sold 5,127 of the cars, including 1,151 of them last month. Hyundai Motor America's VP/Marketing Joel Ewanick says Genesis, as the new Hyundai "halo car," is meant to compete with the likes of BMW and Lexus and put Hyundai on equal terms with other top-tier auto brands.

Q: What has Genesis done so far for Hyundai's brand equity?

A: Genesis has helped move the needle away from how Hyundai has been perceived. When I was doing [Hyundai brand] research five or seven years ago, the responses were polarized; we had a good group of supporters and a strong group of detractors. Now what has happened is we have seen both positive and neutral perceptions grow, and negatives decrease. So we have moved lots of negative perceptions to neutral.



Net consideration is the way we look at awareness and consideration for the Hyundai brand, and that has improved 25% this year alone.

Q: How is the Genesis doing in this economy?

A: In the past 90 days, we have sold at or near objectives for the sedan. We have a long way to go, and it will take a relentless drive, which is why the Super Bowl makes sense even in this economy. For Hyundai to be successful, we really can't let up; we have to define who we want to be.

Q: How will you do that in 2009?

A: In the first part of the year, we'll be on big stages--some of it NFL football, including the playoffs, and some with the Academy Awards, with a lot of overlap. [Such events] give us an opportunity to state our case and show that this is another Hyundai. If [consumers] aren't forced to reconsider us, they won't.

Q: Are big-event media buys effective enough by themselves?

A: There are a lot of schools of thought on this. Units in operation (UIO) is one way to get there: if people see our vehicles on the street, the more they see them, the more they get comfortable with the brand, and marketing needs to parallel that. The other school of thought is boosting marketing to propel the brand ahead of UIO. We are doing both: pushing marketing into bigger places while consumers are seeing new marketing products show up on streets.

Q: Who is buying Genesis?

A: We know that 40% of those buying Genesis have traded in vehicles like Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche. We know what their income levels are, and we are finding that people are gravitating from luxury or near-luxury cars to Hyundai; we expect to see numbers of current Hyundai people moving over to Genesis as well. It is a very healthy launch and a commentary on today's environment that consumers see Genesis as competitive against luxury makes.

Q: So most of Genesis buyers are currently from other brands?

A: Right now, 90% of all buyers of Genesis are coming from outside Hyundai.

1 comment about "Hyundai's Marketing Veep Spells Out Brand Plan ".
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  1. John Awwad, December 31, 2008 at 8:28 a.m.

    I find it very hard to believe that customers who were driving BMW's, Lexus, and the such - swich over to a Hyundai brand vehicle. I never would.

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