Hyundai Talks Value, New Cars

Despite losing its chief marketer, Joel Ewanick, earlier this month, Hyundai is charging ahead. The carmaker plans to unveil new vehicles at the New York International Auto Show next week. Christopher Perry, a 10-year Hyundai vet, has temporarily replaced vp of marketing Ewanick, a 2009 Brandweek Grand Marketer of the Year, who left to work for rival Nissan. Perry this morning chatted about Hyundai’s upcoming launches and marketing efforts to support them. He noted that while four in 10 Americans considered purchasing a Hyundai three years ago, now that number is seven out of 10. Perry attributed the increasing interest in the brand to an ongoing commitment to product innovation, backed by marketing and a bigger investment in digital. These, and other factors, have led consumers to perceive Hyundai as no longer the “cheapest option, but the best value option,” Perry said. More excerpts from that conversation are below.

Brandweek: You’re heading up marketing for Hyundai following Joel Ewanick’s departure for Nissan last week. What’s that been like?
Christopher Perry:
It’s been a pretty seamless transition, but with a pretty big workload, of course, not having him here. But it’s been great so far. I’m meeting with the agency, with executive management, with our dealers. We have a dealer counsel sub-committee meeting Wednesday morning where we’ll talk about new campaigns, new initiatives, and they all know me. Other than a little more things to do, it’s been pretty seamless.

BW: Ewanick was a legendary marketer at Hyundai. How has his departure impacted the company’s marketing plans?
Joel has been with the company for three years. He did a fantastic job. He’s a personal friend of mine. I’ve known him for many years. We worked very well together and the attitude of the company is that we wish him well. Hyundai had a lot of successes over the last several years. We’ve been growing since I got here 10 years ago. We certainly had a significant bump in 2009, but that success wasn’t because of one individual person. There were a lot of people that were involved. And we have great products that help us. That’s really what the story is. We have great products that help us and that’s what we’ll be focusing on in 2010.

BW: Hyundai’s breaking a new Times Square billboard campaign next week that launches with the New York International Auto Show. Give us a sneak peek.
The big event is the New York auto show. So we’re introducing two of our new products—the Sonata Hybrid and the Sonata Turbo—and this is the international reveal of those two vehicles. Along with that reveal, we’re taking advantage of our Times Square board and extending the reveal and [showing] live footage [from the show] on our Times Square board. The idea behind both of these products is just the efficiency of the two engines. Hyundai is the leader in fuel economy. It’s the brand with the highest fuel economy in the industry and it’s also the brand with the lowest emissions in the industry. We’re playing on that both at the show and on our billboard at Times Square, so, we’ll pose questions on the board like, “Do you want cleaner air? Well, drive a cleaner car.” And there’ll be a series of street teams in blue Hyundai uniforms cleaning the air with mops and brooms, so that visual is tied to what you see on the interactive display at our Times Square board, that then ties back to what’s going on when we introduce the two new products at the Javits Center. [Ad agencies Innocean and Wow Factor handle creative and digital duties, respectively.]

BW: What are you working on next for Hyundai marketing? What’s the next big marketing push?
Next is the FIFA World Cup. We’re the global partner for the World Cup, and we’re also the automotive sponsor on ESPN and ABC. So, we have a pretty integrated partnership with them in TV, online, print, radio, and we’re working on developing a specific campaign for Hyundai that ties in with the World Cup. It’ll be a brand new campaign and it’s going to be tied to the theme of soccer. So, we’ll have creative that is contextually relevant to the tournament itself.