Hyundai recently launched a campaign across Europe intended to shift the dial on its perception as a ‘value for money’ brand to instead “inject emotion”, a test for its long-established in-house agency.
The car marque has bucked the stagnating sales trend felt by others in Europe, achieving its fourth consecutive year of record results in 2018 according to the data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).
Buoyed by the promising commercial results, vice-president of marketing and product Andreas-Christoph Hofmann decided last year that it was time to reconsider the perception the brand had built in Europe.
Though content to be considered “value for money” and of “high quality”, research it conducted suggested awareness was on the lower end of the scale compared with European rivals - a problem as it pushes further into the increasingly competitive electric vehicle market.
“We were low in Europe, 20%, in comparison to some competitors,” Hofmann recently told The Drum.
“When we asked at this time the audience what they thought about the brand the feedback was about the rational aspects, value for money and quality, but not so much about the emotional aspects.”
Hofmann put this down to “forgetting to introduce” Hyundai to European consumers when it first landed over two decades ago. And so began conversations on how to do that when the brand already has an established foothold, conversations that took time as it convinced the company’s South Korean bosses, who were “not so keen to talk about their history and successes,” to get behind it, he said.
The resulting campaign (TV ad shown above) was dubbed ‘Progress’ and it’s a concept through which all communications for the coming year for its brands, including Kia, will tie back to.
It has aimed to show “Hyundai’s progressive spirit” over the past 50 years by way of a series of brand films taking viewers through the company’s evolution from an little-known engineering and construction company responsible for building much of South Korea’s transportation infrastructure to the global car maker people will be familiar with today.
It was also the first time the company shifted away from product-driven marketing to brand-driven communications, a move predicated on Hoffman taking on a new role at Hyundai last year which combined marketing and product development responsibilities.
“The interesting thing is to have it combined as on a long-term basis we have the planning and the product in Europe. [Product development] has to take the customer into its focus which is easier when marketing plays a role; there’s no further development without insights and feedback," he said.
Under his guidance the company’s long-running in-house creative agency Innocean was given the remit to “make the ads as good as the products” and simply be “more bold and confident.”
“Everyone is on the same mission on how to evolve the brand from being thought of as value for money to something more emotional and mature,” said Gabriel Mattar, European chief creative officer at the agency.
“We evolved the product line by hiring key people to transform the brand but in the ads we're still quite shy but now is the moment to really stand tall.”
It’s already paying dividends, Mattar said. Though early days, initial campaign testing suggest that in its top five European markets Hyundai has expiernced a rise in certain brand perception metrics, including whether it’s considered a “modern, tech advanced and progressive” company.