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2023 World Car of the Year: 3 marketing lessons from Hyundai about how to engage Gen Z

Hyundai Motor Company


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September 15, 2023 | 9 min read

Hyundai's recent marketing campaigns featuring their award winning IONIQ 6 model amount to a masterclass in engaging Gen Z. From appearing in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, to embodying K-culture in their online content, to meeting younger audiences in their virtual havens, here are three lessons all marketers can learn from the motor giant.

Hyundai Spiderman Across the Spiderverse collaboration - a lesson in how to engage Gen Z

IONIQ 6 in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

It is no secret that Gen Z’s spending power has been on the rise and companies need to rethink their strategies to appeal to the next generation of power consumers. As Gen Z is projected to be the largest group of consumers (at 82 million people) by 2026, it is paramount that brands understand their interests and behaviors and cater to their needs to guarantee longevity.

Gen Zers are defined by their passion for sustainability, diversity and inclusivity, and demand brands to take up active stances on these important social and environmental issues, more so than other generations. They are also referred to as the first real “digital natives” for their tendency to turn to the Internet for everything from shopping, gaming, consuming content to making friends. Above all, they value individuality and manifesting their unique identities through their consumptions.

From partnering up with a Hollywood studio to collaborating with metaverse and gaming platforms, Hyundai Motor Company has been leveraging the latest trends and cultural moments to connect with Gen Z. At its core, Hyundai is committed to sharing its vision of “progress for humanity” through future mobility solutions. As the brand’s electric line-up, including the 2023 World Car of the Year, IONIQ 6, and its accompanying marketing campaigns would attest, Hyundai knows how to win the trust of the value-centric digital natives seeking singular experiences.

Here are three key lessons marketers can learn from Hyundai’s approach.

1. Sharing a vision of the future

Hyundai’s future mobility vision came into full view in ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,’ Sony Pictures and Hyundai’s third collaboration. For the latest animation movie, Hyundai reimagined a futuristic NYC, set in the year 2099 through a flying version of the Hyundai Prophecy concept EV model, which inspired the design of the IONIQ 6. It also features the brand’s future mobility concepts, including advanced air mobility (AAM), eco-friendly purpose-built vehicles (PBV) and self-driving robotaxis. By leveraging the medium of animation, Hyundai shared its vision to attain a sustainable future through future mobility solutions in a way that resonated with younger consumers.

While a flying car is still a thing of the future, the IONIQ 6 presents itself as a viable real-life option, especially for the Gen Z consumers that prioritize products highlighting their individuality.

Hyundai x Spider-Verse collaboration

To make IONIQ 6 both individual and futuristic, Hyundai designed it so that it had:

  • A sleek and streamlined silhouette.
  • Parametric Pixel LED headlamps.
  • The shape of a sleek polished pebble (the aerodynamically sculpted shape not only enhancing the car’s visual appeal but also its overall efficiency).
  • A personal hideaway-like interior optimized for the driver.

Unconventional by standard, this integrated design approached has endowed the IONIQ 6 with a triple win – World Car of the Year, World Electric Vehicle of the Year and World Car Design of the Year – at this year’s World Car Awards. This follows the brand’s triple crown championship for IONIQ 5 – the IONIQ 6’s predecessor – at last year’s ceremony. In addition, it has won the Gold medal from If Design Award, Best Company Car from 2023 Autocar Awards and Saloon of the Year from 2023 GQ Awards.

2. Embodying the spirit of K-culture

K-culture has taken the world by storm in the form of K-pop, K-dramas and K-beauty, and it’s no surprise why. It constantly evolves and innovates to tailor to the most current trends and deliver original stories and authentic experiences that resonate with the Gen Z audience (take viral K-pop TikTok challenges or immense popularity of “Squid Game” and “Parasite” that deal with a globally appealing theme of social injustice, for instance.)

Whether using locally sourced ingredients in contemporary Korean cuisine, repurposing traditional Korean house, or hanok, as a way to bridge the past and present, or encouraging upcycled fashion, Korean culture has been embracing sustainability agenda as well.

Characterized by a mix of tradition and technological innovations, K-culture’s ethos pulses through Hyundai’s IONIQ 6 as portrayed in the latest brand film “New meets Old.” Created in collaboration with the Seoul-based photographer Min Hyunwoo, the new film shows Gen Zers and the elderly exploring Seoul together in the IONIQ lineup vehicles. By bridging the two generations, Hyundai shows its commitment to merging the best of Korean heritage and the brand’s latest innovations in designing cars of tomorrow. And by aligning Gen Z with the IONIQ 6, the film shows why the award-winning EV is a perfect companion for accommodating Gen Z’s lifestyle and needs.

Hyundai Kulture Stories | New meets Old

For the experience-focused Gen Z, the IONIQ 6 provides a personalized and memorable driving experience, not only through its cocoon-like interior and ergonomically designed control, but also through futuristic technologies and features such as the EV Performance Tune-Up that allows the driver to freely adjust the vehicle performance as well as the Speed Sync Lighting mode that changes the brightness of the interior lighting based on the vehicle’s speed. Like K-culture, the EV also embodies Hyundai’s commitment to sustainability by making extensive use of eco-friendly materials, including recycled PET bottles and fishing nets, plant-based plastic yarns, eco-processed leather with plant-based extracts, and bio paint with plant-based extracts.

3. Going virtual

As digital natives, Gen Zers have been described as being “always on,” preferring to spend their free time online, more so than other pursuits. And among digital activities, gaming has been cited as many Gen Z’s favorite entertainment activity, allowing them to express themselves freely and in a creative way.

Taking into consideration Gen Z’s digital native tendency, Hyundai has also translated the IONIQ 6 experiences into a virtual world. They’ve partnered up with an online game platform ROBLOX, whose championing of creativity and connection has made it a platform of choice for many Gen Zers (who make up about 60% of its 65 million daily active users).

In order to position the IONIQ 6 as the car of choice for the future generation, Hyundai has also collaborated with ZEPETO. The Korean metaverse platform boasts over 300 million registered users globally and has become an online destination for brands – Gucci, Nike, Dior Beauty and Disney, to name a few – seeking to reach Gen Z.

Through these digital spheres, users are able to enjoy the IONIQ 6’s various features and diverse lifestyles it facilitates, and even take it out for a virtual test-drive.

Propelled by the World Car of the Year win and growing interests, Hyundai will continue seeking out creative partnerships and initiatives that position the IONIQ 6 as the car of choice for the future generation. Through boundary-pushing marketing campaigns and staying on top of the latest trends and young consumers’ interests, Hyundai is committed to setting a new blueprint for automotive marketing.

Transport Digital Transformation Gen Z

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Hyundai Motor Company

Established in 1967, Hyundai Motor Company is present in over 200 countries with more than 120,000 employees dedicated to tackling real-world mobility challenges...

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