Oct 1, 2007

Thinking About Hyundai

I have to say I'm really digging the new Hyundai campaign via San Francisco-based Goodby, Silverstein (can't assume everyone reading this is a creative anymore).

There are the TV spots above, the very nicely done website, and smart print ads with lines like “Shouldn’t a car have more air bags than cupholders?” and "Are car companies committed to quality, or to the phrase ‘committed to quality’?”

And while I really like the campaign on its own merits, it also gets Toad's Right Ads @ The Right Time Award.

Let me explain: 5 years ago, this campaign would have been laughable. Hyundais were crappy cars made in Korea and no one could pronounce the name of the company (and as Bill "Make The Logo Bigger" Green and JetPacks have pointed out, the logo sucks.)

But lately I've been hearing a lot of positive buzz about Hyundai. And I'm by no means a car guy. Various auto publications have liked Hyundai's cars better than the more expensive Japanese imports. Plus I'm definitely starting to see more of them-- the Santa Fe SUV in particular-- on the leafy, sun-dappled streets of my upscale burb.

Given all the positive buzz, the time seems perfect for a campaign like this, a campaign designed to move Hyundai into the space Volvo used to own (before they decided to try and become the Swedish Mercedes) and that Subaru kind of owns: the smart, safe car for people who could spend a lot of money on a car but choose not to. An anti-status symbol of sorts.

This is a perfect case study of how advertising can help build on buzz, rather than the other way around. Because the buzz here is authentic, e.g. the only thing Hyundai did to create it was to make better cars. And so the advertising can reinforce the buzz because it's based on truth, not smoke and mirrors.

Advertising. It's not rocket science ;)

(Side note: speaking of cars on the leafy, sun dappled streets of my upscale burb, I've noticed a dramatic increase lately in the number of Range Rovers. My suspicion is that this is largely due to the fact that Range Rover is the only luxury car brand that doesn't also have an undistinguised $28K model (yes, I know, but it's called a Land Rover, not a Range Rover.) That, and the Range Rover has a very noticeable shape which immediately lets people know you're the sort of person who can spend $80K on a car.)


raafi said...

I kind of admire what Hyundai has done as a business, if not advertiser, over its duration in the US market. I can remember when Hyundai was an absolute joke -- selling its first model stateside for $4285. Seeing the brand go from punchline to semi-respectable to sensible over the years has been illustrative of what any company that knows what it is, and where it wants to go can do over time behind a solid body of work. And who can forget when Ricky got blown away from the back of a Hyundai in Boyz N The Hood? As a fourteen-year-old, who saw that scene four times in the theaters I can remember thinking, "wow, Hyundais can't be all that bad if gangsters are driving them."

Anonymous said...

Actually, my comment wasn’t about the quality of the logo, but how much it looked like Honda’s. In so many ways, it seems like they’re just making a cheaper version of a Honda. Little too soon for the “MY OTHER CAR IS A HYUNDAI” bumper stickers, but they’re getting there.

LimitedTimeOffer said...

I have to admit personally I find the line "think about it", a turn off. To me it sounds patronizing, and combined with the general theme of the spots chastising people for other car choices, leaves me with a nasty feeling of smug.

Alan Wolk said...

@LTO: (Great name, btw) - I think "smug" is a feeling the sort of people they're going after are quite comfortable with. Their car choice is far from the only place they exercise that option.

Anonymous said...


This is interesting because I still think of Hyundai as an inexpensive car that is neither safe nor comfortable. And that combination equates to cheap.

Like you, I am not a car guy and don't read car pubs. So I base my opinion strictly on size and looks. Will this campaign, which I like, help change the minds of those whose opinions come from first impressions?

Alan Wolk said...

@Lewis: Interesting point, but I think they're probably going after people who have already put Hyundai in their consideration set. You know, people who have read the studies, felt the buzz and just need a reason to feel good about buying a Hyundai for rational reasons. I suspect this type of customer mostly lives on the coasts and is also looking at a Subaru and maybe a Volvo. If Hyundai can start to break into this segment that would be a huge step for them

Lunar BBDO said...

Is it my imagination or do I recall, from a family holiday to the States quite a while back, that Hyundai once produced the worst endline in the history of advertising:

'Hyundai, yes, Hyundai.'


Scamp said...

Lovely work

Good music, too

Anonymous said...

That is quite nice work. To Bill's point, the first time I saw it on tv, I thought is was an ad for honda. Actually, I think the first couple times.

I'll be curious to see how the ad actually performs, but I can promise you this, their dealerships are probably freaking the fuck out. Where's the car? Where's the car?

Either way, I'm rooting for it to succeed. It'd make a damn good case study.

I'm still not buying one though, I'm far too image conscious. :)

Alan Wolk said...

@Paul: First off, thanks for joining us. (Paul is the author of the Hee-Haw Marketing blog)

Now that my Johnny Carson bit is over...

Hyundai has an interesting challenge. They need to take the car from being something people drive because they can't afford anything better to something people drive even though they can actually afford a more expensive car.

That sort of reverse snobbery reverberates with certain types on the East and West coasts (many of whom work in advertising.) And if Hyundai can get them to view its cars the same way they view Subaru's, they will have a major victory on their hands.

CeliaInSF said...

Paul makes a great point:

"I'll be curious to see how the ad actually performs, but I can promise you this, their dealerships are probably freaking the fuck out. Where's the car? Where's the car?"

That's why it was fun to just see this:


Looks like the dealers get it too.

Alan Wolk said...

Thanks for the link Celia.

I'm not surprised the dealers are digging the campaign now, but let's see where their heads are at a few months down the road.