Thirty years ago, when Hyundai came to the US, there was no Netflix-based Marvel Comics universe for the automaker to partner with. In fact, for a few rocky years there, it appeared as if there might also be no Hyundai in the US.
Today, Hyundai makes luxury cars in the US and its 2012 Hyundai Elantra was the North American Car of the Year. And, a fact that seems far from the late 1980s reliability woes, Hyundai is ranked by Consumer Reports one of the top 5 automakers for reliability.
On the occasion of its expanded entertainment marketing deal with Netflix and Marvel Comics, brandchannel put some questions to Dean Evans, Chief Marketing Officer of Hyundai Motor America, about marketing with superheroes and zombies, turning 30 in America and what Hyundai US is hoping for in the next 30 years.
brandchannel: Hyundai re-upped its partnership with Marvel and Netflix. What is it about these specific franchises that is attractive to the brand?
Dean Evans: The Hyundai and Marvel partnership started in 2015 and includes the integration of Hyundai vehicles across four popular Marvel character shows (Dare Devil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage) and the mini-series Defenders, all exclusively airing on Netflix, the world’s leading internet TV network.
We are continually finding new avenues to build emotional connections with our customers to move Hyundai from a brand that people buy, to a brand that people love. The strategy with this partnership—as with all integrations—is to become part of what people are interested in. To put Hyundai at the heart of what people love and make their experience better.
As consumers continue to drive change in the world of on-demand content, Netflix (with 75 million subscribers globally) gave us the opportunity to reach audiences that would otherwise fall outside of our media targeting profile. Combining that with Marvel and its engaged comic book audience was an opportunity to partner with two powerhouses in content programming in a fresh, new approach.
What we loved most about Marvel is that it is one big interwoven puzzle littered with “breadcrumbs”—little hidden treats that give hints to a much deeper understanding of the story for its most passionate audiences to discover. Sometimes you have to watch twice or read a blog or two to find them. We’d like to think of our Hyundai integration into these shows as just another “breadcrumb” for people to learn and love over time.
bc: Hyundai was also a partner of The Walking Dead. Is that relationship still active and was it a success?
Evans: While the partnership is no longer active, we do consider it one of our greatest branded content initiatives. Hyundai had made its mark as the official getaway vehicle for The Walking Dead, but we wanted more fans to discover and engage with our vehicles. So, we launched The Walking Dead Chop Shop—a car configurator centered on the one thing every fan loved to talk about: survival.
The app provided the tools needed to survive a zombie apocalypse, and included 700 parts that were also crowdsourced by fans. We leveraged a variety of media—everything from online banners to national TV to social media. Almost 250,000 people built survival vehicles, and there were almost 500,000 app downloads. Hyundai.com saw 150% increase to traffic in just three months, and we received a slew of positive press coverage about the initiative.
bc: Hyundai’s Director of Marketing Communications said that millennials’ “love affair with cars is really waning.” With lower rates of licensing and car ownership, where does Hyundai see opportunities to grow the brand?
Evans: We need to evolve our sales and marketing as our customer evolves. This new generation of shoppers behaves completely differently. Their expectation is for a fast and enjoyable shopping experience. They value transparency, predictability, convenience, low pressure and personalization. We have some initiatives on the horizon that address these issues head on. We’ll also need to evolve our business model as car-sharing and alternative ownership models become more prevalent.
We’ve recently made big strides in our branding—from being a value brand to being a brand with emotional appeal. We’ve gone back to our company’s roots and adopted the branding “We Make Things Better” to express how we run every aspect of our business. We’re looking less at getting customers into a Hyundai and more at getting them into Hyundai. We want to connect with them in a meaningful way at every step of the ownership experience—from consideration and shopping to ownership and service. We are a better car company that truly wants to make the lives of our drivers better every day.
bc: This year marks Hyundai’s 30th year in the US. When the brand arrived in America in 1986 it was with a bang and then quality issues made it a bit of an punchline. Today Hyundai makes luxury cars in America. Any special plans for the anniversary? Where will Hyundai be in the next 30 years?
Evans: We’re extremely proud to have reached 30 years in the US. It’s an incredibly important market for Hyundai, and we’ll continue to invest in the American market and economy. We’ve gone from selling one model, the Excel, to being the fifth-largest automaker in the world with 14 vehicles in its US lineup.
Cars have evolved from “a set of wheels” to become the ultimate mobile device. The idea of the “connected car” is transforming our industry and the world. And 30 years from now, our cars will drive us to work, and whole new infrastructure will support the self-driving car.
Hyundai’s vision for future mobility focuses on choice, with a variety of vehicle options. We’ll offer our all-new luxury brand Genesis and our advanced alternative-fuel vehicles like the all-new IONIQ. We’ll continue to meet customers’ varied lifestyles without compromising on design, safety, technology or driving enjoyment.
The Genesis brand will create a new definition of luxury, one that will provide a new platform for future mobility centered on anticipating human needs at every touchpoint.
Hyundai is also pushing ahead of the curve with IONIQ, the first electric-based model line to offer a choice of three electrified power trains available in a single body type: electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid. IONIQ will deliver an engaging driving experience alongside class-leading fuel economy and appealing design combined with our Blue Drive technology for lower pollution and higher performance.
Thirty years from now, everything will have changed, but I’m confident one thing will remain the same: Hyundai will continue to challenge the status quo.