Twenty years ago the Hyundai brand represented cheap, starter cars. It was a brand that people poked fun at, and it was a brand that was not known for quality. Today, the Hyundai brand still carries some of those old stigmas, but they’re more of a distant memory than anything else. Today, the Hyundai brand doesn’t mean cheap. It means affordable. And it means a lot more, too.
While other automobile brands have struggled to maintain sales, Hyundai’s sales have actually grown. And while other auto brands have reduced advertising and marketing spending in recent years, Hyundai has increased their own spending. As a result, Hyundai’s market share has grown with no signs of slowing down. In fact, consumers named Hyundai Marketer of the Year for 2009 in an Ad Age poll. Clearly, the new brand image is being heard and believed.
Hyundai’s path to reinvent its brand didn’t happen overnight. The first step came in 1998 when Hyundai became the first auto manufacturer to offer a 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty. Next, car designs were revamped making them more competitive aesthetically with popular brands like Honda and Toyota. New models like the Santa Fe, Tuscon, and higher-end Genesis were released, again, elevating the brand image. Quality problems were addressed, and with the excellent warranty giving consumers peace-of-mind, new car sales grew.
Fast forward to 2009 when Hyundai responded to economic problems consumers faced with its assurance program that allowed customers to return the Hyundai vehicles they purchased that year if they lost their jobs. Later that year, Hyundai introduced its Assurance Gas Lock program (when gasoline prices were soaring to record levels in the United States) rather than offering discounts and dealer incentives, which can negatively affect brand perception. The Assurance Gas Lock program guaranteed $1.49 per gallon gasoline to consumers who purchased Hyundai vehicles during the summer months of 2009. During a time when consumers were actively looking for brands they could trust, Hyundai was the first to step up to the plate with innovative programs (similar in nature to its pioneering warranty program that most auto manufacturers have since copied in some form).
Hyundai’s efforts to reinvent its brand have worked. Not only is Hyundai’s market share at an all time high, but in 2009, 60% of consumers were reported to be aware of the brand and willing to buy it, which was up from just 40% two years earlier. While U.S. car manufacturers are using bailout money, and other popular brands are battling quality problems, Hyundai seems to be doing all the right things to successfully reinvent its brand and continue to reap the rewards.
What do you think? Has Hyundai successfully reinvented its brand or is there still more work to be done?
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