Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hyundai's New CMO Aims For A More Dominant, Loved Brand

Hyundai made two high-profile moves this summer to bolster its U.S. marketing, inking a deal to replace General Motors as sponsor of the National Football League and hiring Subaru veteran Dean Evans as CMO.

Evans spoke with Staff Reporter Gabe Nelson about his goals for Hyundai.

Q: What was it that attracted you to Hyundai?

A: I've known [Hyundai Motor America CEO] Dave Zuchowski for a while.

What I didn't know about was the pipeline and the product cadence that Hyundai has in front of it. It's very encouraging. I'm a big fan of what's coming and how invested the executives are in moving the company forward to become more of a dominant brand in the industry.

Coming in, what did Hyundai represent to you?

As you know, Hyundai started out from a value-oriented position, and it has maintained that position through the years, whether by starting the Hyundai Assurance program or offering the best warranty in the industry. Those rational buying reasons were a big part of what Hyundai stood for. I still think Hyundai is best-in-class in that area, but what I think Hyundai is doing today is realizing that the brand should stand for more than just rational proof points.

Dean Evans, CMO, Hyundai Motor America: "Typically, CMOs like to be responsible for the top of the funnel. I like to be responsible for the whole funnel, and I'm getting the agency to understand that we're all responsible for the whole funnel."

What more should Hyundai stand for?

One thing is: To build a more robust brand people have to love you. Are you a good social responsibility company? Are you doing things to make people's lives better? No. 2 is the customer experience. How is the customer being treated on a day-to-day basis? A lot of that comes from our retailers, so another area we'd like to develop is making our retailers a bigger part of the messaging for us.

What have you done since you arrived in mid-August?

I like to spend a few months getting to know the people and the company. There's so much good stuff going on, and I want to make sure I understand it and put positive momentum behind the stuff that's already great.

I've also been looking at the data -- things like favorable opinion numbers and inflow and outflow data from Polk -- so I can understand how many of our customers are rebuying our vehicles, who we're conquesting and who we're conquesting from.

Is it important for Hyundai, a Korean brand, to be perceived as more American?

Consumers are still in two categories: import and domestic. And what I find more than anything is that those import brands that are most Americanized now -- people are getting bored of them. They may be on their second or third car from that brand, but the millennials in the family, or maybe the grandparents, are thinking that it's time to take a look at a different sort of import brand.

If you look at the data for the three largest import brands, their conquest isn't very strong.

Sometimes it's a minus. They are under attack, and people are moving to new alternative brands like Hyundai.

Innocean, your advertising agency, hired new leadership this summer in CEO Steve Jun and managing director Tim Blett. How's the relationship?

I love Tim Blett. He was the first person I had dinner with when I got here, and we have locked arms and combined our organizations like never before.

We want to make this brand more loved, and creative execution is a big area where we rely on Innocean for constant reinvention.

To you, what's the role of a chief marketing officer?

I'm a big advocate of sharing the sales responsibility. Typically, CMOs like to be responsible for the top of the funnel. I like to be responsible for the whole funnel, and I'm getting the agency to understand that we're all responsible for the whole funnel, including the number of leads that are coming into our retail network.

I've been focused on this for a while because I've had such a retail-centric background. I've survived in my career by helping dealers sell more cars.

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