What do you do if you’re Hyundai, and you want to introduce a luxury automobile brand? Nissan did it with Infiniti, Honda did it with Acura, and Toyota did it with Lexus. Every brand with an “economy” perception eventually wants the prestige and profits to be earned in a more upscale market. Rarely does it work in the other direction, where a luxury brand can successfully appeal to the masses without disengaging its core clientele. Hyundai, in the case of the automotive division of South Korea’s industrial behemoth, has a reputation for building highly affordable, stylish, economy cars that have established a growing niche in the U.S. market. What happens when Hyundai decides that it wants to sell a new line of vehicles with an MSRP that starts at $58,000? For starters, it had better do things right.
It is important to get attention and to create a buzz among consumers and, in this case, auto enthusiasts. In a new advertising campaign under the theme of “Rethink Everything”, Hyundai attempts to convince us that its commitment to technology is unsurpassed. The fact that the Equus owner’s manual comes on an iPad, rather than a printed booklet, is an attention-grabber and a brilliant idea, but perhaps the icon of an old-fashioned incandescent light bulb above the headline is a warning for the consumer to look a bit more closely.
How much research did Hyundai undertake before launching the new brand? Good question.
No company with any sense of intelligence will choose a brand name unless it is unique, memorable, and translates internationally. Consider the Chevrolet Nova, produced from the early 1960s into the late 1970s. Whether fact or urban legend, it has been said that the Chevy Nova was a failure in Latin American markets because the name literally translated into “it does not go” in Spanish. Today, when the Web address of a business is essentially its second brand name, it is equally important that a name is not already in use by another company (an invitation for a trademark infringement lawsuit) and that the domain name comprised of that brand name plus “dot com” is readily available. In this case, Hyundai appears to have blown it, big time. Visit equus.comto learn about Equus Products, Inc., a company that, ironically, produces OEM automotive products and is totally unrelated to Hyundai. The fact that equus.com is already in use by another company is only the beginning of Hyundai’s problems when it comes to branding online.
Because of the company’s lack of adequate research, a type-in for equus.com will not bring a potential customer to Hyundai’s Equus website. Big mistake. Type-ins of known products or brand names account for as much as 20% of website traffic. Instead, the URL for Hyundai’s Equus product line is http://equus.hyundai.com/, a subdomain of the Hyundai brand. Could you imagine the only way of reaching Lexus online being a subdomain of Toyota? Worse yet, visit the Flash-driven website, and prepare for Adobe Flash Player 10 to crash and the latest version of Firefox to lock up. Click on a navigational link on this English language website, and (until your browser crashes) you will find that both the mouseovers and the subnavigational links are in Korean. Alternately, there is a folder on the Hyundai Motor America website at http://www.hyundaiusa.com/equus/. This is where it becomes clear that Hyundai is not introducing a new product line, but merely introducing a new model that will be sold within existing Hyundai dealerships … a certain formula for failure. The brand is intended to compete with the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8, and Lexus LS, among others. How many Mercedes or BMW owners are going to set foot in a Hyundai dealership? Sorry, but the answer is zero. In fairness, this looks like a nice car with some impression features and engineering, but you simply cannot blow the marketing if you are trying to rebrand an economy image and sell a car made in South Korea at a starting price of $58,000. Product reviews? Mixed at best.
Perhaps the most important reviews these days are the customer comments that may be found in social media posts. How is Hyundai doing in this regard? You decide. There is a Hyundai Equus Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hyundaiequus. That, in itself, is good; however, anybody who knows how Facebook works understands that it is not a vehicle for sales pitches but rather for building relationships with your customers. Visit the Facebook page and you will see the majority of Wall posts are from Hyundai dealers trying to get people into their showrooms, a terribly misguided approach.
It is fortunate that Hyundai is an enormous corporation with money to burn. Every indication that I can see tells me that, from a marketing perspective, they are spending a whole lot of money to shoot themselves in the foot. My advice to my small business readers is to learn from Hyundai’s mistakes.
This post was written by Peter Pelland