Time for Hyundai to Join the Conversation

Hyundai’s been making a big splash recently. This summer it become the world’s 5th largest automaker. Early this month, the company announced the innovative sales promotion of allowing buyers to return their cars if they lose their jobs. And this week, Consumer reports crowned Hyundai’s new entrant into the upscale sedan segment, the Genesis, as their top rated luxury car.
The engineering achievement alone, taking out Toyota’s Lexus as CR’s choice for a lux-ride, is worthy of some major bragging by Hyundai. Somehow, the company’s neglected to mention it on either their blog or Twitter feed.
The reason? They have neither.
Hyundai’s brand could certainly use the help from social media. The Korean manufacturer, previously known for its low-cost sedans, is trying to break into the crowded upscale market at a difficult time. Its competitors have established separate high-end marks with differentiated brands; Toyota has Lexus, Honda/Acura,VW/Audi, Ford/Lincoln (sort of), etc. Shunning convention, and the associated costs of establishing a new brand, Hyundai has launched the acclaimed Genesis under its own name. However, Hyundai’s core brand attribute of value for money may put it at disadvantage against BMW’s performance image or Audi’s aura of refinement.
To convince potential customers that the $36k Genesis is every bit as good as its $45K+ rivals, the company will need more than great reviews and an upcoming Superbowl commercial. Hyundai needs to persuade the public to think of the brand in an entirely new light and manage complex messaging of its luxury vs lower-end products.
Rivals have already established themselves in the social media space. GM has managed its FastLane blog since 2005, with peeks at product development and features from executives. Toyota has been using its Twitter feed to direct users to its blog and combat rumors that it failed to donate to post-9/11 charities. Ford was recently dubbed the ‘Anti-Motrin’ for its effectiveness in utilizing social media to diffuse backlash from legal action against a fan site.
To be sure, Hyundai’s not the last one in the pool. Notably, Honda and Mercedes don’t maintain an official (English-language) social media presence. Eventually they’ll get there, but in the meantime they have an established upmarket brand that Hyundai lacks or, in Honda’s case, a rabid community of enthusiasts. Hyundai will need to build and maintain its grassroots network of evangelists if its going to reap the full benefits of its new ‘halo car.’ A Genesis widget, published back in October, is a positive first step but only underscores the long road to real commitment to the medium.
Hyundai’s newest car has shown it now has the engineering skills and marketing muscle to rattle the established players; it’s time for it to develop the social-media savvy needed to supercharge its brand.
Photo credit: jiazi

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