Top 10 Innovative Brands 2014: #9 Hyundai

In a weakened industry, the automaker is strengthening its brand by combining live events with digital marketing efforts.

By Jenny Berg June 17, 2014, 7:05 AM EDT

Fans at New York Comic Con could build their own zombie survival machines.

Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/BizBash

The automotive sector has seen its share of recent disparagement, but Hyundai is ambitious, looking to grow its market share and sales by rolling out 12 new vehicles in the next three years. The Fountain Valley, California-based subsidiary of the Korean carmaker is just as determined with its marketing programs, building brand loyalty and visibility at key pop cultural events by creating digital components.

One particularly integrated initiative revolved around a partnership with Robert Kirkman, author of The Walking Dead comic book series, and, specifically, Skybound, his comics publishing imprint. Following 2012’s “Hyundai Undead” campaign that saw Kirkman outfit a Hyundai Elantra coupe as a “Zombie Survival Machine,” the brand debuted “The Walking Dead Chop Shop” at the 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego. Using an interactive app and an accompanying website, consumers could design their own survival machines through a process designed to better acquaint them with the overall brand. That meant they could choose a specific car model and customize the vehicle with virtual armor, survival accessories, car parts, and decals. Their creations could then be tested out in online scenarios inspired by comic books. The brand showcased a fan-designed car at New York Comic Con in October and brought three other versions to the Chicago Auto Show in February.

To date, about 262,801 Survival Machines have been built, and the campaign took home the Driving Engagement Award from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association at this year’s Chicago Auto Show. 

Another long-term, cross-platform campaign highlights the brand’s strong ties to students—and sports fans. In 2013, Hyundai partnered with 25 major football programs to stage 154 events at stadiums throughout the country, growing its college-football marketing effort that began in 2011. At the center of the activations was the Hyundai Fieldhouse, in which sports fans played tailgating games, received co-branded school gear, and checked out the company’s display vehicles. Additionally, Hyundai partnered with Yahoo Sports’s to create the Loyalty Report, a section of the website highlighting each school’s fans, tailgate traditions, and rivalries with 13 weeks of original content.

Such programs are helping fuel Hyundai’s position in the United States; the brand announced 2013 sales set a record, and Steve Shannon, the vice president of marketing for Hyundai who oversees all of the brand’s marketing efforts, was ranked as the 17th most influential C.M.O. in a survey conducted by Appinions for Forbes that published in October 2013.

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