Campaign Direct: Issue Car Marketing - Coupe campaign appeals to the customer’s ego/CMB struck gold with its Hyundai marketing by making customers feel involved, Kate Dale explains

For an automotive company, no news is definitely not good news. It’s hard to keep fickle customers interested when you have no new models, designs or specifications to get them excited.

For an automotive company, no news is definitely not good news.

It’s hard to keep fickle customers interested when you have no new

models, designs or specifications to get them excited.

You’re not going to get many minutes on Top Gear if Jeremy Clarkson has

nothing new from you to review. And no matter how satisfied an owner is

with their car, when it comes to buying a replacement they are easily

tempted by ’the next big thing’.

Hyundai’s solution to this problem not only generated a 47 per cent

response rate, it also scooped gold at the 1999 Direct Marketing

Association/Royal Mail awards.

Facing a 12-month absence of new product launches at the beginning of

1999, Hyundai unveiled a special edition Coupe - the F2 Evolution - and

solicited customers’ opinions about what it should look like. For CMB,

the agency that put the award-winning programme together, it topped off

an extraordinary 12 months. ’We hit the big time last year,’ CMB’s

chairman, Jonathan Clark, says. ’We had an 88 per cent strike rate on

new business. I have never seen anything like it, nor will I again.’

CMB’s year started with a crisis call from Hyundai’s after-sales

marketing manager, Mark Say. Impressed with the agency’s tactical work

on new-prospect projects, he called it in to kick-start a concept that

had been developed by the incumbent customer retention agency, Bates


Design Track was to be the third phase of a relationship marketing

programme, but it had stalled and now needed to be rolled out within a

month. When Say arrived at Hyundai from the mail-order giant, Freeman’s,

back in 1997, he inherited an out-of-date database with lots of

duplication and no feedback loops. ’My role was a new appointment for

Hyundai; no-one there had previously understood the extent to which a

database is important to relationship marketing,’ he says. He promptly

issued a brief, awarded the account to Bates Communications and the two

companies worked hard over the next five months to develop an effective

customer loyalty strategy.

Initially this took the form of classic relationship marketing. A new

buyer’s questionnaire was sent out four to eight weeks after


An after-sales questionnaire was sent out 12 months later. The data

collected from these mailings enabled Hyundai to monitor product and

dealer satisfaction and segment its customers into six key groups

including ’active gentlefolk’, ’happy families’ and ’free spirits’.

These groups were then targeted with different versions of a bi-monthly

magazine, thus providing customers with a highly targeted stream of

information and enabling Hyundai to data capture key information such as

intended repurchase date.

Design Track was aimed at the ’free spirits’ - the most fickle and

critical of all the segments - who had bought the Coupe in its first six

months on the market. Bates’ idea of involving these people in the

design of the F2 Evolution gave Hyundai, in the words of Say, ’a reason

to keep talking to the customer without recourse to emotional distress

selling, such as telling them their car needs servicing’.

Unfortunately, while he loved the Design Track concept, Say felt that

Bates’ work ’wasn’t quite hitting the button’. He re-issued the brief to

CMB and, after having seen its designs, asked them to get the finished

pack in the post four weeks later.

Speed was crucial as a limited edition, by definition, has a restricted

shelf-life. If customers were going to affect the way it looked, their

views need to be collected swiftly. Nevertheless, Say was surprised at

how quickly CMB turned the pack, with its 14 separate components,


’I was astounded that they could produce the quantity and the quality

that quickly,’ he says.

CMB’s creative director, Steve Walpole, says the speed was possible

because the agency already knew the brand so well. Hyundai was the

agency’s first win after its founders, Jonathan Clark and Janet McKay,

broke away from WWAV Rapp Collins five years ago. ’From a design point

of view it wasn’t a big learning curve,’ Walpole says. ’We already knew

the corporate style, the keywords the company liked and the direction it

was moving in.’

A creative team - copywriter, Ed Fawsett, and art director, Andy Clark -

was pulled off other products and devoted to the account. The real

challenge, Walpole recalls, was the use of special materials, from the

envelope (’We couldn’t just bang it out in a standard C5’) to precise

colour swatches that created a lot of bespoke production work.

The mailpack was presented as a design portfolio and included a detailed

questionnaire that asked customers about their styling preferences.

’Obviously Hyundai was not going to retool the whole factory floor to

produce a different size of chassis,’ the account director, Clare

Wodehouse, says. ’But customers could change things such as the shape of

the spoiler, the range of colour options, the choice of upholstery and

so on.’

As well as appealing to the recipient’s ego by explaining that they had

been specially chosen to take part, the accompanying letter also offered

them a free limited-edition poster of the car. About 90 per cent of

respondents requested the poster.

In addition to the official response rate - 47 per cent - the campaign

also generated a lot of mail. ’One woman wrote a seven-page letter

eulogising her car,’ Wodehouse says. ’In accountancy terms, the campaign

was an unqualified success, generating a return on investment of


Once the data had been analysed and the design decisions were made,

respondents were sent a feedback pack announcing the results of the


Detailed lead sheets were compiled using the customers’ answers to the

questionnaire and sent to dealers who were then equipped with customers’

requirements. Customers who, according to their responses, needed a

little more persuasion, were then invited to an event at which they

could test drive the car they had a part in designing.

According to the DMA judges, the Design Track programme won because,

among other things, ’you can imagine the customer feeling obliged to buy

the car that had been designed to his or her specifications’. Walpole

knew it was good but didn’t count his chickens. ’When the piece landed

on Jonathan’s office floor, he phoned up Mark and told him to get his

bow tie ready,’ Walpole says. ’It did look good, but then I’ve thought

that about work before and we haven’t won anything. Plus, to be honest,

we produced it so long ago that I’d forgotten about it by the time the

awards came around.’


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