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back in 1997, he inherited an out-of-date database with lots of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