NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the end, the vote for Ad Age's 2009 Marketer of the Year came down to a pair of companies that have handled the recession capably, though with very different tacks.
Walmart essentially had to help consumers come to its aisles stocked with inexpensive goods. The retailer has long been positioned perfectly for hard times, as it represents value and savings in the mind of American consumers. A tonally-perfect ad approach and smart merchandise decisions were nice nudges -- and it all paid off. Pre-financial meltdown, Hyundai's brand was less formed in U.S. shoppers' minds. The carmaker saw the recession as an opportunity, launching itself into the center of the economic maelstrom, and it came out a winner in many ways -- including in this vote.
The other three candidates, Amazon, Lego and McDonald's, didn't get nearly as many ballots in their favor, but they did inspire plenty of conversations. Here's a sampling of the comments left on AdAge.com during the voting, divided by how they voted:
Based purely on its impact on the market, Hyundai's marketing has to take the prize. In a disastrous year for auto companies, Hyundai boosted sales with marketing that caused people to not only think about Hyundai but buy Hyundai.
By Chip, Pittsburgh:
Not only did they hold ground but improved by double digits. They fight an uphill battle in the auto industry because their brand carries no cachet compared to some other automakers. That's a tough assignment for any marketing group.
By ryanjmu1, Brooklyn, N.Y.:
Gotta go with Hyundai. As all of its competition was/is getting decimated by the recession, the Assurance program was pitch-perfect for the times. McDonald's and Walmart did a great job, obviously, but their gains were more a product of being already well-positioned for the value-focused consumer.
McDonald's has repositioned itself for all consumers -- adults, kids, etc. Way to go McDonald's. Keep up the good work.
By Kevin, New York:
I don't eat there, but I vote for McDonald's. Just compare it to Burger King -- game, set, match. As much as every U.S. ad critic appears to loathe "I'm Lovin It," it's been going since end of 2003 and might last more than 10 years. Perhaps one of the top 5 global, repeat global, campaign success stories ever.
There are some people on this thread who are fairly elitist. Not voting for Walmart or McD's because they're what ... too mass media? Too commercial? Too ubiquitous? Come on. This is about who's done a great job marketing in a less-than-stellar marketplace. I've lived in a small town, and when the Walmart and McD's came to town, they both helped so much with local charities, sponsoring youth sports teams, providing part-time jobs for people. They really aren't spawns of Satan. So I'm going to vote for Walmart because the "Save Money, Live Better" campaign was spot-on and extremely timely. And their product lines seem better than they used to be.
By markinnovation, Richmond, Va.:
Walmart. Several years ago, Walmart faced a huge perceptual challenge that many believed was unachievable. Their marketing efforts, as well as "walking the talk," turned that challenge into tangible and economic benefits that most of the country could participate in. I think Walmart's marketing efforts reached beyond selling Walmart and into a kind of call-to-action for the public good -- without any fine print.
By jthomp4, Rogers, Ark.:
Walmart's marketing has been at the heart of the repositioning of the company and its business success. Their "Save Money, Live Better" positioning is so spot-on that it seems like Sam himself would have invented it. The executions, from their anthem ads to the multiple departments to their sustainability ads, all support the brand while also adding to the many products and solutions the company provides so customers can "Live Better." This is not just a campaign but a mantra -- which the advertising across all mediums supports. Give them the recognition they deserve.
By MassInsight, Boston:
Walmart's success is no accident. Sure, they have new advertising, a new logo and a new store look -- but, more importantly, Walmart has made a new connection with its most important customer: Mom. By listening to and blogging with moms, Walmart now delivers better shopping, better products and better value.
By smillerberg, Rogers, Ark.:
If marketing is about the right message at the right time -- what is more right now than: "Save money. Live Better." That's the stuff marketing awards are made from.
Lego is the only product on the list that is not favored by prevailing economic and technological trends. It has also shown the most adaptability and the most market-leading use of communication technology. Of all the brands listed as finalist, Lego is the most attuned to where marketing is now and where it's headed over the next 10 years. Its platforms are on mobile, viral video, digital games, social networking, experience, shopper marketing and CRM. Video games, which were not only counter to their business model but their biggest threat, have become a franchise growth engine.
By mtalbott, Dallas:
I have to vote Lego -- for continuing to provide a top-quality product in line with their brand, staying relevant and using new technologies to create new customer experiences in a kids' toy market that's moving away from brands with a "low-tech" heritage. This is a company that inspires others to a higher standard. Who can vote for a company that continues to drive quality down to get to a cheaper price?
By JOHN, Sharon, Mass.: My vote goes to Amazon. Long before they became profitable, they were worth a fortune just because of the relationships they built up with their customers.
By thescoopz, Raleigh, N.C.: Their customer service is excellent. I don't eat fast food, and Walmart is hurting our working (what's left of it) economy. Guess I have a social conscience and care about my health. I wonder why Apple (Mac commercials) wasn't a nominee. I actually watch their commercials. I do not watch any TV in real-time.