The print ads carry a singular attribute theme, with one short,
catchy bullet feature per ad, such as "asphalt boom box," "uber
drive" and "octane sippy car" -- words that create "more of a menu"
and a "big visual that surprises you," he said. The ads, unveiled
last week, represent Mr. Shannon's first substantial marketing
effort at Hyundai, where he succeeded Joel Ewanick, now CMO-global
marketing at General Motors.
Mr. Shannon, 53, takes the reins at a time of unprecedented
sales success for the company. For the first nine months of 2011,
the company sold 492,914 units, up 20% from the prior year,
according to Automotive News. Hyundai said it sold 52,051
vehicles in September, 12% over the same month a year ago. And
demand is outpacing supply, with a 21-day supply of vehicles on
hand at Hyundai as of Sept. 1, far below the industry average of 65
to 70 days.
"Some companies might take this opportunity to take it easy, but
that 's not our approach," Mr. Shannon said. At Hyundai, "it's keep
your foot on the gas."
Mr. Shannon said his goal is to build on the "truth, candor and
conversation" foundation that Mr. Ewanick established, while
"innovating and pushing the brand forward." To that end, he's
focused on creativity and concepts "that don't just support the
Accent or Sonata but sell the Hyundai brand." His goal is to have
potential customers check out Hyundai first, instead of being drawn
to the brand because of one particular car. "Products won't always
be this hot, so it's important to develop a strong Hyundai brand,"
One means to do that is with ads tied to the automaker's
sponsorship of "Thursday Night College Football Live." The aim is
to link the Korean company more to America's cultural roots through
the all-important fall sport. The first of seven spots premiered
Sept. 29, and are intended to show that "as college football fans
are passionate about their school, Hyundai owners are passionate
about their cars." Each ad will focus on a symbol of a different
Mr. Shannon said that Hyundai tends to be that "left-brain
choice" because of its value, fuel economy and lengthy warranty.
These ads aim to add an emotional connection and remind people that
buying a Hyundai isn't just a rational choice, but one that comes
from a passion for the brand. Football was a "great strategic
connection because of the passion for the sport," he said.
With Mr. Shannon succeeding such a well-known personality at
Hyundai, comparisons with Mr. Ewanick are almost inevitable. But
Daniel Gorrell, president of AutoStratagem, a research and
consulting company in Tustin, Calif., said it's impossible to
compare the GM chief, a more "flamboyant, out-there idea guy" with
Mr. Shannon, a Harvard grad with a more understated style. But he
believes Mr. Shannon, who spent more than 25 years at GM, most
recently as executive director of marketing for Cadillac, is
"extremely bright and knows how to work with a team." Hyundai
"didn't need big, new ideas. They just need stability and
consistency, and he can bring that ," said Mr. Gorrell. "He can
continue the momentum."
Mr. Shannon describes himself as a hands-on manager who enjoys
brainstorming with his creative team at Innocean, calling himself
"collaborative" and "team-oriented." He said he's been very pleased
with Innocean's work so far, champions "a more disciplined approach
to advertising testing," and has "amped up" the level of research
in customer reaction to storyboards and finished work through focus
groups and online testing. "We show more conceptual work to
consumers than we did before," he said. That way "you know in
advance whether you've hit one out of the park."
"It's easy to want to parse differences" between Mr. Ewanick and
Mr. Shannon, said Jim Sanfilippo, Innocean's exec VP-chief
operating officer. "They're very different. But both of them are
fast-moving, demanding and very bright, and very consumer-focused,"
he said. He said there are some programs that Mr. Shannon has
evaluated and liked that he's continuing (such as the
trade-in-value guarantee) and other areas where "he wanted to
brighten the room a little bit." In particular, he said Mr. Shannon
"is very determined to have people attach themselves more
emotionally to this brand," and build stories around that concept.
"That's new territory for us." He said Mr. Shannon's experience
working for Saturn, which was a similar consumer-focused brand,
makes him well equipped to push for the brand connection in an
Peter Sealey, CEO of marketing firm Sausalito Group, doesn't
foresee significant changes under Mr. Shannon. He's "staying the
course of a successful marketing effort," he said, but "sometimes
the smartest thing a new CMO can do is to have the wisdom to not
make changes if they are not needed."