Changing Your Tune for a Changing Economy

Hyundai, Wendy's Evolve Brand Messages to Stay Relevant in Tough Times

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
Much of the advertising we see and hear today is different than what we saw and heard a year ago. The messages have changed to reflect the economic times we live in. And for good reason. Can you imagine not revisiting your client's brand message and, rather, putting more media dollars behind ideas that are out of touch with how people are thinking and feeling today? It would be marketing suicide.

Of all the work I've seen, two recent campaigns have stood out for their boldness: Hyundai's Assurance Program and Wendy's 3Conomics. In the case of Hyundai, I was working on my laptop one night at home, with the TV on in the background. When I heard the voice-over announce that Hyundai will let you return the car if you lose your job, I stopped what I was doing and paid close attention. That statement was the boldest one I've heard yet in this pool of recession-based marketing. It struck me as daring, but also as very smart: Most auto showrooms are struggling to attract customers, so these times require another level of connection with customers. With 500,000 Americans a month losing their jobs, this message (unfortunately) resonates to more people than we care to admit. After all, look at me -- I'm writing about Hyundai, not some other auto brand. They have taken increased risk with the Assurance Program, but it has cut through, at least in my home.

Then there's Wendy's lesson in 3Conomics, "3 waaaaay better sandwiches for just 99 cents each." At a time when most fast feeders are pushing value eating, Wendy's has done a nice job in positioning its menu of inexpensive sandwiches under the "3Conomics" banner. And -- even more refreshing -- it has not resorted to a desperate, hard-hitting tone in the work. Instead, it's continued with the effective use of humor, while clearly expressing the 3Conomics value idea. Who says you can't sell with a smile in hard financial times? People still need to laugh, and that still enables consumers to remember your message, and motivates them to consider you.

There are more examples of marketers that have changed their brand's message to adapt to tough financial times, and I'd like to hear which ones have stood out for you. In the meantime, kudos to Hyundai and Wendy's for giving careful thought about how to better connect with their audiences, and effectively executing. I look forward to discussing examples of how marketers have changed their messages for the economic rebound that we are enjoying -- hopefully in the not too distant future!

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