Wonhong Cho

Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President, Hyundai

"Digital channels are increasingly playing a bigger role in strengthening Hyundai’s brand loyalty as they allow customers worldwide to directly experience our brand real-time in a highly interactive way."

Hyundai recently launched the ‘Live Brilliant’ global campaign to create a deeper connection to consumers in the global market. This is your first global campaign. Why did Hyundai decide to create a global campaign for the first time? Have you noticed different results from this global campaign versus regional ones?

Until now, much of Hyundai’s marketing communication efforts have been focused on product promotion and sports sponsorships. As such, most of our communication campaigns were executed at the regional level. We launched the ‘Live Brilliant’ campaign, our first global campaign, because we recognized the need to deliver a single brand message throughout the world alongside the existing regional product promotions. In order to convey a coherent brand image that could resonate with our customers worldwide, we needed an integrated communication strategy. Through this campaign, we seek to deliver our aspiration: to make each and every moment a customer spends with Hyundai a moment of happiness, filled with brilliant memories. So far, it has been generally well received.

The consumer standard for environmentally sustainable brands, as well as the level of consumers’ involvement in those brands, is increasing. Hyundai Motors is contributing to the sustainability effort through your ‘blue drive’ initiative. How is this initiative different from other automotive brands’ sustainability efforts?

Hyundai’s green management focuses on minimizing the environmental impact that arises throughout the whole ‘life cycle’ of a vehicle: from production to its use and disposal. The Blue Drive initiative especially focuses on minimizing the environmental impact associated with vehicle operation by customers.

In the short term, the Blue Drive initiative aims to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from internal combustion engines that run on fossil fuels through the development of fuel-efficient cars, hybrid electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The ultimate goal of the Blue Drive initiative is to achieve what we call ‘Clean Mobility’— that is, the commercialization of electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles. It is impossible to tackle climate change and the energy crisis using a single technology. Instead, a wide variety of technological development and innovation are necessary. In this regard, the Blue Drive initiative includes the development of technologies that can be made applicable immediately, as well as ones that have potential to serve as a game changer in the long run.

We must satisfy the needs of our customers regarding performance, safety, and affordability in order to make Blue Drive technologies marketable. We will continue to develop a wide variety of Blue Drive technologies and ultimately realize ‘Clean Mobility’ which meets both the expectations of our customers and the highest environmental performance standards.

What is the role and responsibility of Hyundai Motors’ brand in today’s diverse social issues such as the aging society, the global economic crisis, and so forth? Do you have a vision for contributing to society as a global brand?

Of course. In fact, one of the core tenets of our brand is “caring”—caring not only about our customers, but being receptive to the needs of our community and society at large. As one of the leading auto companies in the world, Hyundai seeks to contribute to the prosperity of the society and actively respond to its changing demands.

One example of such efforts is the “Assurance Program” Hyundai Motor America (HMA) rolled out in 2009, which was an original initiative that allowed customers to return their newly purchased Hyundai vehicles should they lose their jobs, go bankrupt, or become disabled during their first year of ownership. By offering a radical incentive plan, Hyundai sought to address the needs of consumers and society and contribute in its own creative way.

Hyundai has also been supporting the fight against childhood cancer since 1998. Every time a new Hyundai vehicle is sold in the US, Hyundai contributes $14 USD to the initiative called ‘Hope on Wheels.’ So far, $34 billion USD has been donated in this way to help children fight cancer.

These are only a few among a myriad of different activities that Hyundai is promoting in an effort to contribute to the global society. And they will surely continue into the future as we grow further as a global brand.

Digital experience gives a brand owner an immediate opportunity when it comes to evolving and furthering brand relevance. How do you view “digital” and the role it plays in furthering Hyundai Motors’ relevance? What best practices have you been able to leverage at Hyundai Motors?

“Digital” is a communication channel with growing importance for Hyundai. Digital channels are increasingly playing a bigger role in strengthening Hyundai’s brand loyalty as they allow customers worldwide to directly experience our brand real-time in a highly interactive way. Hyundai’s 2012 brand campaign, ‘Live Brilliant,’ is also gradually placing greater weight on digital channels, as we plan to expand the functions of its micro-site (brilliant.hyundai.com) and further develop our mobile applications, as well. Through these efforts, Hyundai aims to provide customers with a brand experience that they can easily access.

What do you predict will be Hyundai Motors’ major strengths and weaknesses during the next decade? How will Hyundai Motors overcome those weaknesses?

Hyundai’s biggest strengths are its spirit of challenge and commitment. The future is strewn with uncertainties, which means being armed with the spirit of challenge and a can-do mentality can help us persevere through them better than our competitors. This is the precise attitude with which we confronted and overcame a host of uncertainties in the past, and will certainly continue to exploit as our strength in the next decade as well.

Our drive for challenge stems from our commitment to our employees, company, and customers. Because of such a firm commitment to our business, we are adept at forming a quick consensus and swift decision making. In the upcoming decade, we will capitalize on this strength to focus our business activities on brand building. We will build a consensus around the recognition that ‘brand’ will be Hyundai’s ultimate future engine of growth; we will invest in this endeavor accordingly, and meet our goal of becoming the most loved auto brand in the world.

On the other hand, the rapid growth that Hyundai experienced in the past could have easily let us to slip into complacency. We must be careful not to remain content with what we have achieved. Moreover, it is important that we do not rely excessively on past success factors, such as operational efficiency and cost leadership. Although these were undeniably valuable drivers of success in the past, we need to remind ourselves that the future depends much more on brand power. As such, we are currently implementing change throughout the company to steer us toward becoming a market-oriented organization.

What advice can you offer to brand managers who are trying to foster a global brand?

The process of fostering a global brand is undoubtedly an arduous task, prone to various challenges from both inside and out. This is primarily because ‘brand management’ is not restricted to any one area within a company. Its reach is literally across the whole spectrum of business, from product to sales, marketing, and promotion. And people can be very resistant to change at times.

However, despite whatever challenges you may face, it is important that you build a firm brand direction and strategy that can a) fully internalize the brand message within the company, and b) deliver a coherent and consistent brand image to customers. At the personal level, you must always be sensitive to changing global trends as a brand manager, since the global business arena is fraught with fierce competition and uncertainties. Brand managers should therefore always strive toward further professional growth and never cease to learn more. Such efforts, coupled with perseverance and a willingness to make a difference, will definitely help in making your brand global.

  • About Wonhong Cho

    As Hyundai’s Executive Vice President (CMO), Wonhong Cho leads the Brand Management and Marketing Strategy division. Mr. Cho is responsible for Hyundai’s global brand communication strategy, corporate and marketing strategy, and corporate identity.

    He is a recognized expert in the areas of innovation, growth strategy, marketing, and organizational dynamics across various industries. Prior to joining Hyundai, he was a global partner of Monitor Group while serving as the Managing Director of Monitor Group’s Seoul office. He has also worked at Booz Allen & Hamilton.

    Mr. Cho holds an MBA degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in business administration from Seoul National University.