You have been VP of Marketing, Product & PR at Hyundai Motor Europe since 2017. Few industries have faced such a massive shift in recent years as the automotive industry. Can you explain how the industry has evolved?
It’s exciting to think that the automotive industry will see more change in the next five years than in the previous 100 years. And as the industry changes, so do our internal targets and customer base. To reach these audiences, we have been developing new strategies.
In the past, automakers would reveal a new model based on what they thought would appeal to customers. Nowadays, we’re listening a lot more to what customers want: they want clean mobility, innovative technologies, and sleek and stylish designs.
How did these changes turn the role of chief marketing officer on its head?
It’s no longer a game of guess-and-check; everything is a lot more data-driven now. Those in communications positions cannot just make decisions based on their gut feeling anymore. There is just too much on the line in terms of brand reputation, customer retention, and investor engagement.
Data gives us a wealth of knowledge. With it, I can make smarter business decisions for the departments I’m leading, such as who makes up our customer base, how and where to communicate with them, what to tell them, and so on.
Andreas-Christoph Hofmann, Hyundai Motor Europe’s Vice President Marketing, Product & PR, is shaping the brand’s transformation into a smart mobility solutions provider. In 2021, he was named the Eurostar winner for his work in supervising the company’s transition from a value-for-money brand to a tech-focused one.
At Hyundai, Hofmann oversees the company’s pan-European marketing strategy and direction across all related operations, including advertising, brand strategy, digital, advanced product planning, product management and pricing, PR, and brand experience. His career spans more than 32 years in the automotive industry, from development and planning to marketing and sales.
How are these changed circumstances affecting the role of a chief marketing officer?
Products and solutions that we considered progressive just two years ago are totally commonplace. Today, ‘progress’ means flying taxis and robotics, among other things. Just imagine what that means for our customers.
The industry is sometimes so volatile that I need to make quick decisions that affect Hyundai’s entire business in Europe. Because everything is moving so fast, there’s a very short window of opportunity to react. In this environment, if a brand can’t pivot in a new direction, it will surely flop. But in the same way, it also demands strong consistency and direction as a brand to make sure you stay recognisable – and don’t become random. For Hyundai, this means being a future mobility solutions provider under the umbrella of our brand vision, Progress for Humanity.
Customers are also more connected than ever. Before, customers might just pull up to a brick-and-mortar store and have all their questions answered by a salesperson. Today, customers want to be well-informed before committing to a purchase. They do research, they explore every channel possible, and they interact with the brand – both online and offline. And only when a brand has convinced them will they make a purchase.
For this reason, CMOs need to make sure that all relevant departments are on the same page in their communications. Every channel needs to be seamlessly aligned, so customers perceive consistent brand stories whether in television adverts, on social media, at events, in PR comms, at the point of sales – the list goes on. If any piece of communication is out of line, they run the risk of losing customers, or worse, tarnishing the brand’s reputation.
How are you thinking about this on a higher level – and what’s the long-term impact in your own role?
Hyundai’s customer base doesn’t solely consist of people who are currently in the market for a car. It also includes people who will be looking to purchase a car in the next few years, as well as younger generations who aren’t even thinking about buying a car.
To address all these segments, we must talk to customers who are at different phases of the customer journey. Concretely, this means communicating the right thing at the right time. For example, sharing product information to convince people to buy a specific product, or communicating a more general brand story to attract new customers and stay fresh in the minds of those advocating for Hyundai.
On top of this, Hyundai doesn’t have the reputation of its European competitors. When we first entered the European automotive market, we were competing in a saturated, developed market with numerous well-established competitors.
Because of this, our team has a huge responsibility. And we cannot lose the big picture: positioning Hyundai in Europe as a leader in zero-emission mobility, technology and design, and sustainability. But at the same time, we can’t lose sight of even the smallest detail, e.g., the range of a battery electric vehicle. Every element plays a role in getting the right messages across to our wide customer base.