As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold across the United States, automakers Toyota and Hyundai have rolled out new messaging, with the latter reintroducing a version of its buyer protection program popularized during the economic crisis in 2009.
This follows Ford’s pivot, pulling more traditional, showroom traffic-driving ads and replacing them with consumer aid-centric messaging.
“Coronavirus has crossed borders, time zones, nationality, gender, age and income,” said Angela Zepeda, CMO of Hyundai Motor America. “With people now working from home, practicing social distancing and trying to cope with the stress of potential harm to their health and the loss of their income, what was most important for a brand to say at this time if anything?”
Like Ford, both ads are simple and show the realities facing consumers and, by extension, each brand. Toyota’s message is more general in scope, not specifying any programs and is more of a comforting rallying cry.
Meanwhile, Hyundai is bringing back its Assurance Job Loss Protection Program—where the brand makes up to six months of payments to new owners who lose their jobs—and purchased or leased their vehicle between a specific timeframe. This is a version of the hugely successful 2009 program, where the brand allowed consumers to return their car if they lost their job.
According to Ed Laukes, group vice president, Toyota Marketing of Toyota Motor North America, the main brand message was designed to be incredibly simple, especially in light of the fluidity of the current situation related to coronavirus. It was also a pivot during a favorable time for the brand.
“We were right in the middle of a very robust market,” he said. “We were having a wonderful March [during the brand’s sales event], and we had media purchased both at the dealer and national level. We started to contract [the sales event campaign] at the beginning of the week and came forward with this spot.”
Over time, top-tier brand messaging may change and adjust. As of now, individual markets and regional dealer groups are pivoting and working with the brand to find the best solutions for customers. And though Laukes and the brand learned from significant events like the 2009 financial crisis and 9/11, the current situation is different.
“There we so many lessons that came out of those events,” he said. “We built a playbook over time, and we’re going to bring pieces of that out that we think are going to help us as a brand. It’s very dynamic and fluid right now, we’re taking it market by market and reacting.”
One example is California. The San Francisco Bay Area was among the first to be locked down, and Toyota dealers in the area were already reacting to having service only, coordinating both digital and linear messaging, but also thinking about how to manage a new reality.
“They’re getting extremely creative relative to how they’re allowing people to bring cars in [for servicing]. There are pick-up and delivery, and they’re working around the dynamics at the individual store level,” said Laukes. “These dealers are a huge part of their communities, and they will work their way through this. And the ability to be agile is one of our strengths.”
At present, the brand, in conjunction with the regional and local dealers, is working through coronavirus-centric messaging on their websites, 1,250 in all, and Laukes noted that it’s a “stress test on everybody’s system, so we have to be a little bit patient.”