Hyundai Must Believe in Word-of-Mouth, They’re Paying for It!

Posted on 30. May, 2009 by in Word of Mouth

Buy a Hyundai, Become a Spokesperson

The newest roll-out of the Hyundai Assurance Program features a “marketing fee” offered to customers during their first six months of owning a new Hyundai.  One commercial says, “You’ll probably talk to your friends about your new Hyundai, and that’s marketing.  Why shouldn’t you get paid for it? [my interpretation].  Another in the current pool, says “You’ll talk to your friends through the Internet, text messaging, and telephone about your new Hyundai.  You call it social networking, we call it great PR and we’re willing to pay you for it!”

Word of Mouth Works

I’ve written several articles about the value and efficacy of word of mouth, I truly believe that it can be a potent force accelerating the adoption of good products and similarly killing bad products.  Hyundai, taken at face value, appears to be similarly impressed with it.  They appear to be betting a substantial amount of money for it…up to six months of payments in most of the ads I’ve seen.

But Wait, Not so Fast!

My major problem with the concept is that I don’t really believe in “sponsored word-of-mouth”.  True word-of-mouth is valued by those who receive it because it is perceived to be completely objective and unbiased…without motive.  But, when a manufacturer begins to encourage it by paying its customers (assuming they’re being complimentary about their product), the word-of-mouth can be perceived as losing much, if not all, of its objectivity.  It is no longer unbiased.  This is similar to campaigns launched by other companies (like P&G) over the years in efforts to cultivate product “sponsors” or “advocates”.  I tend to doubt the effectiveness of such “mercenary marketing agents”.

“Sponsorship” Debases Word of Mouth

Setting aside the possible blasphemy of adulterating an otherwise pristine source of information, I question how, if at all, Hyundai intends to prompt and fortify customers’ communications to others.  Over the years I’ve advocated corporations manage evidence about their products and services.  This suggestion comes from a frank recognition that consumers rarely fully appreciate all of the value delivered to them in the products and services they buy.

How About an Information Stimulus Package?

If customers really are “at a loss for words”, then sponsored word-of-mouth can’t be very effective.  It seems obvious that if Hyundai is expecting its customers to say good things about their automobiles, they’ll need to supply their customers with facts, figures and product comparisons that act as an “information stimulus package”.  A good example of this is a video tape I helped develop that was placed in the glovebox of each new Rolls-Royce as it left the factory.  The thought was that Rolls owners might get questioned about why they would spend so much on “four wheels”.  The video provided more than enough examples of the craftsmanship that went into the creation of their Rolls-Royce such that they could more than “romance the brand”.

When customers are prepared and “armed” with information, they can act as credible spokespeople and their social networking will be more likely to produce good images of a manufacturer’s products.

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One Response to “Hyundai Must Believe in Word-of-Mouth, They’re Paying for It!”

  1. timea

    16. Jun, 2012

    hey~! i just had to write a comparison among three car producer companies which used WOM to advertize their product, and i’ve chosen ford, hyundai and toyota. your article has been a great help for me. thanks :)

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