Thoughts from Ciana

February 25, 2009

Hyundai vs. Lexus, seriously??!!

Filed under: Evidence — cindeemock @ 10:27 am

I saw an ad recently that caught my attention in the new Food Network magazine. While advertising is only one form of communication, I thought this ad was an interesting example of succinct and compelling evidenced-based communications.

The ad features Hyundai’s first luxury car, the Hyundai Genesis (base price $33,000), and because most people don’t associate Hyundai’s brand with high-performance engineering or comfort, Hyundai takes a bold approach by positioning the Hyundai Genesis against Lexus, a brand synonymous with luxury automobiles. The headline reads: “Think about it. Isn’t it time someone did to Lexus what Lexus did to Mercedes?”

Whether you think Hyundai versus Lexus is a ridiculous comparison or not is irrelevant. Hyundai proceeds to make aggressive claims against “the competition” as it attempts to leap categories into the high-end, luxury market.

First of all, Hyundai doesn’t attempt to convey every feature and detail found in this new model. Its focus on performance and comfort make for succinct messages, which are steeped in proof points. Yes, this is an advertisement, but it’s a good reminder never to fill a page with dense copy. Make your point succinctly and powerfully. For example, here’s Hyundai’s message to customers who care about performance: “The Genesis will take you from zero to 60 in a head-spinning 5.7 seconds – and has more horsepower per liter than a Lexus GS 460.”

Too often, we have a tendency to list everything for fear of leaving something out. If you want your message to stick, keep it simple. Concentrate on 1-2 points that deliver the greatest value to the customer.

Next, Hyundai’s use of facts and proof points help make their claims more believable. When Hyundai describes the design engineering on the Genesis, it’s compelling: Gaps between body panels are tighter than those found on the standard-bearer for tight tolerances, the Lexus LS460” (which has a MSRP between $63,000 – $77,000!).

When describing one of its features, Hyundai cleverly cites another high-end name in an attempt to link brands: “And the Genesis cabin is among the quietest and most spacious available. It’s equipped with a Lexicon® 7.1 discrete surround sound system (shared only with the Rolls Royce Phantom).”

I hesitate to pick on high-tech companies, but ours is an industry with a propensity for meaningless jargon. If this were a technology ad, it might read something like this: “Witness the arrival of a groundbreaking new luxury automobile that delivers versatile performance and unprecedented comfort, driving future breakthroughs in next-generation luxury cars.” Yes, it’s over the top, but the point is that boastful claims without any proof points fall on deaf ears.

With this, I am reminded of William Zinsser’s sage observations on writing: “Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular construction, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”

So as ridiculous as comparing Hyundai to Lexus may seem (and despite my lingering issues of quality and reputation), Hyundai’s messages effectively piqued my interest which brought me to Hyundai’s website.

What do you think? Are there shining (or shameful) examples of B2B or B2C messages that you’ve seen that further illustrate these points?

Note: For the full ad, see the February/March 2009 issue of Food Network magazine, pg 62.

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