Hyundai, Levi's show how to beat the downturn

03 December 2009

NEW YORK: Hyundai, Levi's and JetBlue are among the brands that have responded most effectively to the challenges of the economic downturn, according to a report from JWT.

The WPP-owned agency network assessed a total of 350 campaigns from around the world, in order to determine those which had successfully reacted to the demands of the financial crisis.

Hyundai Motor America took the top spot, for its Assurance Program, based on the premise that any consumer buying or leasing one of its vehicles could return it if they lost their major source of income.

This initiative helped the Korean firm outperform the ailing auto sector, as demonstrated by the 46% uptick in sales it recorded in November, and the fact its market share has grown by a third, to 4%, in 2009.

Levi's, the jeanswear specialist, adopted a similar approach in India, where it hoped to increase both average purchase value and frequency at a time when consumers were reducing their expenditure on branded apparel.

Its "Live NOW, Pay Later" platform allowed holders of credit cards provided by HDFC, the bank, to pay in monthly instalments, with the typical acquisition among this group rising in value by 60% as a result.

The Economic Times, the daily newspaper operating in the same country, was in third, for its efforts to encourage entrepreneurship, and thus eschewing negativity in favour of a more positive outlook.

Overall, the publication's "Power of Ideas" competition received some 12,000 online entries, with 254 people ultimately going on to receive mentoring from experts in a relevant field.

The "cash for clunkers" schemes introduced in the US and Germany at different stages this year claimed fourth position, having generated an improvement in volume automotive sales in both of these nations.

JetBlue, in fifth, was credited with communicating its unique offering to high-income "Bigwigs", while the Portuguese Red Cross was in sixth, for its Christmas 2008 activity focused on "hope".

In the UK, the Financial Times' forceful outdoor ads – posing questions like "What's the first mistake businesses make?" – were said to have pointedly made the case for the benefits of advertising in its pages.

Woolworth's, the Australian retailer, also made good use of marketing to promote the fact it was opening stores and creating jobs, while Caixa Econômica Federal, a Brazilian bank, ran a "lottery" to pay off customers' credit card bills.

Finally, the OPEN Card aimed to show that American Express was a champion of small businesses, with an online forum created specifically for this audience going on to receive 355,109 visitors by September 2009.

Guy Murphy, global planning director at JWT, said "creating innovative work isn't easy in any economic climate, and it's even harder when marketing budgets are low and risk aversion is high."

"Despite these challenges, some notable responses to the recession emerged this year. We believe these will hold up in years to come as case studies of work that transcend typical approaches to a downturn."

Data source from JWT; additional content by Warc staff