Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hyundai Accent : What Dreams Drive

Brand : Accent
Company : Hyundai Motors India
Agency : Innocean

Brand Analysis Count : 366

Accent is one of the highly successful long serving car brand in India. Launched in 1999 , this brand is now on its 10 th year in India. The simple fact that this brand has survived the highly competitive market in India speaks volume about the success of this brand.

Accent, when launched competed with the highly successful Maruti Esteem in luxury sedan market. While Esteem perished, Hyundai Accent is still managing its product lifecycle.

Accent is a brand which has survived only because of the product performance and quality. Frankly there is nothing to write about the marketing or branding strategy for this brand. Accent was a highly performing work-horse which was well designed quality product that offered excellent value for money. The company was able to make enough changes in the price which enabled the brand to ride the PLC effectively.

Accent now belongs to the entry level sedan market. When launched it was a premium car. Accent was an instant success because of its product quality and the rub-off from the success of Santro.

The company managed the product lifecycle of Accent using variants. Hyundai regularly updated Accent by launching different variants in line with the changing consumer expectations. There were four variants for Accent in 2002 which were GLS,GLX,GVS Tornado and Viva.

One of the most successful variants was the Accent Viva. VIVA launched in 2002 was positioned as a sporty sedan. The engine was tweaked to give more power and the variant was styled to give it a sporty look. Accent Viva was priced at a premium and was a successful niche variant.

In 2002 , the company launched the first diesel variant of Accent. The brand was the first one to launch the CRDI Diesel engine . Although the CRDI gained lot of interest, there was lot of problems for the diesel variants. Ultimately the diesel version was phased out in 2007.

Accent started losing in the segment when Ford launched Ikon . Later the segment became crowded with lot of product launches by the competitors.

At the branding front , except for the marketing of Santro, Hyundai in my opinion is a lousy advertiser. I don't remember any highly creative campaigns from them for any of their products be it i10, verna or Terracan. The quality of creatives for Santro also have come down drastically. They have always built their brands on the product performance.

For Accent also I don't remember any highy creative or good campaigns. But I remember some lousy ads of Accent trying to position it as a aspirational product. In those campaigns Accent had the tagline " Respect comes naturally ".

Accent had tried out different taglines during its different stages. The frequent changes in the tagline have really messed up the positioning of the brand. Accent is confused about whether it should focus on performance or image. The taglines of Accents were

Sheer Pleasure
Expect More
The Next Step
The Power to Excite
What dreams drive

Although the taglines were more performance oriented, the ads especially the television commercials was unfocused. The agency failed to understand that the core brand value for Accent was its product performance and value for money proposition.

Even in 2008 , Accent topped the segment in customer satisfaction in a survey done by TNS.

There were many rumors about the phasing out of Accent. But like Maruthi, Hyundai also does not believe in phasing out old brands. Auto analysts was predicting the phase out primarily because the brand was considered dated. It has been around for 10 years and consumers have become bored by the brand.
The rumor was further fueled with the launch of another mid size sedan Verna. In global markets Verna is sold as the new generation Accent . And in USA , Accent ( Verna) is one of the largest selling economy sedan.

With the launch of Verna, Hyundai reduced the number of variants for Accent. Now Accent has only one variant.

But Hyundai had other plans for Accent. In 2008 Accent was launched in CNG version. The CNG version is expected to boost the sagging sales of this brand. The launch also is an indication that Hyundai is not going to phase out this brand. This year, Accent was relaunched as Accent Executive with spruced up interiors.

One of the strong points for Accent is its design. Accent is still looking great. If Hyundai plans to keep this brand alive , it should focus on the design. Accent can ride the PLC by positioning itself as a stylish brand. It should experiment with colors and graphics. The product quality is already established,what the brand needs is excitement.

At this stage of the PLC, Accent will get a boost if the brand is endorsed by a celebrity. A high profile young film star can rejuvenate the brand for sure.