Hyundai hires its first-ever African American marketing agency

For Hyundai, the agency comes aboard in the wake of a period of self-reflection the automaker undertook last year to assess how it was communicating with diverse audiences in the wake of racial protests spurred by the police killing of George Floyd and other similar incidents. 

“We had a lot of internal debates as a brand about how do we speak to this very important audience, so we seem like we are in tune, and honestly we needed experts to help us do that appropriately,” Zepeda says. When it comes to Black consumers, “we have lots of work to do, we could do so much better,” she says.

Hyundai ranks as the seventh top-selling U.S. auto brand among Black buyers, according to Marc Bland, chief diversity officer at market researcher IHS Markit, which tracks the automotive industry. That is not bad considering that Hyundai ranks eight in the general market, according to Bland.

But by hiring a dedicated African American agency, Hyundai is “playing to a strength and trying to further elevate, or strengthen, their bond with the fast-growing African American consumer,” says Bland, an expert in multicultural automotive marketing.

He points to the fact that every auto brand that outranks Hyundai when it comes to Black consumers employs a dedicated African American agency, including Toyota Motor Corp., which has long used Burrell and is considered a leader in the segment.

Bland says Black-run agencies are better equipped to decipher Black consumer buying habits because “they are ingrained in the community because they live it every day being African Americans themselves.”

Case in point: While there has been a huge shift among general market buyers to pickup trucks,crossovers and SUVs, Black buyers still have an affinity for sedans.

“We as a community wake up in the morning desiring cars,” Bland says. 

But also, brands have not done a good enough job marketing pickups to Black buyers, he adds, noting most campaigns feature white people or Hispanics. One major exception was Ford’s 2020 campaign for the F-150 called “Ode to the Builders,” which featured the voice of actress Angela Bassett and was handled by UWG, Ford’s African American advertising agency of record.

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