As the VP of Marketing & Product at Hyundai Motor Europe, Andreas Hofmann has to “catch the taste of the European customer” and compete to find the best car for his mainstream customer segment. During the pandemic in the face of increased digitalisation, his Shiny New Object has become the balance between physical and digital in the customer journey. As cars remain an emotional purchase, this is more difficult to find than it might first seem.

Andreas has been working in the car industry for 32 years, moving from the more premium product sector to Hyundai and their mainstream customer. In the process, he has developed a strong instinct for what makes good marketing. He thinks “gut feeling still plays an enormous role”, while also extracting knowledge from marketing books such as David Brooks’ Bobos in Paradise.

Through the latter, Andreas has been learning about his target market: a new group of customers that are socially minded, into sustainability, and interested in cultural and social engagement, equally “wealthy and rebellious.” Learning about these customers influences his marketing decisions trying to find the ideal combination of innovating on products while also offering a mid-range, reasonably priced and reliable car.

Consequently, Andreas’ Shiny New Object is the balance between physical and digital. During the pandemic the enthusiasm for a digital customer journey has grown massively. Yet, this digital journey does not entirely meet the needs of the car industry.

This is for two reasons – firstly, because of the emotional nature of buying a car and secondly, because of the amount of choice in the mid-range sector. Therefore, customers are more reluctant to buy 100% online. When it comes to Hyundai’s market, “you have to get experience with the product before deciding to buy.”

This is why Andreas is working to balance the use of digital information and journey with the best possible in-person experience in showrooms. It all depends on the amount of information the customer has and the feeling they get with the physical product, which has been a challenge with closed showrooms recently. Augmented and virtual reality options are developing for a future alternative, but they are currently not at the level required to be able to offer a full customer experience.

Ultimately, the number one reason to buy a car remains design before looking at price and functionality – a 100% emotional decision. As Andreas puts it: “At the end of the day, if it doesn’t suit you, you will send it back.”

To find out more about Andreas’ innovation work, his advice for being first to market and his views on digitalisation, check out the full podcast here

Tom Ollerton is the Founder of Automated Creative.