Building a career in automotive marketing takes creativity. But it also takes drive.
Luckily, these are two things that Hyundai’s newest Chief Marketing Officer, Angela Zepeda, has no shortage of.
And it might seem that her drive helped cut a short path to the c-suite of one of the nation’s top advertisers, being named to the job in October after managing the brand at Innocean, Hyundai’s ad agency, for three years.
So, it’s often the question she’s asked from those just starting out: “How do I also one day earn a spot in the c-suite?” Her typical joking response is, “It’s been thirty years, it didn’t happen over night.” And while we might all laugh, there’s also a whole lot of truth to that statement.
From a young age, Zepeda has always considered herself a creative person. She was drawn to fashion as a teen and often proclaimed to friends and family that one day she “was going to become a fashion designer and move to New York.”
Although, growing up in Orange County, Zepeda’s parents weren’t sold on this desire to move so far away from home and family. Instead she decided to attend a local university, earning her undergraduate degree in communications from California State University – Fullerton, which made her parents happy. It was this decision, however, that led her into discovering the field of advertising. Or, as Zepeda says, “Maybe it found me. Communications was a good marriage between business and creative solutions and I ended up loving it!”
But she didn’t just stop there in learning to master her newfound passion. After graduating and working with ad agencies, including with Campbell Ewald on the Chevrolet account, she decided to go back to school at The University of Southern California to earn a graduate degree. “I was realizing that all of our clients and potential new clients were educated with an MBA. I felt that not enough of the people on our side of the fence also held that type of degree.” It was one of the hardest and most rewarding things she’s ever done. “It gave me such a new level of critical thinking, plus the toolbox to really understand how to develop smart business plans and help clients drive their businesses forward.”
Understanding How to Market to Women, While Learning From Them Too
Her desire to learn more didn’t stop with an MBA. Zepeda soon found herself working alongside a predominant female executive creator director and learning as much as she could about a newer topic of interest: marketing to women. “This was a time when female leadership was severely lacking in the advertising world,” says Zepeda. “The ads coming out were tacky. It was everything swathed in pink.”
“If you just market to women in the way that you market to men, you’re going to win trust. I mean, speak plainly. You can give a conceptual thought. You can use humor. You can present things that are pretty straight forward and she’s going to get it.”
And what Zepeda found in doing this was that “brands were starting to have really big conversations about what it’s like to be a woman represented in advertising.” And what she learned was that “Brands have to have shared values with people. Forget gender. People are people.”
In Pairing Consumers with Hyundai, It All Comes Down to Values
“I think that where brands tend go sideways sometimes is that they try to show up in the middle of a conversation,” says Zepeda.
So what should brands be doing to connect with women (and men) in the marketplace? “Show up where it makes sense and align to people who have the same values as you do.”
In bringing this forward-thinking experience to her new position as Chief Marketing Officer, Zepeda says “Hyundai is a very positive brand. It’s a very optimistic brand. It’s a very honest brand and we really align with families. Our brand positioning is “better drives us.” It’s a quote that seems to have grown from the very roots of the business. “Hyundai’s history was built out of the Korean war when the founder wanted to put Koreans back to work and give them a better life,” she says. “This idea of making things better really rings true with our DNA. We have this line that, ‘If you aren’t making things better for people, then who are you making it better for?'”
And as for the future of the Hyundai brand? Zepeda says, “What we have today is a great foundation, but we also have great new product!” Speaking, of course, to their flagship Palisade, which brought them into the full size SUV market and the brand new 2020 Sonata. “It’s a really great time to be at Hyundai”