Hyundai sees great value in Private Online Communities

Hyundai North America president John Krafcik speaks with an invitation-only gathering of some of the brand's most loyal customers. He won't be meeting them in person, however, but via the brand's new Web community, Hyundai Think Tank.

Set up late last year, the site gets together 1,000 people who either own Hyundai cars or have expressed interest in them at auto shows and other events. This stems from the imperative for brands to bring customers into their marketing and development processes.

Hyundai is taking a different approach from well-known case studies from Dell and Starbucks, which both launched public communities. Namely, Hyundai’s approach is invitation only.

"It's important to have people passionate about the brand provide the input," said Eileen Mahdi, manager of consumer insights for Hyundai. "It's that much richer input.” Open communities like My Starbucks Idea and Dell's IdeaStorm often devolve into customers asking for free things or airing complaints. Unlike other carmakers, Hyundai's sales were up 14 percent year-over-year last month. 

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