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Advertisers May Need to Embrace Consumer Fear

Companies are trying to find the right pitch for these tough times, and those who think it’s just about cutting prices, extending warranties, or throwing in something for free are sadly mistaken.

Automaker Hyundai has launched a Buyers’ Assurance program that demonstrates a keen understanding of where consumer thinking is right now, and it already looks like it's winning them sales.

AP

Under this program, if you purchase and finance a car from Hyundai and lose your income due to a job loss or medical situation within a year of its purchase, the company will take back the car without a penalty.

This speaks right to those would-be car buyers who are afraid to commit to a new auto loan for fear they may lose their job, and destroy their credit rating. And it may be what’s needed to bolster confidence enough to get folks to commit to that big-ticket purchase.

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The program is available on all new Hyundai vehicles and covers up to $7,500 in negative equity, regardless of the buyer’s age, health or employment history.

So far, the campaign appears to be working. According to Edmunds.com, the program has increased consumers’ intention to buy a Hyundai by 15 percent since the campaign was launched on Jan. 3. And on Tuesday, Hyundai reported a 14.3 percent increase in January auto sales. That's a healthy gain no matter what, but it's even more noteworthy when one considers that the rest of the auto industry's sales were down 37 perecent.

Not only does this campaign acknowledge the fear that’s gripping consumers, it offers solution to would-be car buyers.

There’s also another element of genius to this campaign: it gives people something to talk about, and in doing so becomes a textbook case in how to use social media.

This campaign is so creative and so in-tuned into to consumers, they can’t help but chat about it with their friends, spreading the word about the promotion and the Hyundai brand.

It's also notable that others are now launching similar campaigns.

LoneStar Fiberglass Pool, a Kingsbury, Texas, pool manufacturer is making a pledge that echoes the Hyundai campaign. Lose your job within one year of purchasing a LoneStar pool, and the pool payments will be covered.

LoneStar says they haven't see a drop in traffic to its Website over the last six months, but leads and call volume are dropping. The company sees this behavior as an indication that there are plenty of potential buyers out there researching their options, but they are not quite ready to pick up the phone.

"We think the fear factor running rampant in the economy is causing them to hesitate," said Mark Toler, vice president of Marketing and Sales for Lonestar. Their buyer's program aimed at easing those concerns.

The strategy may not work for everyone, warns Les Moeller, a vice president at Booz & Co.'s consumer and media practice. He said it is a "clever" tactic, but a marketer is not going to want to be "the third person doing it."

Still, he says, you can't go wrong right now with a value message.

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Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

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