Indian Twitterati raised a storm on social media on 5 February 2022 over a statement put out by Hyundai Pakistan for 'Kashmir Solidarity Day'.
Looking at the calls to boycott the brand by Indian consumers, Hyundai India issued a statement on 6 February to curb the backlash. Post which, the South Korean auto manufacturer issued another on 8 February.
Over time, social media users figured that it wasn't just Hyundai, but also other auto brands like Suzuki, Kia, Honda and Toyota that also had similar posts around 'Kashmir Solidarity Day'.
Outside of auto brands, there were fast food brands like KFC, Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza also posting on the topic.
Out of these spotlighted brands, a few of these brand's Indian Twitter pages have issued an apology statement:
We reached out to experts about what brands like Hyundai can do in a crisis like this.
Vinay Kanchan, brand storyteller, innovation catalyst, author
The communications department of Hyundai should get involved and release a statement. It is not just about Hyundai India's response to that tweet. Given the importance of the Indian market and the sensitivity of this issue flagged off in this tweet, I don't think a cursory tweet being put out by the India team suffices. The tweet doesn't raise the issue at hand. They need to respond with a strong statement, get into the root of how this happened.
A lot of brands revel in taking part in controversial issues. Hyundai is not one of them. It is nowhere in its brand ethos to stoke the flames of any controversial issue. At a fundamental brand level, it makes absolutely no sense to get into this type of social media activity.
Given that the Indian market must be many times larger than the Pakistani market, Hyundai will have to do more than just an apology statement. A formal statement should be issued as soon as possible and the tweet in the limelight should be directly addressed, rather than just sweeping it under the carpet.
This brand has been around in India for a long time and has done well over the years. This backlash needs to be handled or it can tarnish their reputation and sales.
The longer Hyundai takes to respond, and the more the boycott tweets start to rise, the more dangerous this is likely to get for the brand in India.
Tarunjeet Rattan, managing partner, Nucleus PR
Hyundai India needs to have a strategy in place. Surprisingly, they don’t. The statement has been circulating on all media channels with the right keywords but, they don’t propose anything.
While crafting something like that is a marvel in itself, Hyundai cannot rely on time for people to forgive and forget. The auto sector is highly competitive, and social media creates a lot of visibility. It is a high powered drive that needs a nuanced approach.
The internet does not forget, so there is a high probability that this will always exist in one form or the other on social media. As a rule, brands should refrain from commenting on political events that could hurt the sentiments of any section of their audience.
It remains to be seen how they recover from this controversy. Every controversy is an opportunity. If they bounce back with a smart marketing campaign. This buzz could lead to their favour and add to their image and commitment to the Indian market.
If they choose to ignore it, then it is an opportunity lost along with a loss of reputation with the hard-liners. It’s a choice between being remembered for a clever comeback or forever being quoted as an example of what-not-to-do in a brand story. The ball is now in their court.
Sanjay Tripathy, co-founder, CEO, Agilio Labs
Hyundai needs to take serious action indicating its nationalism, to get past this crisis. Their clarification letter did more harm than good. A little emotion will help them get through the faux pas.
In the long run, this will have a definite impact. Maybe the brand can support a cause that's close to the heart of all Indians. Big brands have bowed down to smaller issues. The sooner Hyundai India recognises this, the faster it can recover.
Harish Bijoor, brand strategy expert, and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults
Hyundai India will have to battle the fanning of discontent. The competition will enjoy in the meantime. Brands have people that are content with them and those that are not. The memory of this episode will stay alive till the malcontents want it to.
Hyundai India will need to manage its India crisis on its own. A good time to get aggressive on trolls that misrepresent the brand story. It would also be good to have Hyundai global communique putting out a statement that reprimands Hyundai Pakistan's post to be inappropriate and contentious.
Long term impact? I think it shall be business as usual for Hyundai and its offerings in India.