Kia hunts for emotional connection with messaging shift

Kia is shifting its marketing message in a bid to create an emotional connection with consumers and boost sales as the car market picks up after several years of sluggish sales.

The car marque is introducing a new strapline “You make us make better cars”, a replacement for the “Cars that speak for themselves” message it introduced two years ago. Speaking to Marketing Week, Kia’s UK marketing director Mark Hopkins said he hopes the shift will show Kia is listening to what its customers want from a car.

A new TV ad, which breaks this evening (7 January), shows drivers describing what they want from a car through interviews. It features two girls desperate to learn to driver and a young female driver describing her love of the “wind in my hair” feeling and how Kia can meet these expectations.

A print campaign aims to build on these characters, says Hopkins, showing how young children want a Kia to transform them into superheroes and a bulldog that enjoys countryside drives with his owner. It will be supported by digital and social media activity, as well as dealership activations.

Kia saw sales increase 7.54% to more than 77,500 in 2014, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. However its share fell slightly to 3.13% as the wider car market posted strong growth and sales reach their highest levels since 2004, although Kia highlights that it only launched one new car last year.

Hopkins said Kia has so far done a good job of communicating why it is a “sensible decision” to buy one of its cars by highlighting its value, pricing and services such as its seven-year warrantee. However, as the brand becomes bigger and more sophisticated it is looking to switch from buying a Kia just being a head-driven decision to a heart-based one as well.

“People engage with emotion and as a brand we need to have that layer of emotion, we need to be liked. We need to communicate our likeability. Kia owners love us but there is a big portion of the population that don’t know us. This is a more positive, ambitious, emotional direction for the brand,” he said.

The campaign starts with the brand push in the first quarter before moving into more product-focused ads later in the year as Kia launches new models. That will start with its new Sorrento 4×4 in the second quarter.

Kia is also planning a revamp of its website which should go live in the spring which it has been working on with its new digital agency VCCP. Hopkins said the site will focus on offering a “seamless approach” to customer communication not just while people are buying a car but during ownership.

That is particularly important as more people make their car-buying decisions online, rather than at showrooms. Hopkins said Kia will use traditional marketing mediums to “nudge people” to the website, where it will show a compelling story to help move it higher up the consideration list for those looking at buying a car.

“We want to make sure that anyone with any interest in Kia is engaged with by us for a longer period of time. It is about loyalty, moving to retention after focusing on customer acquisition,” he said.

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