For marketers and dealers, funny is not the objective of the ad. It needs to achieve a critical marketing objective contributing to the sale of more vehicles than would otherwise have been the case. On that score, this year’s Super Bowl ad for Kia will likely be remembered as a smash hit.
The ad aimed to conquest owners of other brands and used styling as the attribute with which to differentiate the product. According to the J.D. Power 2016 Avoider Study, exterior styling is the number-one reason most vehicles are avoided (not considered for purchase by shoppers who purchased a different vehicle in that vehicle segment). When I ran the study 10 years ago, avoidance was a major problem for Kia. Over the years, Kia triumphed over reliability concerns and a lack of brand awareness. The ability to aim squarely at the industry soft spot – exterior styling – is a mark of maturity for the brand.
Styling differentiation is a particular problem for midsize sedans. The requirements for fuel economy and safety can hinder design options. In fact, in recent years, it has been said that there was more variation in the appearance of refrigerators than there was in midsize sedans. The beige-sock metaphor in the ad resonates with viewers as soon as they know what it’s applied to.
Execution of this strategy would not be possible without the fourth-generation Optima. One simply cannot compete on the basis of styling without the product to back it up. The ad makes the most of the Optima’s appearance in both studio and road shots. The ad promotes the Kia brand more than the Optima model, using the new Optima product to position the brand as a whole.
The ad lasts 46 seconds before a car is seen or even mentioned. Under ordinary circumstances, this is usually a poor choice of valuable air time. Super Bowl ads are different. If they are found to be catchy, the ad can receive many times as many views online as it did on TV during the game. Frequency is vital, particularly with an ad spending more time on socks than cars. The very difficult task is to achieve the viral reaction while also achieving the marketing objective. Touchdown Kia!