Consistent communication helps build desirability and love for Kia: Shakti Upadhyay

Upadhyay, Head of Marketing and PR, Kia Motors India, shares insights on Kia's comeback policy, marketing and communications strategy, latest campaigns and more

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Dec 8, 2020 11:33 AM
shakti upadhyay

This year’s festive season was anything but ordinary. While every year, brands used to look forward to amplifying sales and revenue, this year’s target was on business revival and getting back to normal. Along with all other sectors, the auto sector embraced the festive season with hopes of getting the best ROI and improving their customer base. Kia Motors, a fairly new brand in the Indian market, and a notable competition to other brands, also accelerated their digital approach along with unique innovation and right communications strategy.

Shakti Upadhyay, Head of Marketing and PR, Kia Motors India, discusses its comeback, renewed communications and marketing strategy, latest campaigns, festive season pourings and more.

Edited Excerpts:-

The auto sector took a big hit during the lockdown but a lot of popular brands like you have made a massive comeback. Have you renewed your communication with the customers too?

According to me, for ensuring success, an interesting, impactful, consistent brand story must precede a fantastic product. The most important factor is brand power that stands test to all difficult business conditions like COVID. Hence, we started making a strong foundation for Kia Brand in early 2018 itself, much before we launched our first product Seltos in India. Our consistent, engaging and impactful communication focused on aspirational Kia design and quality coupled with Kia signature quirky, the engaging tone has created an inseparable bond with consumers. The launches of our products – Seltos, Carnival and Sonet are strongly woven with the same story of design linking them back to Brand Kia.

During the festive season, we sold 11,000 units with a surge of 224% compared to last year during 10 days of Navratri. With the launch of our most awaited Sonet, we recorded 6532 bookings on the first day itself which is a testament of customer trust in the brand and its products.

Tell us a little about your latest campaigns. What has been your preferred media mix for these campaigns?

We created desirability and love for brand Kia through focused, long term, consistent communication. Our communications have been different and creative with an array of innovative campaigns. During the COVID period, we did our innovative #RewindKia campaign to encourage people to stay home during the lockdown, and more which have been unconventional and out-of-the-box for the automobile industry. On similar lines, Sonet being a new age compact SUV with aggressive styling and futuristic features targeted to a younger, tech-savvy consumer has been positioned as “Wild by Design”. The theme is inspired by Kia's dynamic design DNA offering a bold and aggressive presence on the road. Thus, the ‘Wild by Design’ campaign was influenced by the urban legends that everyone has read about, but no one believes until witnessed. The campaign garnered 472 Million combined views on social media with more than 90% positive sentiment for Kia.

Talking about media mix, we believe that a consumer-focused, new age, adaptive media mix with an insightful creative works wonders in today’s time and era. Our strategy has been to be consistent in targeting the screens with the right brand messaging, with the advent of digital, the combined reach of the screens (TV + Mobile) has become very high. After TV and digital, we look at other IMC mediums like print, OOH and radio to support the campaign and drive traffic to the Kia digital handles.

We see a lot of focus on digital, tell us about your digital initiatives and the kind of reach you enjoy among your digital audience. What is the importance of digital for Kia?

While TV creates immediate awareness and visibility, digital creates engagement and also provides sharper targeting of the audience. Our strategy is based on the fact that the combination of TV and digital combined with insightful messaging creates brand love. Our TG is a young individual who wants to stay ahead of the rest and spends time on various new-age platforms to source information. The audience is always hooked on to their smart devices and to keep them engaged in the new normal, we have carefully targeted high engagement on these digital platforms to reach our target audience in a more quirky and relatable manner.

Since the beginning, we have introduced various 360-degree campaigns starting from ‘Magical Inspirations, Stunning Designs’ brand campaign, which generated more than 250 Mn views for the YouTube video.

Committed to designing campaigns that help build a connect with our young-at-heart audience, we created the comic character, Meerkat which resulted in an appealing invitation to over 19,000 visitors at the Auto Expo 2020. As a part of the ‘Wild by Design’ campaign, we even collaborated with Comedy influencer Aakash Gupta for an unconventional unboxing of Sonet in 'Aakash vs Wild’, showcasing the wild nature of the car through his lens. At Kia, all our consumer marketing efforts are aimed at educating and introducing the audience to Kia’s philosophy of ‘The Power to Surprise’ and familiarizing them with design innovation that is reflected in all Kia vehicles. We are continuously tapping digital to deepen the connection between them and the brand.

To help us understand your communication initiatives better, tell us a little bit about the advertisement budget that you have. Are you spending as much as you did in pre-Covid times which is the same as last year’s or has the budget increased?

As we follow a consumer-first approach for all our campaigns, we use a tailor-made 360-degree approach for each project to ensure that we are reaching out to customers in the best way possible.

For each campaign, the budget depends on multiple factors such as the audience, the message that we want to put across, and more. Hence, our budgets differ from campaign to campaign and we don’t compare them as each of them has a different objective.

Tell us a little bit about your marketing strategy during the pandemic; what is it that you are doing to bounce back?

Keeping dialogue alive with the consumers during the pandemic brought us closer to them. During the initial phase of lockdown, we urged consumers at large to Stay Home & Safe and ruminate their golden memories in unique and creative way. The campaign #RewindKia was introduced to urge people to look for the silver lining by rewinding things that keep their spirits high and positive. The campaign was recognized as one of the Top10 PSA (Public Service Announcement) by YouTube with 25 Million views with an average view duration of 96%. We also introduced several initiatives across all our brand touchpoints to ensure a safe and secure experience for our customers.

During these difficult times to ensure customer safety and hygiene, we also introduced the ‘Kia Care’ Campaign, which focused on disinfecting customer’s vehicles with natural chemicals. An industry-first initiative, where cars were sanitized for all the customers on a first-come, first-serve basis. It also included contactless digital services to the customers (using Kia Link App). We additionally introduced various finance schemes such as ‘Guaranteed Future Value Scheme’, balloon scheme ‘Finance Schemes Benefits’ and ‘EMI Protect Scheme’ to protect our customers from any unforeseen circumstances such as loss of a job, critical illness, and/or permanent physical disability in these challenging times. We even extended the duration of the Free Service under the Protection policy by two months to take care of delays in servicing due to lockdown. We have been following and implementing all hygiene checks and taking measures to ensure that the customer demands are met with no compromise on their health and safety.

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