Kia, South Korea’s second-largest automobile manufacturer, had yet another strong year, winning accolades, including two coveted Red Dots for the Kia Soul EV and the Kia Sorento, as well as Vincentric’s Best Value in America award in the Electric/Plug-in Hybrid Category, also for the Kia Soul EV.
In combination with strong annual sales, this recognition validates Kia’s decision to focus on creating affordable, well-designed cars. In the words of Design Chief Peter Schreyer, “Kia is a brand underpinned by quality and reliability. Now on top of that comes this emotional element of distinct design.” Kia prioritized this design focus in the global rollout of its “Re:Design” brand campaign—designed for every moment that people spend with their cars.
That focus was reinforced in its dual-design cars like the Optima K5, special editions of select models, and sales and service programs customized for specific target audiences. With a wide portfolio—ranging from the funky Soul to the luxury K900—this thinking will be important to creating consistency and coherence across its broad set of customers.
Customization has extended to localized communications, aimed at reflecting the preferences of the many regions the company serves. In the U.S., for example, Kia rolled out a new iteration of its popular “Animals” campaign, featuring animated hamsters, this time in a tech lab for the Kia Soul EV. Whereas in China, where Kia positions itself as a premium and reliable automotive brand, its tone is far less playful and instead features a middle-aged man in a suit. And its high-profile sponsorships of lifestyle and sporting events continued, with presences at the FIFA World Cup and the Australian Open. Kia also joined a roster of digital and technology companies like Twitter and Panasonic at VidCon, a conference for online video.
Given the growing importance of customer experience in the automotive sector, Kia also ramped up employee and dealership training programs, culminating in its largest-ever gathering of global dealers in Seoul, with more than 260 representatives from 110 countries. Its twin investments in Kia University in the U.S. and the BIS training program in Europe were further manifestations of the brand’s employee-engagement efforts. In a similar vein, initiatives like My Sales (for salespeople) and My Kia (for dealership owners) proved to be fresh, digital-first platforms that strengthened bonds with the brand.