Kia: Korean or other Wie’s?

In the couple of weeks leading up to spring break, I was given the task of repositioning Kia for a portfolio (class) assignment. We first had to write a letter selling our idea (to the CEO… professor) and then follow that up with some print executions. I think the only rule is that we weren’t allowed to position on price– someone else can always undercut so it’s not a true position.

Much of the challenge was finding out what Kia’s current position is. After all, it’s a Korean brand with a number of line extensions. When brainstorming, I thought selling “Korean made” would do more harm than good simply because of the stigma against southeast Asian exports and “Buy American” bias that many people have. With the exception of the Kia Soul, most of its extensions sound like they come from somewhere else. Kia has the Sportage, Sorento, Sedona, the Rio, and so on. If these lines had something in common, Kia might have a position. Is it Korean, American, or Italian, or otherwise? It can’t be everything.

I didn’t think Kia was going to play its home angle until I saw its latest spot. The brand has a new spokeswoman in Michelle Wie (pronounced wee~) for the Kia Soul. My partner and I thought the Soul had the most personality and the most potential of all the lines. After hearing our letters, our professor wanted everyone to follow-up with an appeal to first time buyers. I think Kia may be on to something, but it seems like this spot is selling golf more so than the vehicle. At the same time, it’s selling attitude. There’s a parallel to the same feeling that women get from wearing red pumps.

Most people made harsh criticisms of Kia in their letters and the professor immediately fired back. How much do you think Kia paid for this “One Epic Ride” Superbowl spot? It looks expensive and impressive to say the least. If you’re trying to win over the boss, do you really want to make him feel like he wasted his money? The tagline is missing from the video. It’s “not your average mid-sized sedan.” Well what it is then? That’s where we as students were supposed to step in.

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