Can Kia pull it off?

Kia is trying to move into the luxury car category. They blasted onto the scene with an impressive Super Bowl commercial (one of the few that were truly Super Bowl-worthy in terms of grandeur, in fact). Just in case you missed it…

Wow!  A noble effort, to be sure. The commercial is an impressive piece of work that tells a good story. To Kia’s great credit, they have earned a very respectable reputation for quality and reliability.

But there’s a big problem.

In the mind of the market, which is the real battleground on which branding takes place, Kia isn’t considered a luxury car. And trying to change an attitude toward a brand is a tough, expensive undertaking. One that’s best avoided, in fact. There are a number of examples I could share for why this is, and I could cite some of my favorite marketing authors to support my point, but I’ve got a better idea.

A good friend – and frequent commentator here (in the “Comments” section, anyhow) – Mike Bosley, presented a superb example of how the market is likely to react to what Kia is attempting. Here’s a response he offered to a previous post and he told me I could use it here. Thanks Mike! (He’ll stick around after you read this post to sign autographs if you wish.)

I’m ALWAYS fascinated when a company like Kia takes on the challenge of telling a new story about themselves. Considering how well received were their life-size Kia hamsters, I think they have a ways to go. I still don’t even view Hyundai as a luxury vehicle but I’ve now been fooled twice from a distance into thinking their flagship luxury car was a Bentley! Sometimes, I’m not sure it’s possible. The time-telling features of a Timex and Rolex are indistinguishable but the apparent ‘benefit’ is that each tell a very different story about the wearer. Can you imagine your buddies all walking up to your new Kia when they see it pull in the parking lot only to find out it is, in fact, “just a Kia?” I love Kia’s boldness and I must say the car in the commercial is beautiful. Of course, my heart will always belong to Toyota.”


Exactly, Mike! The commercial may garner the attention of the target market, and the target market may even concede, if not heartily agree, that their reputation for service, quality, and overall VALUE is noteworthy. But when it comes time to sign the deal, are they really going to pay 70 grand or whatever for a…a…Kia? Don’t bet on it.

What can they do instead? That, my friends, will be the subject of the next entry…