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November 28, 2016

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Q&A with Michael Sprague

COO and EVP of Kia Motors America

Q. What are the foundational elements of Kia’s total market approach?
A. Our marketing efforts are focused on challenging what consumers think they know about the brand and our world-class products. We do this by telling our story across multiple platforms and in ways that stand out from the sea of sameness in the cluttered auto sector, forging partnerships with like-minded organizations and individuals who are not afraid to defy conventional thinking, and engaging with consumers in authentic manners that correlate with their daily lives.

Q. How did you build consensus for the approach across the business?
A. In late 2008, we were preparing to launch the Soul urban passenger vehicle, a new car that signaled the beginning of Kia’s design-led transformation. We knew we had something special on our hands, but the question we asked ourselves and our agencies and business partners was, “How do we stand out from the crowd?” Ultimately, we determined that a more holistic and all-inclusive approach to marketing communications would help reposition the brand and allow us to move away from the “cheap and cheerful” image Kia had historically maintained and focus on presenting our company and products as a new alternative for confident individuals looking for something different. From that point, everybody, at all levels of our organization, bought in and invested themselves in the total market approach, and we have never looked back.

Q. How are you uniting varied audiences around the Kia brand?
A. Our goal is to engage as wide and diverse an audience as possible in authentic and meaningful ways across four key pillars: sports, music, pop culture, and connected life. This is reflected in our wide variety of partnerships with, among others, the NBA, the LPGA, FIFA, the Billboard Music Awards, and Univision’s Nuestra Belleza Latina. These partnerships were also the driving force behind the creation of our latest Soul campaign, which uses the power of music to unite people from around the globe at a time when there is so much negativity in the world. The latest spot brings together 30 different musical instruments representing more than 20 cultures from around the world.


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Marketing Smarts 
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Marketing Experiments
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Number of complimentary samples distributed by coconut water company Vita Coco during its Summer Streets activation in New York City this past August. The event featured a 300-foot Slip ’N Slide, beach area, disc jockey, and yoga classes. Activations were also held in Chicago and Las Vegas.



This article first appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Activate magazine.

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