Aishwarya Ramesh

"Shareability of content is an important currency in communication": Shakti Upadhyay, Kia Motors

A chat with the head of marketing and PR, Kia Motors India, on the marketing challenges during COVID-induced lockdown and the road ahead.

Kia Motors India, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kia Motors Corporation, has been busy on the advertising and marketing front. In October, it launched a new TVC for the anniversary edition Kia Seltos in association with Bollywood actor Tiger Shroff. Earlier in the same month, the company launched another campaign titled ‘Wild by Design’, which tells the design story of the Kia Sonet.

As part of the second leg of the campaign for the Kia Sonet, the company associated with Aakash Gupta, a stand-up comedian and influencer, for a unique car unboxing video called Aakash versus Wild. Kia Sonet also had a launch event in August, which Shakti Upadhyay, head of marketing and PR, Kia Motors India, claims saw good response from the audience.

Upadhyay explains that during the beginning of the COVID-induced lockdown, the company did what it could do to communicate with the customers and stay in touch. “The biggest challenge that we faced when the lockdown began was that we couldn’t demonstrate the product in person to prospective consumers. That’s why we looked at a long-term storytelling plan for the Kia Sonet. We used digital as a lead medium to create interest around the new product launch.”

Shakti Upadhyay
Shakti Upadhyay

He stresses that when the lockdown began, "we knew the most important part was to keep the dialogue alive with Kia's consumers." Upadhyay adds that one thing that has worked to their advantage is that since the brand's introduction in India, they have been quite active on the digital medium. "That’s why this lockdown was a boon to us as it brought the digital savvy TG together and helped consolidate their attention spans to the screens."

Talkin about Gupta, Upadhyay says, “We took him (Aakash Gupta), a budding comedian, because we always wanted to be relevant in the eyes of the consumer. Once you get a consumer interested in the brand, you can explain the features of the car to him via digital media. There are specific intellectual properties designed based on the features that the consumer has shown interest in.”

He adds that in the company's TV commercials don't specify any features and neither do they draw attention to any technology that the car has.

"We did it in such a way that the person initially becomes interested in the product and then we tell him more about the specific features that the car possesses. If we advertise the features, the consumers may not be able to understand all that the car has to offer and, hence, we took a different route."

Upadhyay mentions that the objective of all campaigns so far has been to bring consumers to "our social and digital channels so that they can know more about the brand."

"Digital is definitely a game changer here because we are selling a connector car, which has smart features, and we are using the digital medium to communicate the features of the car to our customers."

When asked about the impact of the pandemic and recession, Upadhyay mentions that Kia Motors is not an entry-level car manufacturer. The price of Kia Sonet starts at Rs 6.7 lakh, the Seltos at Rs 9.7 lakh, and the Carnival is priced between Rs 24 lakh and Rs 33 lakh.

"There were reports in the market that people would buy cars after 'unlock', because they wanted safe mobility and, hence, entry-level cars have seen traction. Our consumers were not that affected by the recession. What has happened in lockdown is that people who wanted to buy our brand did our research and took the decision to purchase the vehicle.”

Talking about his learnings from the industry, Upadhyay stresses on the importance of communicating and staying in touch with the consumer. “It’s important to have brain share in a customer’s mind and appeal to them emotionally. In a country as vast as India, you can’t reach the entire audience all at once, so shareability of content is an important currency in communication,” he concludes.

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