Maaike Aarts – Kia Motors Nederland

Maaike Aarts – Kia Motors Nederland

Maaike Aarts is Manager Communication & PR at Kia Motors Nederland. She is responsible for both communication, from campaigns to events to sponsorships, and public relations for the Netherlands.

Main drivers for growth

The most important driver for growth is increasing brand associations: “We look towards those associations to see where we can improve. What do people know about the Kia brand? To me, brand growth is steering those associations to create a more distinctive position within the category. If you asked consumers about Kia two or three years ago, people still didn’t really know the brand. They would think of the smaller cars, the Picanto, or the Sorento that their friend’s dad used to have back in the day. They’d know that Kia was of Asian origin, but wouldn’t know if it was from Japan or Korea. If you asked consumers what they knew about Kia 10 years ago, people would mostly refer to the 7-year warranty. At first, people didn’t connect the warranty to the quality that we offer. So, we changed the slogan in 2013 to ‘7-year warranty thanks to pure quality’. After that, we noticed an uplift in people connecting Kia and quality. This definitely helped improve quality perceptions of our brand. When we looked at the funnel, we noticed that the step from attitude to consideration wasn’t as big as we thought. When people are familiar with Kia, it opens up a conversation towards consideration and more, further down the brand funnel. So, we realised it was at the beginning of the funnel we needed to fuel the brand and let it grow. For the last 2 years, we have been actively working on our brand strategy. People know our brand by name, but they don’t really know what we represent. So, in 2018 we started working with a creative agency to find out how to become more of a brand that people love in the Netherlands.”

According to Maaike, the first big brand campaign launched 1,5 years later: “We did a lot of research among consumers, people within the organisation, journalists and dealers to find out where we stood. You need to know what you’re reaching for as a brand, but it’s even more important to know what your starting point is. Where you actually are as a brand in the mind of the consumers. Our headquarters in Europe defines Kia’s mission and vision, but we wanted to translate it to the Dutch market. So, we aligned with the European headquarters and created the brand campaign with our creative agency XXS Amsterdam.”

“I believe when you are building your brand, it will start working for your sales as well.”

Creatives: consistent & distinctive

Maaike goes on to explain that within campaigns, consistency and distinctive assets are very important. “Consistency has to come from strategy. That message is the foundation for every idea. Alongside brand campaigns, we have individual model campaigns. Although they are two different campaigns, it needs to be clear that both are from Kia. That’s a big challenge, especially because the model campaigns are mainly produced by the European headquarters. With the brand campaigns we created in the Netherlands, we are able to focus on the different brand associations we want to enhance locally. Next to that, one of the most important things is that we always try to be distinctive, so we stay away from a car driving on a small road whilst talking about the USPs. It has to be relevant to the consumer. We want people to come away with a certain feeling, and it has to tap into their emotions, instead of being pragmatic. In particular with brand communication, it’s much more important to tap into that emotion, because that’s the thing people will remember and recognise. And even though the brand campaigns are all different, we can still create consistency by using certain brand elements like using a red car, because of the red in the Kia logo, or starting with a title in the same way and ending with a recognisable end shot. We use them to create distinctive assets.”

Sources of inspiration

Maaike explains that they look at a lot of different brand campaigns for inspiration. “Our creative agency has also played an important role in this by showing us IPA studies which include proven successful campaigns. We look at which brands are doing well, and what will work for the down-to-earth Dutch consumers. We also asked our media agency to look into the automotive landscape, and how we can stand out by using our media in a creative and distinctive way. We know the landscape is changing, especially in automotive. It could for instance change towards a broader category of mobility, where you are competing with leasing companies, car-sharing initiatives, Uber, or even other mobility organisations such as public transport and bike brands. These are all things we are continuously looking at.”

Success of creatives

To determine the success of a creative, Kia looks at whether its campaigns are distinctive. “One of the reasons we are building on brand is because in automotive – and we see this in other categories as well – we’re all doing practically the same thing. You see a car driving on a winding road in the mountains, whilst showing USPs of the model and explaining how it enhances the owner’s lifestyle” To support this we researched both a model and a brand campaign to see what they resulted in. You will always need a model campaign that shows the model in question, it’s USPs and its price. The question is how to find the right balance between model- and brand campaigns. You have to strive for a healthy balance. I believe that if you build the brand properly, it will have a positive impact on your sales as well.”

Focus on reach

“When it comes to creatives, it’s just as important to look at how people will get in touch with it”, Maaike continues. “You can create a beautiful brand campaign, but when the budget doesn’t support it enough, it’s not going to do anything. When it comes to brand campaigns, we focus on reach. We want as many people to see it as possible. We use TV and choose qualitative GRP’s. When your message is about quality, it’s evident you need to target those consumers that value it, to build those associations and familiarise them with the Kia brand. Next to that, we use online video with forced exposure. Although this can be a slightly more expensive way to deploy media, it’s possible to reach a lot more people, more effectively, with the message you want to communicate.”