Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 | 5 min read
We live in an age in which customer relationships matter more than ever. Consumer touchpoints have increased, power has shifted to the buyer, and brands must continually think of new and innovative ways to address these changes.
For the past several years at Kia Motors America, my primary responsibility has been to help transform Kia’s public perception by connecting to consumers on both practical and emotional levels. During this time, our organization has made tremendous efforts to strengthen our brand within the marketplace, and the results have been staggering. In addition to significant increases in sales, we have won numerous advertising awards, formed high-profile partnerships – with mainstays such as the NBA, LPGA, MTV and Vans – and earned a host of accolades on the digital front, all by prioritizing great consumer experiences across every touchpoint.
Consumers experience our brand at various levels: at the dealership, on our website, across social/digital platforms and through our local and national marketing campaigns.
In terms of operating in the social/digital space, many brands have made this the core of their business. Today, consumers can add products to their Amazon cart on Twitter while sitting on a bus during a morning commute, or flip through Instagram photos of the latest home collection while on the beach. According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report, 22% of the global population now own smartphones and 6% own tablets – those are billions of devices with the means to connect to brands and experience them in completely novel ways.
We shouldn’t see the increase of touchpoints as a problem to solve, but as an increased opportunity to connect with consumers. Companies do not have to rely on foot traffic to reach people anymore: interactions can happen any time of day on a bus or at the beach. Best of all, brands can manage, track and align these moments, and create amazing experiences that drive purchasing and loyalty.
The potential of this new world is enormous, but we do need to adjust our thinking a bit to seize the opportunity. It is impossible for brands to control consumers’ perceptions directly. You can’t dictate how your brand is perceived, but you can create experiences that influence consumers’ feelings. Strong relationships drive business, but cannot be manufactured or manipulated.
Take, for example, the world of a restaurant owner. He knows the names of his customers’ family members, lets them try samples of their favorite menu items, and attempts to create a personalized and pleasurable dining environment for every patron. Not once does he explicitly tell a customer that he wants their respect and loyalty. Instead, he strategically manages and optimizes the experiences of his customers and earns their trust over time.
For a large brand to do the same, consumer experiences should be aligned, genuine and meaningful at every interaction. Managing consumer experiences with your brand in this way is the key to building great relationships. If advertising, PR, customer product marketing, etc. are all aligned, then every app install, tweet, post or pin should maintain the same level of consistent messaging and intensity.
Leveraging data and the respective insights should be a top priority for any brand that cares about relationships. Understanding the journey of a consumer, the touchpoints they experience, and how they respond, are invaluable pieces to the puzzle of relationship building.
When we launched the Kia Optima, our goal was to appeal to the Gen-X male. We were able to track how Super Bowl ads affected website visits, YouTube views, buzz around the web and social media conversations. We used traditional advertising in tandem with social media in order to provide deeper and more comprehensive experiences – thus elevating brand interest for Kia far and wide. Optima is currently our best-selling vehicle and one of the hottest sedans in the mid-size segment.
Kia was first introduced to the market as fuel-efficient and affordable but, in order to grow, we needed to tell a new story and connect to consumers in a new way. We wanted consumers to see us as youthful, fun, stylish and sporty – a challenge to traditional automotive choices.
About the Author: Michael Sprague Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Kia Motors Michael Sprague serves as the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Kia Motors America (KMA) – and is the central point of contact for all sales and marketing activities. From 2009–2013, Sprague oversaw 16 new vehicle launches and Kia earned a reputation as an innovator in the traditional, experiential and digital marketing arenas. During his tenure, he has managed all five of the brand’s influential advertising campaigns in–and–around the Super Bowl. Sprague ranked tenth overall in 2013’s study of the 25 most influential CMOs in the world conducted by Appinions for Forbes. @Kia