We caught up with Kia Motors America’s Eugene Santos, Senior Manager, Multicultural Marketing, about Kia’s new multicultural campaign, Driving Forces. Anything related to the Hispanic market comes to Santos’ desk first, so he knows a thing or two about how to market to Hispanic consumers. He told Portada New York 19’s audience all about Kia’s first time using influencer marketing to target Hispanics.
Eugene Santos, Senior Manager of Multicultural Marketing at Kia, has spent years practicing how to market to Hispanic consumers. The last time we spoke to him, he gave us a preview of what he had in store for the brand’s next Hispanic-oriented campaign. All we knew at the moment was the goal, to reach the Hispanic segment through an emotional connection to the brand’s new slogan. Fast forward to a couple of months later, Kia has launched Driving Forces, a campaign that involves real Latino stories.
“We launched a message during the super bowl: Give it everything,” Santos said to an audience of fellow brand marketers at Portada New York. “In the past, Kia has been successful with Superbowl commercials. But now that the message is out there, what do we do with it? What does it mean? Especially for Latinos.”
The problem facing automakers these days, according to Santos, is that vehicles are smarter and last longer, so consumers are holding to their cars for more time. “The need for an automobile has decreased,” Santos pointed out. But the campaign has already proved to be fruitful, as the 200-percent increase in traffic to the Kia Soul landing page shows. Santos shared this and other pieces of information in exclusive at Portada New York… metrics not even Kia’s management had seen!
Still Talking Up the Hispanic Market
For a Korean brand that is relatively new to the U.S., the new Driving Forces campaign is a huge deal. “As all multicultural marketing managers know, budget is an issue,” said Santos. “Since Hispanics account for 18% of the population, General Market assumes we should have 18% of the marketing budget, but it doesn’t work that way.”
In fact, a real problem that stood out throughout the Portada New York conferences was the need to convince management of the relevance of Hispanic consumers. “You’d think that in 2020 we wouldn’t need to fight to convince organizations about the Hispanic business opportunity,” commented Santos. “But we keep fighting the same fight. Therefore, make sure you can show metrics that the general market understands.”
The good news is: insightful, culturally nuanced campaigns are an important step to increasing companies’ awareness…, and getting a few more ad dollars. “Telling a story allows us to continue to connect with our audience and keeps the brand on top of mind. This might look like a simple project, but it’s making our company reconsider how they think about multicultural,” shared Santos.
An Effective Campaign Will Take You Far
As Eugene Santos explained, a successful campaign can yield results that are very important for the long run: not only can it get you more budget with management, but it can also ease you into the next step of your strategy.
That’s why Santos likes storytelling; it can elevate your brand by telling relatable stories to consumers and then follow up on those stories. But many times complications arise from the start in multicultural marketing. Whether it’s the lack of multicultural representation in management, inaccurate audience measurement or a lack of creative assets, it’s still difficult to know how to market to Hispanic consumers, starting from the (still relevant) question of what language to use.
Problem: How to Market to Hispanic Consumers
“When people think ‘Hispanic’, they automatically assume they have to use Spanish,” told Santos. “It doesn’t have to be that way. So for the first time, we’re using English-language creative to reach Hispanics. Bilingual and bicultural creatives go a long way.”
But the problem persisted: how could they elevate the Kia brand in a meaningful way? There were many factors at play, like limited assets, recent leadership changes and a low budget. “For a long time people have assumed that Kia is a cheap Korean Brand, but for the last 5-6 years, Kia has been recognized with top quality distinctions with brands like Mercedes and Porsche,” pointed out Santos. “Kia has various brand messages, but the objective was to dilute it into one message that created top brand consideration.”
Answer: Brand Ambassadors Who Share the Consumers’ Stories
Influencers are a risk, and yet most marketers have experience with them. They all learn that the only effective influencer marketing is based on brand ambassadors that share a true affinity with the brand’s values. For that reason, Santos chose two unique influencers that could tell the Latino story, because it was theirs.
“How do we tell the underdog story, which is really the Kia story, and how do we tell the Latino story to them?” asked Santos rhetorically. “I want to talk about the professional who is trying to do something different and relate it to my key customer.”
Consequently, Kia worked with Andrea Londo, a self-proclaimed border child who commuted from Tijuana to San Diego every day to go to school. Now, she is living her dream of being an actress. “You probably don’t know her, but in 2-3 years you will,” assured Santos. On top of everything, Londo drives a Kia Optima, which made for a perfectly organic fit.
Clara Pablo, the other influencer featured in the campaign, is the manager of Miami-based Latin Pop group CNCO and of Colombian singer Maluma. Music is one of Kia’s verticals, which allowed for an organic fit with Pablo. In addition, she’s a breast cancer survivor and awareness advocate, which adds “a humanistic element that allows us to send out a message not only about cars but beyond. Young Latinos want to connect with brands that stand for the same things they do.”
Once You Have the Right Message, Put it In the Right Creative (and Get the Right Partner to Do It)
One of the first things to do if you wish to launch a successful campaign is choosing the right partner. Because of the various problems multicultural marketers have to face, an agency that can really carry your message is as important as the message itself. For the Driving Forces campaign, Kia partnered up with Verizon Media. “We knew they could programmatically expose our message to a wider audience that is bicultural. Also, their creative studio, RYOT, could help us with assets that allowed us to show our message in relation to the creative,” explained Santos.
Together, they came up with docu-style creatives and an array of branded formats to tell the story of Latinos and Latinas. Through the two “driving forces” the brand chose as ambassadors, they focused on upbringing, biculturalism, accomplishments and their will to tackle a challenge. “The main goal was for them to connect with us,” stressed Santos. “We wanted to hit them at different points of their journey to let them know that we’re here for them and we understand them.”
Results (Spoiler: Cultural Marketing Works)
The results so far have been positive. The completion rates above the benchmark of both videos show that consumers are interested. Also, CTRs are the same in Spanish and English, so language doesn’t always matter as long as viewers really connect with the message. “If the emotional component is there, they’ll stick around and come back,” said Santos. Reach and engagement have also been good, which has given Santos the confidence to ask for more budget.
Ultimately, Santos concluded that it’s all about three key rules. First, define your strategy: be clear on what the content should speak to and ensure alignment to overall brand strategy. Second, listen to your gut. Pick a partner that can execute and deliver significant reach for your targeted audience. Finally, don’t forget to ask yourself this question: what’s my next move?