Kia featured NFL star Josh Jacobs (right) in its Super Bowl ad that focused on youth homelessness.
Kia is charting its own course in advertising amid the pandemic, led symbolically by a practical new initiative for easing the impact of Covid-19 on homeless youth. The brand’s approach amounts to a sort of middle ground between the purely inspirational tack that initially was taken by some automotive marques and the heavily promotional, transaction-related orientation adopted by others.
The Irvine, Calif.-based U.S. arm of the Korean automaker announced that it plans to donate $1 million to multiple non-profit partners that assist homeless youth nationwide and are helping them specifically amid the pandemic. With a new broadcast-TV spot highlighting the particular vulnerability of homeless kids to the coronavirus, Kia is adding to its existing virus-fighting efforts that include donations of N95 masks and gloves to medical facilities throughout its Orange County, California, home territory.
And Kia’s emphasis on helping homeless youth follows up on its TV ad during the Super Bowl on February 2 that featured Josh Jacobs, a star running back for the Oakland Raiders who spent much of his youth homeless.
“It’s fitting right now, if you’ve got somewhere to go, to shelter in space,” Michael Cole, president of Kia Motors America, told me. “But if you’re on the street, that’s pretty tough. So we’re working with a number of different charities, ones we’d worked with for the Super Bowl, to help the most vulnerable people during Covid-19. That’s the social platform of our message.”
Cole said that “everyone is having to think about themselves right now, and to take care of social distancing and hygiene. There’s a lot of messaging around that. We felt it was important that homeless youth also have that voice, which is why we started there with our communications and our responsibility.”
This week, Cole said, Kia will add another TV spot, focusing on how it’s addressing the needs of key constituencies including existing customers. Programs for them include extensions and deferrals of payments on existing vehicle contracts for up to three months, for people with Covid-19-related financial hardship. Kia also has extended deadlines for service work for customers with expiring warranties and, in an uncommon measure, introduced a zero-percent-financing deal through many of its dealers for customers who want service work performed on their vehicles.
For new customers, Kia is offering a range of programs to help ease coronavirus-related financial burns, including up to 120-day payment deferrals and zero-percent financing on new models.
Cole said that Kia’s approach to marketing right now stems from “trying to come to terms with where [America] is now. There are other things we believe we can do, and we’ll be announcing further support in coming weeks.”
At the same time, he said, Kia’s marketing brain trust is “having a conversation every day about what does it look like when we come out the other end of this. We think there are ways we’ll be able to pivot pretty quickly. We had great [sales] momentum coming into this situation, which is probably helping us compared with some competitors. If we keep gthat momentum, going, and positivity around our brand, it will help.”