Case Study: Meerkat, Johnny, Tiger & the making of Brand Kia Motors in India


The Auto sector witnessed its worst slump in demand in 2 decades during the month of August 2019. Sales of domestic vehicles saw steady decline from April till September 2019. Automobile brand Kia Motors India launched its first product for the Indian market – The Kia Seltos – during the festive season in October last year. Interesting, just eight months before the launch, very few in India had even heard about the brand.

The Objective

Post the launch of their massively successful brand campaign, ‘Magical Inspirations, Stunning Designs’, which became YouTube’s most watched ad in 2019 garnering ~232 million impressions till date, the brand assigned its digital creative mandate to Isobar India.

Most car makers talk about features, performance and other tangible aspects of the brand, however, Kia wanted to create a different voice.

While the first brand campaign was immensely successful, the brand was concerned that many people did not understand the characters ‘Johnny’ and ‘Meerkat’, introduced in the commercial. Kia tasked Isobar to build a unique brand persona and generate engagement with the brand.

Also read: Deciphering the Kia Motors brand TVC

The Target Audience

An average car buyer is in the 25-45 age group. India is home to the largest millennial population in the world and Kia obviously wanted to connect with these future car buyers. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has gone on record stating that millennials are opting for car mobility services, which has impacted auto sales. Kia wanted to speak to evolved audiences online, who are aware of the new launches and products in the auto sector and create a positive association in the minds of these audiences with the brand.

The Strategy

Isobar’s strategy sought to leverage moment marketing and bring the brand Kia into focus in day to day social media conversations and create relevance for the overall audience.

The agency created pseudo social media handles for ‘Johnny’ and ‘Meerkat’, the idea was to create online personas which would have a life of their own and not just tom-tom the brand.

Content pieces were created that played up the rivalry between Meerkat, who wanted to be an inspiration for the Kia Motors design, and designer Johnny, who refused to be inspired by the Meerkat, and released on social media. Closer to the launch date of Kia Seltos, the agency created more sophisticated campaign messaging and shifted from focusing on the brand to focusing on the aspects of the product.

The Touchpoints

Instagram was the Hero of the campaign in making every content piece visible to the digital audience. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and a bit of Snapchat were also thrown into the mix to make the content pieces visible to audiences.

There was a planned offline engagement for some of the campaigns via cinema theatres, TVCs, and on ground activations. TV was the lead medium while digital was the secondary medium.

The Campaigns

The Adventures of Meerkat

Isobar created an intriguing graphic novel for Instagrammers that turned IG-Stories into a dynamic medium for storytelling. The animated series was an innovative cross-over between comic books and new-age smartphone experiences. An exclusive digital film was released and fans were asked to engage with the content by taking it forward.

Badass by Design

Closer to the launch of Kia Seltos, the brand launched this campaign to create a positive association with the word badass by highlighting badass fictional personalities from Iron Man to Arya Stark.

Instagram Hijack

On the day of the launch of the SUV, Brand Kia Seltos hijacked the popular hashtags on Instagram. Through real-time live coverage, dynamic Instagram stories, and carefully selected influencer collaborations across categories, Seltos owned a majority of the top 12 posts in the discovery section for the most important, relevant and popular hashtags.

During the promotions of the movie ‘War’, starring Kia Motors’ brand ambassador Tiger Shroff, the agency created a motion poster featuring the #ReturnOfTheMeerkat.

Now, ahead of the Auto Expo on February 7, 2020, the brand has once again leveraged their mascot to generate a buzz on social handles.

Organic Engagement

Facebook – Fans (New Likes) – Percentage Increase – 6.25% (27,999)

Facebook – Organic Reach – Percentage Increase – 102%

Facebook – Organic Impression – Percentage Increase – 55.8%

Twitter – Engagement rate - Percentage Increase – 3.2%

Instagram – New Followers – Percentage Increase – 50% (70,539)

The brand earned a total of 72,125 positive conversations over the last 6 months, that is, approximately 80 per cent positive sentiment. (72,125).

Vijay Kumar, Lead – Digital Marketing & CRM, Kia Motors India, remarked, “We are excited and proud to be associated with Isobar India. To be industry leader is the aim when two globally acclaimed entities come together to raise the bars of the automobile industry. Being our debut product in India, the Kia Seltos launch has been the most ambitious project for us so far and we've been able to put a great show together for the same.”

“This is an industry-first marketing strategy. In India, we have not seen such an approach. If you look at advertising for any mainline car brand in India, it is very mundane and straightforward. Our challenge was ‘how to get to a consumer in this cluttered market?’, and that was the whole idea that drove the campaigns,” elaborated Gopa Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Isobar India.

He further said, “The brief was about creating brand love, an impact on social and digital, and we’ve managed to do that by creating a distinct voice for Kia. Now, with the carnival coming in, the idea is ‘Extravagance by Design’. All Kia products and events will have their own voice and we will cultivate them around the common theme of design.”


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