Saturday, January 12, 2008

Generational advertising, mixed messages

Messages can be lost thru dated material

In December 2007, Kia Motors continued using the theme of parody retro music-oriented television commercials to promote their Annual KiaFest Year-End Sales Events. This was done via the takeoff of the song "Maniac" from the 1983 movie Flashdance.

Advertisements for similar sales in previous years featured playful takeoffs of the mid-1980s music scene (Styx and techno-pop).

I like the Maniac Kia commercial. It was fun and funny. Of course, I graduated from college in the early 1980s and have seen Flashdance.

My daughter didn't get it. She thought the commercial was pretty cheesy (and considered the salesman's pelvic trusts toward the car a bit "disgusting"). She has never seen the movie and would have only heard the song on an oldies radio station when I use to chauffeur her around. I don't think "cheesy" or being associated with an oldies station is a business' ideal brand position for their products.

Reading various comments on the web regarding the commercial revealed a wide array of comments about the commercial. Many asked if anyone knew the name of the song. Others wrote how funny they thought the actor was. Two things I did not see... much about the vehicles or the sales event.

Should Kia care?
Perhaps they should if they think younger age customers will be needed to reach their sales goal of 500,000 units a year by 2012 (up from just under 300,000 units in 2006). A look at Kia, from their prices, vehicles and promotions -- including a College Graduate (Sales) Program -- indicates that younger buyers are indeed a key target audience for Kia.

Including generational dependent content in ads is dicey.
If the consumers trying to be reached have a wide age range, building a commercial on a dated event, movie, personality, music, etc. runs the risk that a portion of the audience will not fully understand the intended message. Worse yet, some of that audience will develop negative (if even slightly) associations for the product by not "getting" the intended impact of the material and assigning their own interpretation to it.

Obviously, some dated material is less likely to have such unintended consequences. For example, Beatles music still transcends age groups.

Be careful.
Take care to understand the impact of including generational dependent materials in promotions. If your various customer groups have a significant age range, the promotion runs the risk of sending mixed (and sometimes undesired) messages.