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Kia Soul Tops List of Must-Have Cars in the City

Surprisingly, Smart ForTwo doesn’t make Top 10.

by on Aug.12, 2014

Kia's 2014 Soul was named the top choice for city dwellers due to its ride-and-handling as well as its convenience features.

Many folks imagine that once you move to a large urban center, like New York or Chicago, that the need for a car evaporates; however, the reality is that city denizens need to get around and that means hundreds of thousands of vehicles are clogging those streets.

If you’re going to have a car in the city, it needs to be small enough to squeeze into tight spots, turn around in small spaces, yet be able to carry lots of stuff. Fortunately, the folks at Cars.com have compiled a list of what they believe to be the 10 best cars for city dwellers.

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The website’s top pick is the 2014 Kia Soul and not because it’s so easy to drive even a hamster can do it. According to the website, the Soul’s ride-and-handling, abundance of convenience features, such as heated front and rear seats as well as a heated steering wheel – features typically found on pricier rides – combined with Kia’s Android-based UVO multimedia system made it the best ride. (more…)

Kia’s Hamsters Strut the Red Carpet – with Help from Lady Gaga

Animated icons back for launch of 2014 Kia Soul.

by on Aug.23, 2013

They're back, this time in fighting shape.

Those hip-hopping hamsters are back for the launch of the 2014 Kia Soul – but this time, the portly, animated icons have buffed up with some help from Lady Gaga.

First seen in 2009 when they helped launch the original Soul, Kia has kept the “hamstars” in short supply, bringing them back to life only occasionally  and generating plenty of buzz each time. The Korean carmaker hopes to pull that off again with the latest spot, dubbed “Totally Transformed,” which will make it debut during the MTV Video Music Awards aired this coming Sunday.

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The 60-second spot will then appear on more than 33,000 U.S. movie screens starting on August 30th.

The animated Kia celebrities have been as portly as, well, hamsters in their previous appearances. This time, however, they shed their baggy, hip-hop outfits and extra bulk, working out to to the sounds of Grammy Award winner Lady Gaga’s new single, “Applause.”  Fit and trim, they take a stroll down the red carpet but continue to show off their “excellent taste in music and slick dance moves,” says Michael Sprague, Kia’s U.S. marketing chief.

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Kia Ready For Next Product Blitz

Smaller of Korean makers also studying possible 2nd US plant.

by on Sep.05, 2012

The 2014 Kia Forte will make its debut at the LA Auto Show in November.

The once very unhip Kia brand has undergone a massive makeover in recent years, thanks to a trio of hip-hop “hamstars,” a rock star of a design chief – and a blitz of new products.

The new model assault is set to continue, Kia officials reveal, at the upcoming Los Angeles and Detroit auto shows.  And to feed the growing demand for those and existing products like the Optima and Soul, Kia management is now studying the option of expanding its North American production base – a move that might include the addition of a second U.S. assembly plant.

Kia is now the fastest-growing brand in the U.S. market, noted Kia Motors America sales chief Tom Loveless, with a 78% sales surge since 2008 surpassing even Korean sibling Hyundai, as well as fast-track brands like Volkswagen and Subaru.

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After setting a 2011 sales record of 485,000 – and breaking its all-time monthly records for 24 consecutive months – Kia expects to reach another new peak this year, market share climbing to an all-time high 4.0, “if we can maintain this pace,” said Loveless, during a presentation to the Detroit Automotive Press Association.

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Roll Over Beethoven, the Kia Hamsters Are Back

...and they're "Bringing Down the House."

by on Aug.31, 2012

Kia's hamsters make their return in classic form in the latest Soul ad campaign.

Roll over Beethoven, make room Mozart.  The Kia hamsters are back and they’re turning a serious, 17th Century ballet into a wild, 21st Century electronic dance party in their newest ad campaign for the popular Kia Soul.

Few official spokes…er…rodents have clicked with the car buying community as effectively as what the Korean carmaker likes to call its “hamstars.”  And their previous commercials have generated tens of millions of views on Youtube.com and elsewhere as they have gone viral like few other automotive ads.

The latest spot will make its debut today on 18,000 movie screens across the U.S. and then appear on the MTV Video Music Awards on September 6th. (You can view the spot on Youtube now by Clicking Here.)

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In typically irreverent fashion, the newest campaign has been titled “Bringing Down the House,” and is set in an 18th Century European opera house.  Set to the Axwell remix, “In My Mind,” it shakes up the staid surroundings by turning them into a very 21st Century electronic dance party.

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Track’ster “Hints” at Next-Generation Kia Soul

“Tough looking, like a bulldog” – but will this dog hunt?

by on Feb.08, 2012

Longer, lower and wider, but will the Track'ster reappear as the next-generation Kia Soul?

Kia is giving Chicago Auto Show-goers a first look at what it says is a “hint” of what the next-generation Soul hatchback will look like.  Dubbed Track’ster, the 3-door concept vehicle is intended to give the popular crossover a more rugged and aggressive look, company officials suggested during a media preview in the Windy City.

The original Kia Soul kicked off quite a stir, especially when the Korean carmaker turned to a trio of digitally enhanced hamsters to help make the pitch.  A slightly updated version, introduced last year, followed the cute-ute approach, bringing back the hip-hop hamsters with a catchy dance track provided by one-hit wonders LMFAO.

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If the Track’ster is any indication, the maker wants to go for a more aggressive design when its time for the full refresh of the Kia platform.

“The idea was to make the Track’ster tough looking, like a bulldog,” said Tom Kearns, chief designer for KMA.  “But the car had to be approachable as well.  We wanted to base the car in reality so people instantly knew it was a Soul, but with a lot of attitude.  It had to be a bold interpretation that would change people’s conceptions of what a sporty Kia could be.”

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Hip-Hop Hamsters Help Kia Outpace Industry

Korean maker now fastest-growing brand in U.S.

by on Oct.24, 2011

Kia's Hamstars are back - and continue to help draw new buyers into the maker's showrooms.

In a crowded field, Kia has emerged as the fastest growing automotive brand in the United States with a combination of new products, clever marketing and growing owner loyalty that has satisfied customers coming back for more. The combination also suggests Kia is benefitting from a surge of favorable “world-of-mouth” endorsements over backyard fences and across driveways.

Using hip-hop hamsters to promote new products that have shifted from stodgy to stylish is clearly paying off for Kia, long lost in the shadows of its better-known Korean sibling Hyundai.

Kia’s dealer count has gone up modestly but sales per dealership have doubled since 2008 as the company’s aggressive product cadence has produced a series of well-designed vehicles such as the Soul, Forte, Forte Koup, Sorento, Sportage, Optima and now the subcompact Rio and Optima Hybrid.

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The results have been an impressive sales surge. Kia announced best-ever September sales of 35,609 units, an 18.4% increase over the same period last year and the company’s 13th straight monthly sales record. For the year-to-date, Kia’s sales are up 37%, topping 365,000, boosting the company’s market share to 3.9%. The Korean automaker also expects to increase its 2011 market share for the 17th consecutive year, according to Tom Loveless, its vice president of sales.

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Kia’s Hamsters Are Back

And this time they’re dancing to the Soul beat.

by on Aug.26, 2011

Kia's Hamstars are back -- and this time amateur video makers can get into the act.

Kia’s hip-hop hamsters are back and showing again that they’ve got soul.  Make that Soul, with the Korean maker ready to roll out an updated version of its boxy crossover.

The original, 2010 campaign for the Kia Soul introduced the animated stars and created perhaps more of a sensation for the commercial than for the car itself, though the crossover has proven itself a solid seller and a real halo product for the fast-growing brand.

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First shown driving amidst a wasteland of me-too automobiles, the “Hamstars,” as Kia calls them, returned to rap in a second campaign last year.  Now, they’re back and dancing to the sounds of “Party Rock,” the hit by electro-pop band LMFAO in a 60-second spot that somehow combines a music video with a setting that might have come from the popular videogame Halo.

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Kia Takes Ad Award With Hip-Hop Soul Campaign

Making $13 bil in auto ads pay off.

by on Apr.21, 2011

Kia's "ham-stars" take top ad honors.

The incredibly popular Kia hamsters scored big in the 2011 Nielsen Automotive Advertising Award.  The automaker’s latest campaign, which put the soul in the Kia Soul, was named Ad of the Year at a New York Auto Show news conference.

Spending on automotive advertising surged to a record $13 billion in the U.S. last year, carmakers putting about 4,400 different commercials in front of TV viewers in a bid to get potential customers into showrooms.

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“Today’s TV viewer is drinking from a firehose,” said Iain Beavis, Nielsen Automotive’s executive vice president.

The problem, said Beavis, during an event attended by several thousand automotive executives and reporters, is that there are all too many ineffective ads that are “wasting your money.”

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Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Hamsters, hucksters and holidays.

by on May.28, 2010

Kia Responds to Public Demand: Soul’s Hamsters Return

The hip-hop Kia hamsters are making their return.

Those hip-hop hamsters are back.  But we’ll get to the news in a moment.

People either like or dislike television commercials. There’s no such a thing as just okay, all right or average.  Black or white, nothing gray.

The first Kia Soul commercial, (Click Here) became a hit with consumers, said Michael Sprague, the Korean maker’s vice president of marketing, in a phone interview, “It generated over three million total YouTube hits and garnered more Facebook fans than any of its segment competitors.”

I followed up with the question “Is a social network hit equal to the Washington politico saying that every phone, call, letter or email is tantamount to receiving 1,000 calls?”  Sprague’s response was, “Yes!”  Now that’s big time.

The advertising research and creative communities liked it too. It has won major accolades for Kia, whose  advertising agency, David&Goliath, created the first commercial.  Among the kudos: Nielsen’s Top Automotive Ad of the Year, awarded at the 2010 New York Auto Show, and based on direct feedback from consumers. Next month Kia will receive a prestigious Effie Award. High praise indeed.

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Praise however is measured in terms of sales, right?  Sprague noted Kia introduced the Soul, their first car truly aimed at GenY during the worst auto year in history, with an economy in the ceramic receptacle, yet the Soul became the market share leader in its segment in only its second month on sale, and sold more cars than its two chief competitors every month thereafter. The campaign exceeded internal sales goals by over 30%.” Enuf said.

As a former ad guy I had to find out more ‘cause I knew presenting much less selling an idea like this had to be easier said than done.

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Revisionist History: Was the Pontiac Aztek Merely Ahead of its Times?

Progenitor of the Cube, Soul, xB and other funky hip designs - or just plain ugly?

by on Jul.07, 2009

Was it the ugliest vehicle ever made or a trendsetter ahead of its time?  The 2001 Pontiac Aztek is shown here with a pop-up tent, part of an astounding line of accessories that made it the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife on wheels.

Maybe if you put a bag over its...tail? Was the Pontiac Aztek the ugliest vehicle ever made or a trendsetter ahead of its time?

I’m used to having people stare at me when I drive by.  Well, not me, exactly, but the various cars I rotate through, on a regular basis.  Call it the head-turn factor, if you will, for it’s one indication of how well a product stands out in today’s competitive and overcrowded automotive market.

Some vehicles grab your attention because they’re just plain beautiful, the Mercedes-Benz CLS, for example; others because they’re rare and exotic – a Bentley or a Lamborghini.  Then there are the odd ducks that simply stand out, and these days there are a whole bunch of them coming to market.

There’s the Kia Soul, made famous by those hip little hamsters in a commercial that’s gone mega-hot on You Tube.  Nissan’s weighed in with its own offering, the decidedly funky Cube.  And, of course, we can’t ignore the xB, now in its second generation.  The boxy crossover was the product that put Scion, Toyota’s youth-oriented brand-within-a-brand, on the map.

What do they all have in common?  They’re basically all boxes on wheels, and more than a bit retro, with a hint of the classic, full-sized van in their DNA.  That said, their designs are all a bit out of the norm, they’re definitely not minivans, nor are they SUVs.  Each has a decidedly distinctive take on an otherwise fundamentally simple shape.  The asymmetric Cube tries hard to be cute, Scion is L.A. street smart and Soul boasts hip-hop sensibilities, with its flashing interior lights.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comBut above all, they’re designed to deliver maximum functionality – which is, after all, the thing that boxes, or vans, if you prefer, do best.  So, it should be no surprise that the combination of form and function is connecting so well with today’s buyers, especially young ones also attracted to the reasonably low price tag of these three models.

Then again, maybe it should be a surprise.

It wasn’t all that long ago that American buyers turned a big thumbs down on another quirkily-styled box-mobile that attempted to combine incredible functionality and flexibility — arguably a good bit more than the newer Soul, Cube and xB – and a bold styling statement.

I’m referring, of course, to the late and largely unlamented Pontiac Aztek.

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