/ February 7, 2018/ 0 comments

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Messaging Tip: Be Your Own Worst Critic to Avoid Being Your Own Worst Enemy


Whether it’s a slip of the tongue or straight up trash talk, nobody likes being on the receiving end of these passive-aggressive comments.

So why would Kia pay millions of dollars for a Superbowl ad to dish out a backhanded comment? Check out the commercial. Specifically, the 1:00 mark where Kia drops its catchphrase for the Stinger GT Sport Sedan.

Video source: CommercialTime

“Feel Something Again”

Tapping into Steve Tyler, Aerosmith’s “Dream On” for a soundtrack, and literally winding back the hands of Father Time with pure horsepower, Kia is trying to reinvoke its target audience’s glory days. With the rock ‘n’ roll and burned rubber, I’m assuming they’re shooting for men in their mid 40s to 50s.

There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia. Buying a car is an emotional decision that comes with a big price tag (about $30K in the Stinger’s case). Selling the audience on feeling younger or tapping into a fountain of youth has been a tactic visited over and over again by the auto industry. And, it works. We’d all like another crack at our youth.

Kia’s message, “Feel Something Again” can be interpreted at least two ways, either: 

  • Turn back time like your Marty and Doc in the Delorean, or
  • Thaw yourself from the numb, bleak depression that is your life.

That’s not the kind of ambiguity you want when you’re selling cars or creating a brand image–let alone when you’re paying for a Superbowl TV ad.

Foot in your mouth is a killer messaging strategy, just not in a good way.

This is an example of ambiguous messaging that leaves a little too much room for interpretation and negative connotation. To be fair Kia isn’t quite as rude as the other examples I used above. But, Kia is not exactly stroking egos, either. Are they suggesting that the audience hasn’t had any fun since 1973? Of course not. But, yesh.

Maybe Kia can use the time-defying technology it put into the Stinger’s engine to get a do-over for that ad.

The lesson here is to take a hard look at your key messages and brand statements. Be skeptical, even cynical. Play devil’s advocate and really beat up your messaging to get to the truth out of your statements.

Faulkner said it best: “Kill your darlings.”

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