Capitalizing on the buzz surrounding its Super Bowl ad, “Walken Closet” with Christopher Walken, Kia showed hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Optima to assembled members of the media.
Some automakers hire live musicians to perform during auto show press conferences, including some pretty big names. To burnish its credentials as a youth-oriented brand, Kia had a decent rock band made of teenage students studying at the School of Rock.
(Maybe it says something about today’s music, but the oldest kid in the band was 18 and every song the band played was a hit before he was born. T-Rex’s “Bang A Gong” was probably released before some of their grandparents had met. I think the most recent song was Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, which came out in 1993.)
A few minutes later, I realized that marketers for the Korean automaker missed a great opportunity to further hype its midsize sedan.
The band played before Kia Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Michael Sprague delivered his prepared presentation, which included showing the Christopher Walken ad. They also played as the new models arrived on stage, with the Optima hybrids being introduced before the new Niro hybrid utility.
The song used to play-in the Optimas: Blue Oyster Cult – “Don’t Fear The Reaper.”
You read the headline. Do I have to tell you that’s the song at the heart of Walken’s rather famous “more cowbell” sketch from “Saturday Night Live”?
As soon as I heard the opening lick, I realized that Kia missed an opportunity.
Kia already has Walken on its payroll. In addition to the Super Bowl ad, Walken has done voiceovers for other Kia commercials, which hype the Optima as the midsize sedan for non-conformists much like the “Walken Closet” spot. If Kia really wanted to show what “wild and crazy guys” they are, how hard would it have been for Sprague to introduce the new Optima, hand the mic or video screens to Walken (“and now a few more words from Christopher Walken”), then play Walken saying, “and now, more cowbell”?
Kia also used the occasion of the 2016 Chicago Auto Show media preview for the world debut of their all-new — and at least partially electron powered — compact crossover, the *Niro.
By entering the hottest segment of the market with a vehicle that will be introduced as hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, Kia is taking a risk that American frackers won’t be able to make a profit at sub $30/barrel crude oil prices. That’s a bold move even without considering all of the preparatory wells drilled in the U.S. waiting for the price to go up again. That may keep oil prices low even after the Saudis throttle down their oil exports (which they can’t really afford to do since they need the revenue to keep the kingdom financially solvent; they just raised domestic Saudi gasoline prices by as much as 50%).
*With that name, they better avoid the fire problems that Jeep, Tata and Ferrari have had with some of their early production cars.