Last week, Kia sold its 1-millionth Soul since the wildly-popular car was released in 2008. As one of our favorite cars on the road passes this historic milestone, we look back at one of the more iconic aspects of the Soul’s rise to global domination: the Kia Hamsters.
They’re cultural icons who have danced and driven to the music of artists like Lady Gaga and Maroon 5. Their image has graced TV screens, billboards, and human-sized cardboard cutouts. Theirs is the only automotive ad campaign ever immortalized at the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame, the advertising industry’s equivalent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So how did four fur-balls become marketing royalty?
The rise of TV’s favorite hamsters started with Los Angeles advertising agency David & Goliath. In a strange twist of fate, their Kia campaign won them the 2010 Silver EFFIE award for most effective advertisement in the David vs. Goliath category, which pays tribute to up-and-coming companies.
While it’s easy to see these music-loving, jewelry-wearing rodents as nothing more than cutesy brand mascots, Kia trusted the promotion of its award-winning Soul with hamsters for a reason: hamsters can be seen as a “metaphor for sameness,” routinely spending their days toiling away without actually going anywhere. Kia’s hamsters have broken out of their wheel, and as a result have developed a style and sophistication all their own.
As silly as super-sized hamsters may seem, their 2009 debut coincides with Kia’s surge relative to its competitors. This is likely not coincidental; Kia’s most inventive and eye-catching ad campaign announced that a brand once known for its low prices was now in direct competition with brands known for high-quality, fun-to-drive vehicles. The hamsters brought home the 2010 Nielsen Automotive Ad of the Year award, and following the rise of its rodent ambassadors, Kia debuted its first Super Bowl commercial.
We have experienced the impact of the Kia hamsters first hand. Before the Soul became instantly recognizable to many drivers, customers came in asking to test-drive “the hamster car.” The Soul has come a long way since then, but the new 2016 Soul Electric Vehicle stands as proof of what the hamster campaign was saying all along: there’s no better way to break up the monotony of life than getting behind the wheel of a Kia.