The Player: Anderson makes mission of building on Kia's maturity

By Published on .

Wally Anderson, Kia Motors America's first VP-marketing since spring 2000, is on a mission to raise the profile of the South Korean importer.

The Cleveland native and auto industry veteran arrived at Kia on April 1 from Mercedes-Benz USA, where he spent the last decade. Mr. Anderson inherits a major research project to develop a long-range strategy that will differentiate Kia from its sibling, Hyundai Motor America. The two were competitors until Hyundai acquired Kia in late 1998.

"My biggest challenge is to establish a unique brand position in the U.S. that is distinct from Hyundai and to get U.S. consumers familiar with our broad product lineup," he said.

Mr. Anderson, 49, wants future ads from independent davidandgoliath, Los Angeles, to discuss the features and benefits of each model vs. the retail-driven model ads of its past that focused more on low prices. "We have some wonderful product news we want to talk about, how Kia is a smart choice for our customers," he said.

And he wants more of them. Research shows Kia has strong brand awareness but fewer than one in 10 consumers are familiar with specific Kia models. He`s also considering changes in Kia's media mix of heavy TV to "more direct types of marketing," including relationship marketing, direct and the Internet.

The marketer has targeted sales of 260,000 units this year vs. some 223,000 last year. Mr. Anderson expects his ad budget to be slightly higher than 2001, when Kia spent $204.6 million in measured media, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

"Kia achieved remarkable growth when you consider this is only its eighth year in the marketplace," he stated. "Now we have to work on the things that go with being more mature."

He reports to Peter Butterfield, Kia's chief operating officer, who arrived from Ford Motor Co.'s Volvo Cars of North America last fall.

A 310% INCREASE

After getting his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Miami University, Ohio, and a master's degree in finance and marketing from Ohio State University, he started at Ford Motor Co. in 1977 as a product-planning analyst. He also had stints at both American Motors Corp. and Chrysler, where he worked on brands such as Jeep, Eagle and Dodge. He joined Mercedes-Benz in 1992 as general manager-product management and was part of the team that launched C-Class in 1993 and later spearheaded development of the brand's first sport utility. Since 1995, as general manager of the Chicago region, he led his 15-state team to a 310% increase in sales over a five-year period, doubling Mercedes-Benz' market share in the region.

George Peterson, president of consultancy AutoPacific, worked with Mr. Anderson at Ford and said his main strength is his wide breadth of experience, which includes product planning, marketing and sales. "He has a really good base of experience. He's obviously a sharp guy."

Fast Facts

Name: Wally Anderson

Age: 49

Now: VP-marketing, Kia Motors America

Challenge: Familiarize consumers with the difference between Kia and Hyundai

In this article:
Most Popular