Virtually all consumer vehicles are pitched to consumers based on buyer stereotypes. Minivans are for mothers of small to school-age children. Trucks are for gruff guys with tough work to do. Luxury cars are for rich people or people who want to look rich.
To my knowledge, though, no other land mammals were used as pitchmen for cars until 2009, when the Kia Motor Company adopted three hamsters as its spokesanimals.
Somehow Kia has made it work for the Soul, its squared-off small car, which probably is more well-known now as the Hamster Car than by its model name.
In 2008, the David&Goliath creative agency studied the Soul's target demo -- Gen-Y young adults -- and developed the following advertisement for preview by Kia executives.
The commercial, which was set to hip-hop music, invited young adults to see the car as an "alternative to tedium." But still: Hamsters?
Kia bought the idea, and the commercial was aired. Car sales took off. Over the years, Soul cars have become the second most popular Kia cars, after the Optima.
Kia decided to stick with what worked. The next ad featured hip hop music and the three hamsters dancing in hoodies.
Then came a Super Bowl ad in which the Hamsters broke up a stuffy ballet and danced Gangnam style.
Then the hamsters worked out to lose weight.
The most recent commercial, heralding the release of the electric Soul EV, has the hamsters, now fashioned as geeks, electrifying a car and, coincidentally turning a small hamster into a pretty female hamster.
Pieces of the youtube videos have run on television, and the videos have been coordinated with music popular with the Gen-Yers, attracting viewers in the millions.
As to "Why Hamsters?" I think I have an idea. Hip hop music, while appealing to the young, can grate on older ears. The car guys probably didn't want to alienate even the small numbers of post-40-somethings who might be attracted to the Soul with music associated with tough inner-city themes. The solution: Add cute fuzzy dancing animals. Win win.
Five years later, it's still working.