• Stephen

Subaru – Basic for All

Japanese cars are known for their reliability and efficiency.  They are widely popular for the average driver who just needs to get to where they need to go.  Most do not care about their image, nor are they trying to make a statement.  However, one Japanese manufacturer has been aggressively creating a unique image for itself, and targeting highly specific markets.  Yes, Subaru, the car manufacturer that most people do not even know or associate with being Japanese.  Subaru’s have generally connected with two different broad markets – young motoring enthusiasts and the woodsy outdoors type.

Photo Credit: subaru.com

With Subaru’s legacy and dominance on the world rally stage, the Impreza (specifically) gave Subaru a reputation as a cool manufacturer.  For parents, they knew that their small flat 4-cylinder boxer engines were reliable, and with a turbo added, teenagers knew they had a usable peppiness like that of an excited puppy.  Abundant after-market parts also left the car’s layout to be easily customized and modified to their desire.  For the outdoors folk, Subaru’s all-wheel drive (AWD) provided comfort that any terrain can be conquered (most likely pinecones, mud, and maybe some snow).  Combine that with utility of the Outback or Impreza hatchback, and you add the ability to lug a tent, some friends, and a few big boxes of granola bars.

Photo Credit: glaad.org

These two markets were quite lucrative for Subaru, but it was not good enough for them.  There were still plenty of alternatives for consumers from these markets to choose from.  Subaru had a decision to make.  Expand their market further, or target their competition directly. Ultimately, they decided to expand their market further, but they went outside of the box(er), went all in, and targeted very specific sub-markets.  What were these sub-markets?  Dogs (or people with dogs), and the LGBT community.  Subaru was one of the first car manufacturers to do such a thing.  It was a gamble, but my, did it work.  By showing advertisements of dogs driving Subaru’s, it caught the attention of families where their pet dog is just another member of the family, or even their favorite member of the family.  This would make them think, “A Subaru would make my dog happier”, especially with Subaru’s ad-slogan, “Dog Tested. Dog Approved”.  Subaru’s cunning advertisements were to thank for this success, and their traction in LGBT community, which used suggestive but unobtrusive slogans such as, “Get out.  And stay out”, and “Built for everyone out there”.


So what was the result of all of this?  Subaru’s became the manufacturer of choice for all walks of life, from the “angsty” youth, to the earthy hipster.  It developed a strong image to different people.  Because of this, you see them everywhere.  However, to me this collectively adds up to a “basic” image.  Yes, I am grouping it with the likes of the PSL (pumpkin spice latte), and the North Face fleece.  See, so many people have them that these images all blend.  You cannot differentiate yourself anymore in a Subaru, which was the original purpose of these marketing campaigns.  Maybe this is because they also have the most amount of cars still running on the road (a self-claimed accomplishment), but I believe their fantastic marketing strategy has cannibalized itself.  In the end, leaving it back with the Honda’s and Toyota’s they were initially trying to steer away from.

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