Posted by: David Kiley on March 18, 2005
Subaru of America on Monday will start a new advertising campaign with a new brand strategy from a new ad agency that will begin a process by which the Japanese automaker long known as the sensible shoes of the auto industry will attempt to be taken more seriously as a competitor to Volvo and Acura instead of Volkswagen and Honda.
“Think. Feel. Drive” is the new ad theme for the automaker in the U.S., and the new campaign has been created by DDB Needham, New York, which won the account last Fall. Subaru already uses the line in Japan and U.K., and is committed to rolling it out globally. Ironically, the slogan was written by TM Advertising, Irving, Texas, which was fired last year.
The first ads under the new theme include a newspaper ad and TV spot. The newspaper ad is a wordy manifesto explaining what Subaru means by advertising “Think. Feel. Drive,” and directs people to www.thinkfeeldrive.com. It’s hard to say how many consumers will actually read it, but it works to get dealers on board with the campaign. The TV spot that breaks Monday night is a clever piece of work that communicates relevance to the fact that all Subarus come with all-wheel drive as standard equipment. All of the cars on the road except the Subaru Legacy are driving on just their two front wheels, tails in the air. The voiceover says that it never made sense to Subaru to only use two wheels if there are four on the car.
Subaru is an icon brand to those who buy them. [disclaimer: I have owned two Subarus and currently drive one]. It is not uncommon, especially in Great Lakes states and New England, which experience harsh winters and road conditions, to button-hole people at backyard barbecues and talk about how Subarus are far superior to SUVs in worrisome road conditions. Subaru owners all have Subaru stories. Car and Driver writer Ron Kiino says Subaru owners… “are like malamutes. We don’t mean to imply that they have fluffy, long hair or that they thrive in frigid weather or that they bounce when they walk—okay, maybe we are implying that—but rather that they are loyal. Plain and simple: They love their cars so much they lapse into baby talk and call them Subies.”
For all that satisfaction, though, the one thing Subaru hasn’t given its owners up to now is a legitimate SUV or minivan that can carry seven passengers. That comes later this year in the form of the B9 Tribeca, a sleekly sculptured piece of work carved by a former Alfa-Romeo designer. But with pricing expected well North of $35,000 properly featured, it’s going to enter comparisons against Acura MDX, Volvo XC90 and Volkswagen Touareg (which shares a body platform with the Porsche Cayenne and thus gives it clearer luxe bonafides).
U.S. Subaru ownersd are used to thinking of their brand as an LL Beane backpack or trusty pair of Birkenstock or Dr. Marten shoes. In Japan, though, Subaru is thought of more as an entry-level BMW. Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, wants the BMW comparisons to trump those of Birkenstocks.
“There’s a certain amount of education that has to be tackled in the advertising,” admits DDB chief creative officer Lee Garfinkel who worked on Subaru advertising in the 1980s when the company’s slogan was “Inexpensive. And Built To Stay That Way.” Not even Garfinkel in those days could envision a $40,000 Subaru. Let’s see if the Subaru loyalists can. In any case, the new ads look like a good start.