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Subaru Tries "Think. Feel. Drive." as New Ad Idea With New Agency.

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 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.

Reader Comments

Cathy White

July 2, 2005 8:52 AM

Subaru's new TV ad campaign for the Tribeca is disgusting. The "Dust in the Wind" song is accompanied by video of other cars falling apart when the Tribeca drives by. One shot even shows a dog and driver falling on the pavement after a Tribeca passes it. I find this ad very disturbing. It is the first time in advertising history that I can remember a company positioning their product as causing other products to disintegrate. Shame on you, Subaru.

chad doane

December 7, 2005 2:18 PM

Subaru get some leverage out of your rally driver agreement with Ken Block; co-founder and president of Action Sport focused DC Shoes in 2006. Roll Out a Impreza WRX co-branded with DC Shoes and you'll leap frog Toyota's Scion and Honda in the 18 to 25 youth import auto market.

pamela meacher

June 2, 2007 9:15 AM

I drive a pre-loved top of the line loaded to the eyeballs, Outback. I just love it!!

I have worked hard and feel that I deserve to drive a car of this quality,so to anyone who asks how I like my Subaru I describe it like this......

"It is like driving cream."

I think approaching the Subaru as a luxury product instead of a destructive one would leave people with a 'glow' rather than an agressive approach to driving.( your Tibeca advertisement)

I believe there is too much negativity is this commercial world. Don't forget that many of your prospestive clients are women that appreciate a little pampering.

Pamela Meacher.


November 28, 2008 3:54 PM

what`s the song name in the commercial

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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