How did Subaru of America build on its niche lifestyle targeting to become a mass-market car brand?
When Subaru marketers went searching for people willing to pay a premium for all-wheel-drive, they identified four core groups who were responsible for half of the company’s American sales: teachers and educators, healthcare professionals, IT professionals, and “rugged individualists” (outdoorsy types).
Then they discovered a 5th: lesbians.
“When we did the research, we found pockets of the country like Northampton, Massachusetts, and Portland, Oregon, where the head of the household would be a single person—and often a women,” says Tim Bennett, former Director of Advertising. When Subaru marketers talked to these customers, they realized these women buying Subarus were lesbian.
The more thoughtful rugged individualists (of all sexual orientations) may one day conclude that they don’t fit into a “you are what you drive” motif. Conformity comes in all shapes and sizes.
It would be useless to battle social norms when it comes to automotive marketing. In fact, you want to embrace them wholeheartedly. Gray-bearded English professors drive a Toyota Prius; rich white kids in the suburbs drive a BMW 320i; hippies drive a VW; gentleman ranchers drive a Ford F-150; and lesbian nurses who love glamping on the weekend drive a new Subaru Forrester.
Just wondering out loud here…what do the Subaru abstainers (in their target demo) drive? An expensive bicycle?
There’s something offensive about personas and micro-targeting, at the same time no company can be everything to everyone. To thrive, a brand needs to build a core community aorund its key attributes and values, and let the waves ripple out from there.
Let’s go back in time to the roots of Subaru’s advertising for more clues on how a “movement” of brand loyalists is shaped and supported.
From the get-go, Subaru was an affordable alternative with a mod look-and-feel.
Pedestrian but sexy.
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