Subaru: The 50-Year-Old Brand Built On Love

Read the original article at Forbes.

I don’t know how much stock you put in fate. Or maybe you’re a “it’s just coincidence” kind of person. Regardless of where you fall on the serendipity scale as to why things happen the way they do, one thing that is undeniable is that the brand built on love, Subaru was founded the very same year a certain quartet of British young men released one of their most popular songs ever with a very similar theme to it.

That’s right. In *1967 the same year Subaru was launched The Beatles released All You Need Is Love.



You can decide for yourself.

But the fact is Subaru is one of the most well-known brands in the entire world across any industry. Not an easy feat especially for one which had such an auspicious oh first 40 years or so.

All You Need Is Patience

As they mark their 50th anniversary with a year long celebration, it’s worth noting that Subaru of America was essentially unprofitable for its first 40 years. A cynic would ask why stay in business for so long while not generating much of a profit? So me, playing the role of cynic did just that, posing that very question to Alan Bethke, Senior Vice President, Marketing at Subaru of America.

“Subaru’s first 40 years in the U.S. certainly had its ups and downs,” he acknowledged. “For many of those years, Subaru was not overly successful, but we remained steadfast in our goal of supplying the market with cost-efficient, safe vehicles to satisfy the growing needs of American families and adventure seekers.”

As recent as 2005 in fact sales were stagnant.

Things began to change in late 2006 when a new creative agency, Minneapolis-based Carmichael Lynch was hired and a new set of emotionally charged advertisements followed. In what surely raised eyebrows at the time, instead of buying a Super Bowl slot, the company sponsored Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl.

In 2008 and 2009, Subaru began to see some initial signs of brand improvement and improved awareness among consumers. With increased visibility in the marketplace, Subaru solidified itself as a key contender among many long-established competitor brands.

“In the following years, the Love campaign, inspired by Subaru owners’ love of their vehicles, loved ones, and causes they keep close to their hearts, continued to build a new identity for Subaru,” said Bethke. “Under the notion that ‘Love’ is the uniting factor among the brand’s loyal customer base and ‘It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru,’ we created a personality to compliment the brand’s quality vehicles.

As a result, Subaru picked up additional momentum, including an increasingly positive perception among key constituents and increased consumer consideration for Subaru as their next vehicle purchase.

“Today, Subaru has a demand that exceeds its supply, resulting in 8 consecutive years of record-breaking sales and 9 consecutive years of sales increases,” Bethke added.

Throughout this ongoing journey, the equity that has been built in the Subaru brand has been done in a very deliberate and methodical way which includes many philanthropic endeavors.

“Our customers expect us to do good things in the community and they look for brands they can align with who have similar values,” said Michael McHale, Director, Corporate Communications for Subaru of America. “Not only that, it really helps our internal employees when they see the company do good things; it inspires them to be good in their communities themselves and that’s the same for our retailers too.”

Looking Ahead Part I

As for what the next 50 years holds for Subaru Bethke says that while they are sure to be exciting, there are still many opportunities they hope to leverage.

“We are looking forward to reaching those who align with the Subaru ideals and are newly aware of Subaru as a result of current marketing efforts, but have never considered Subaru in the past.” He cites the the approximately 60% of Subaru sales last year by first-time Subaru buyers as an example.

He is to quick add, however that there is work to be done. “Amid all our success, there are still consumers who lack familiarity with the Subaru brand. Our opportunity moving forward is to continue to be true to Subaru’s identity and core beliefs, while continually expanding our brand’s awareness to this target.”

Looking Ahead Part II

In terms of what lies ahead for the auto industry as a whole the first word that comes to mind for Bethke is: change. “The (auto) industry is currently going through an evolution which will only accelerate in the future.”

“Recently, we’ve seen automotive brands that have left the U.S. market, and brands that have gone out of business.” he said. “As the market continues to get even more competitive, there may be further brand consolidation from those who don’t adapt to the current changes and evolution.”

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