Not quite Kiwi, but still Kiwi as: Subaru trumpets its connection to New Zealand

Subaru might hail from Japan, but the car brand has done a pretty solid job of integrating itself into the local landscape over the last few decades.

Whether it’s on the rally track, in suburban Auckland or on some desolate beach up north, you don’t need to look far to see the blue and silver insignia pasted onto a vehicle.

It’s this connection to the local market that Barnes, Catmur & Friends Dentsu was looking to tap into in a new 60-second spot for the brand.

“I’ve always thought it was the perfect car for New Zealand,” says Barnes, Catmur & Friends Dentsu managing partner Paul Catmur.

“I’m on my third one already, and I bought my first one before I even started working on the account.”

New Zealand is an important market for the brand, in that Subaru ownership here is among the highest per capita in the world.

And Kiwi love for the vehicle doesn’t seem to be diminishing, with Motor Industry Association numbers showing that Subaru sold 2,663 cars over the course of 2016 (up from the 2,268 in 2015 and 1,823 in 2014).

This recent sales data is particularly encouraging for the brand, given that it comes after the company discontinued the Legacy, traditionally its bestselling model in the local market.

The Legacy previously accounted for a quarter of Subaru sales each year, meaning that its removal left a significant gap in the sales portfolio.

When the Legacy was removed, the marketing team shifted focus to the Subaru Outback, hoping to pull loyal customers across.

The approach worked and Subaru sales increased by 25 percent between 2014 and 2015, far surpassing the passenger car market growth of five percent.

As an interesting aside, Subaru’s international marketing strategy has also been commended for being progressive, thanks in large part to the inclusion of lesbian consumers in its advertising throughout the 1990s. 

Former Subaru director of advertising told the Atlantic that the brand identified five core groups of consumers that loved the cars—educators, health-care professionals, IT professionals, outdoorsy types and lesbians—and then proceeded to develop ads that appealed specifically to these people.

“I can’t emphasize enough that this was before there was any positive discussion [of LGBT issues],” Bennett said.

While other car brands avoided the issue, Subaru supported gay pride events, donated to lesbian causes and hired former tennis star Martina Navratilova to star in ads.

The marketing approach worked so well that people still joke today in American media about the affinity lesbian drivers have with the Subaru. If anything, this serves as a reminder of how effective marketing can be at cultivating perceptions in society.     

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