TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards: Subaru drives new perspectives, takes home Automotive Award

To launch its 2018 Forester model, Subaru gave the vehicle a new lease of life with a powerful through-the-line campaign.

The Challenge

With the SUV segment being the single fastest-growing part of the New Zealand automotive market, Subaru New Zealand was surprised to find its Forester SUV model sales were not living up to that level of popularity.

In fact, when reflecting on the last five years of sales, all Subaru models were booming, with the exception of the Forester SUV model. The vehicle has lost 47 percent of its segment share between 2013 and 2017.

With the new Forester model launching in September 2018, it had to turn the Forester’s decline around.

Consumer research found consumers did not perceive the Forester as an SUV, rather they considered it a wagon, like other popular Subaru models. On top of this, the popularity of older, used import Foresters from the ‘90s on the road was giving the model a dated perception that did not match the 21st Century reality of one of the most advanced SUVs on the market.

With these insights, Subaru knew it had to counter the misperceptions with a powerful through-the-line campaign.

The Response

Alongside the new 2018 Forrester model came the ‘Upgrade Your Fun’ campaign that worked to change perceptions not only of consumers but also Subaru’s own dealer network.

Careful not to insult drivers of the older models, while at the same time updating the perception of the Forester, the campaign was created to reference the past and hero the future. Subaru’s research found the
Forester was considered an “outdated wagon” rather than a family vehicle so ‘Upgrade Your Fun’ brought in a family connection with a story about how families and their vehicle needs change.

Starting with the beloved old family Forester model, the campaign created a sense of warmth and nostalgia, a playful glance at the way things once were. This was communicated through classic, sentimental products of the ‘90s ranging from wire home phones to supersized skate shoes.

The emotional connection shifted into the future, with skates now hoverboards and landlines now smartphones. The family’s Forester upgraded with them to the latest model, throwing the stylish new design and advanced technology into sharp relief.

To give a single-minded approach, alongside this story, the Forester’s presence was updated on Subaru’s website to relate to the national campaign – often auto websites recycle international material. It also rolled out below- the-line initiatives like teaser EDMs to Forester- probables profiled from its database before launching into the wider market above-the-line with TV, online films, outdoor and social.

Meanwhile Subaru also launched a charm offensive to educate its dealer team about the new Forester and reset their perceptions too, to make sure the campaign delivered all the way through.

The Result

Following the rollout of the campaign, Subaru New Zealand found opinions were far more favourable towards the Forester model across all metrics. The primary objectives to make the Forester ‘more of a family vehicle’ and ‘reshape outdated station wagon perceptions’ weren’t just met, Subaru New Zealand completely reset how consumers perceived the vehicle with high double and even triple- figured gains.

Those changed perceptions have resulted in the Forester’s biggest sales success in two decades since its launch in 1997.


Subaru Forester

Marketing Partners
BC&F Dentsu

Toyota New Zealand x 2

Judge’s Comment
“The judges thought this was a well-crafted marketing program to reengineer the perception of a well-established vehicle. Especially given significant market conditions, outside their control. Strong demonstration of achieved results from their marketing programme.”

This piece was originally published in the 2019 Awards Issue of NZ Marketing magazine. To get a print copy, subscribe here.

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