MY2010 Subaru Outback

Automotive and DIY (GOLD)
Best Launch (GOLD)

Client Credits: Subaru Canada
Ted Lalka, Vice President, Product Planning & Marketing
Geoff Craig, Director of Advertising

Agency Credits: DDB Canada / Toronto
Michael Davidson, Business Lead
Geoff Taylor, Account Director
Andrew Simon, Creative Director
David Ross, Writer/Associate Creative Director
Paul Wallace, Art Director/Associate Creative Director
Jake Ritter, Art Director DM
Carmen Toth, Writer DM
Andrew McCartney, Managing Director
Dre Labre, Creative Director
Dustin Rideout, Digital Strategist
Damian Nimeck, Producer
Missy Kelly, Art Director
Ciara O'Meara, Art Director
Leilah Ambrose, Copywriter
Tiffany Chung, Copywriter

Crossover Notes:
Crossover Notes: All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2012 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 2. Brand Truths.
Crossover Note 3. Core Equity versus Price & Promotion.
Crossover Note 9. Turnarounds.
Crossover Note 10. Conventional Wisdom—should it be challenged?
Crossover Note 25. Brand Linkage (when should the brand name appear).
Crossover Note 33. Changing the Target Audience.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):October 2009 – December 2010
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: October 10, 2009
Base Period as a Benchmark: October 2008 – June 2009

a) Overall Assessment
Outback’s best days were behind it. It had been a key model in the Subaru line-up, accounting for 28% (4,300 cars) of total Subaru unit sales in 2001. Since then, Outback had been in major decline, selling just over 2000 units in 2008, or only 11% of total Subaru unit sales. Outback was no longer relevant to new car buyers and had become a drag on the entire Subaru franchise. We needed to spark growth of the core Outback model in order to get the Subaru brand firing on all cylinders. The challenge was trickier than in the past. Although awareness of Outback was reasonable, familiarity and purchase intent were almost negligible. The model just wasn’t on the consideration list of new car buyers. Those who were familiar with Outback, (including previous and current owners), categorized it in the dying “wagon” segment. The only chance we had was to re-position it as a fresh, new, small SUV. With a Subaru share-of-voice of less than 2%, we needed to compete against deep-pocketed giants like Honda (CRV) and Toyota (RAV4). Although design changes made Outback styling similar to conventional SUV’s (higher clearance, taller, etc.), other functional attributes remained much as they had been. To make it tougher, the whole industry was advertising fire sale prices and incentives to combat the recession, while Subaru planned to maintain pricing and profit margins. [Crossover Note 3] We also had to avoid cannibalizing Forester sales, which we had just finished re-positioning as a small SUV as well.

b) Resulting Business Objectives
> +59% in sales for the 2009/10 launch campaign, in a small Japanese SUV category down -6% in 2008.

> Share increase from 5% to 6% for Subaru overall in the Japanese small SUV segment.

> Dealer traffic up by 10%.

> No cannibalization of Forester.

All this had to be achieved with limited budgets with no other Subaru marketing/sales activities planned during this period.

c) Annual Media Budget
$3 - $4 million

d) Geographic Area
National Canada

a) Analysis and Insight
Through extensive research and insight work we discovered our primary hurdles centered on familiarity and functionality. Most consumers in the segment didn’t know much about Outback, but those that did thought of it as a wagon rather then a small SUV. [Crossover Note 2] We needed to convince people with active lifestyles that Outback wasn’t a wagon, but a legitimate SUV that could take them places other cars couldn’t. While styling was very important to this target, we also uncovered the fact that many didn’t see the current small SUV options as being particularly functional beyond day-to-day city driving. They were open to a new small SUV option that was more “capable”. Based on Outback’s unique symmetrical AWD feature, we knew it could deliver.

b) Communication Strategy
We needed to balance “attractive small SUV styling” with “uniquely capable” performance. This would also differentiate Outback from Forester and its “sexy” position -- important for the objective not to cannibalize sales.

We were also well aware that Outback was not on anyone’s consideration list – a particular challenge in the very loyal, small SUV category. Recent Subaru success with other model launches had taught us to be bold, and build on Subaru’s newly established fun and quirky image. [Crossover Note 10] Many consumers in the segment were looking for an alternative to the big, ordinary brands and Subaru gave these people something unique to discover. We needed to focus on this segment – people that would pay a premium for a unique brand that offered something more.

From this, our Outback communications strategy became “The uniquely capable small SUV”, and this drove all creative development and channel planning work.

a) Media Used
- Television
- Newspaper
- Magazine
- Online/social
- Public Relations

b) Creative Discussion
We had great insight and a sound strategy. But we needed a big idea that could overcome our small share of voice and get noticed.

Outback’s heritage lies in rugged outdoor adventure. Our challenge was to broaden this and talk to a wider audience – not just hard-core outdoor enthusiasts, but regular people who want to be more active; people who want to offset the fact that they are spending more and more time indoors, working longer hours, leaving their cubicles at the end of the day, going home, turning on the TV and computer, and flaking out on the couch. [Crossover Note 33]

We believed that they should experience more of the outdoors, and the highly capable, Japanese engineered Outback could inspire them to do just that. The campaign’s big idea, “Maybe you should get out more” was born. Then we highlighted this by putting our own twist on the infomercial for the Snuggie. Viewers were captivated when their TV screen was suddenly torn down by a man with a crowbar. The spot caught lots of attention and sparked many conversations on YouTube, such as; “I just saw this on tv lol, best commercial ever! Period!”, “Am I allowed to buy a Snuggie and sleep in the back of my Subaru with it? :(“, “I would honestly buy this car just because of how awesome this ad is”. [Crossover Note 25]

The TV was backed by Magazine and Newspaper ads that featured Outback adventurers in serene landscapes that only the Subaru Outback could take you to. These ads all featured “As Not Seen On TV” labels, as well as the Outback’s AJAC accolade.

Shortly after the initial TV flight (which ended November 22nd), we launched the Subaru Outback GetOutMore website. The goal was to spark conversations, and to raise interest and awareness. Once at the GetOutMore site, users were encouraged to visit and dealership sites. The website also featured a contest that motivated visitors to submit more activities on the GetOutMore site. The community chose the winner via online votes. Community Groups were also able to submit activities for a chance to win a $5,000 event sponsorship. The top “likes” for this group also determined the winner.

A direct mail initiative began in December 2009. Recipients were issued a fake TV guide in the mail that folded out to reveal Outback creative. The piece encouraged recipients to test drive the Subaru Outback, and to visit the GetOutMore website for adventure ideas.

Following the website launch, a second flight of TV aired in March 2010. This spot had the same flavor as the original, but this time we made up our own infomercial by creating the now infamous Lap n’ Snack. Social Media and the GetOutMore website continued throughout this time, until the campaign’s end in April 2010.

c) Media Discussion
The campaign began with Magazine, Newspaper and TV in mid-October 2009. All print drove to where people could learn more about the Outback. The GetOutMore website launched in December and used social media to lead consumers to the website and encourage them to use it. The Website was highly successful having 32,870 total visits by the end of the campaign and an average time spent of 2:07 minutes.

a) Sales/Share Results
Sales of 3,386 units during the campaign period (October 2009-April 2010) were more than quadruple sales during the same period the previous year (787 units), or +330%. This continued after the campaign ended, with sales rising by +82% vya for May 2010 – December 2010. [Crossover Note 9]

The seemingly aggressive sales target of +59% was exceeded very early in the campaign. Average monthly Outback sales rose by +214%, from 154 units per month for the 12 months prior to the campaign, to 484 units per month during the campaign period (Oct’09-Apr’10). The campaign also increased qualified showroom traffic for Subaru by +25% across the country.

Impressively, these results were achieved without cannibalizing Forester sales. They grew by +7% during the campaign period and Subaru’s share of the Japanese small SUV segment rose to 8% (June YTD 2010) vs. 5% before the Outback campaign broke. Unanticipated demand caused Outback out-of-stocks across the country and actually limited overall sales results during the campaign period.

The Canadian campaign was considered the most successful launch of the 2010 Outback anywhere in the world, beating all other countries in terms of sales and share growth, and was among the most successful model launches in Canadian automotive history. Subaru reached all-time record sales and share levels in April 2010 - the last month of the Outback campaign - selling 2,640 cars and achieving 5.2% of the total Japanese car/truck segment and 8.30% of the Japanese small SUV segment. No other advertising, promotion or model launch activity was in the market at the time for Subaru.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion
There is a direct linkage between advertising and the sales results for Outback. Here are a few highlights to emphasize the impact:

• Monthly sales velocity was significantly higher during the two paid media campaign waves vs. non-campaign periods
o More than 3 times that of the 12-month average prior to launch (+232%)
o More than 4 times that of the corresponding periods the previous year (+320%)
o Sales declined to +38% vya during the hiatus period between waves (Jan-Feb’10)
o Sales declined to +5% vya during the post paid media period (May-June’10)

• Despite being dramatically outspent by Japanese competitors during the campaign period, and with less than 2% industry share-of-voice, Outback share increased from 5% to 8% - while others were either flat or declined

• No other country in the world came close to the overall sales increases experienced in Canada for the 2010 Outback launch campaign. Subaru Canada’s advertising campaign was unique to this country, with other countries picking up global campaign elements or running their own domestic campaigns.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels: We maintained historical spending levels of previous campaigns, approximately 1-2% share-of-voice

Pricing: We also maintained Subaru premium/full margin price and incentive levels for the launch despite record setting deep discount pricing/incentives across the industry to combat the recession

Distribution Changes: The number of Subaru dealerships has remained constant at approximately 90 dealers for several years, and all dealers carry all models and no change to distribution

Unusual Promotional Activity: Outback net pricing was at an approximate 10% premium to main competitors (CRV, RAV4) during the campaign period. Subaru did not match deep consumer incentives such as $0 down payments, 0% financing, etc. that were rampant during the campaign period among competition. Overall, Outback was at a significant price disadvantage vs. the competition but held ground to maintain value/profitability.

Other Potential Causes: No additional activity or outside influences affected campaign results.