CASSIES Silver: Subaru takes on life’s adventures

The car company targeted "real" outdoors people by ridiculing "faux" experiences.

This story appears in the February/March 2016 issue of strategy.

Silver: Off to a Good Start

Situation Analysis:

The Subaru Outback had endured a roller-coaster performance over the past decade, accounting for anywhere between 28% and 11% of Subaru total sales. A successful re-launch in 2009 had run out of steam by 2013, with volume back down to 16.6% of total Subaru sales. Although awareness of Outback was reasonable, familiarity and purchase intent were almost negligible, a situation not helped by the 2% brand share-of-voice. With no significant updates to the model on the horizon, and prices/margins not being reduced, something needed to be done to meet Subaru’s stretching targets of increases in purchase intent, sales by 10%, and market share from 4.1% to 5%.

Insight & Strategy:

Research identified the key to success was how the Outback was positioned against other “Intermediate” SUVs. Most SUVs have “off road adventure” as a key part of their selling message, even though the vast majority of people never leave the comfort and reassurance of paved roads. Category buyers liked the “idea” of being adventurous, but at best, they would indulge in soft adventure, like a trip with friends to the local park. On the other hand, Subaru buyers were looking for “actual” adventures, like trips deep into real parks like Algonquin, based on the Outback’s unique station wagon/SUV mix of features and capabilities. The target would be “real outdoors people,” who appreciated being in the moment and didn’t just have adventures so they could document and share them with friends.


Running nationally from August 2014 to March 2015 across television, cinema, out-of-home, press and online, and supported by an annual equivalent spend of over $5 million,

“Equipped for Life’s Authentic Adventures” ridiculed the “faux” outdoor experience versus the “authentic.”


During the campaign period, unit sales increased 76% versus the prior year, far exceeding objectives of 10%, while the total category only grew 4%, meaning that market share in the Intermediate SUV segment doubled from 4.1% prior to launch to 8.2% by February 2015. Purchase intent also increased from 4.6% in May 2013 to 7.4% in December 2014, well above the campaign objective of 5%. Sales velocity increased from an average of 507 units per month (August 2013 to March 2014) to 995 units per month during the campaign period, increasing average retail sales by more than $15 million per month.

Cause & Effect:

Despite a lack of significant model changes, there were no special pricing incentives during the campaign period in the face of more aggressive promotions by competitors. Outback net pricing remained at approximately a 10% premium to the competition. Historical spending levels were maintained at approximately 2% share-of-voice and the number of Subaru dealers across the country remained constant at 92.


Client: Subaru Canada

Director of marketing: Geoff Craig

Agency: DDB Canada

CCO: Kevin Davis

ECD: Paul Wallace

CD: Rob Sturch

CW: Domenique Raso

AD: Rebecca May

Agency producers: Sue Bell, Marie-Pierre Toure, Tara Greguric, Stefan Fabich, Caroline Clarke, Catherine Kim

SVP, business unit director: Michael Davidson

Account director: Scott Barr

Account supervisor: Julia Morris

Account executives: Mike Johnson, Lindy Scott

Account services intern: Samantha Wanjiru

SVP, director of strategic planning: Tony Johnstone

Strategist: Annie Seyffert

Developers: Dana Brousseau

Production company: The Corner Store

Director: Jorn Haagan

Line producer: Jane Thomson

Post-production company: Rooster Post

Editor: Marc Langley

Assistant editor: Nick Greaves

Finishing facility: Fort York VFX

Flame artist: Paul Binney

Flame assistant: James Marin

Colour facility: Alter Ego

Colourist: Eric Whipp

Audio house: RMW Music

Audio house producer: Dustin Anstey; Audio House Engineer: Kyle Gudmundson

Print producer: Tara Greguric, Betty Lyver

Print production: Jason Taylor, Mac Production Artist; Kirk Broadhead, Mac Production Artist

Photographer: George Simhoni

Retoucher: Mark Tyler