Subaru pits the Outback against a goat

The automaker's biggest vehicle launch takes a different perspective on 'performance' to get the new model and its brand to stand out.


Subaru is making the “G.O.O.A.T.” (“Greatest Outback Of All Time”) the subject of its biggest ever marketing push behind the launch of a new vehicle.

A recent campaign for the 2020 Outback model pits the station wagon against a mountain goat in traversing a rugged landscape. In addition to playing off the acronym for “Greatest Of All Time,” the goat is a formidable opponent, putting its hooves against the Outback’s all-wheel drive system, or its leaping ability against the vehicle’s ground clearance – though the animal falls short when it comes to carrying a canoe.

Ted Lalka, VP of marketing and product management at Subaru Canada, says the main goal behind the campaign is to be disruptive and memorable, with the creative approach not only being humorous, but giving it a different perspective to highlight and compare its competitive features and benefits. While bearing some resemblance to SUVs and crossover vehicles, the Outback is classified as a station wagon, and Subaru has positioned the vehicle as “the unique alternative among a sea of SUVs out there,” Lalka says, as the SUV segment has regularly been the most active within the Canadian automotive market in recent years.

“What we try to do, in an entertaining way, is convey an overall impression of the vehicle being fun and one that you can enjoy, but also provide some tangible reasons as to why the Outback is a great vehicle for you,” Lalka says. “When we talk about performance from an SUV standpoint, it’s not just acceleration or handling. It’s also the performance of enjoying yourself while doing things within an active lifestyle.”

To that end, the campaign doesn’t focus on “performance in the traditional sense,” Lalka says, which means covering engine performance and handling, but also things that contribute to a more enjoyable vehicle experience. A series of 15-second spots use the format to highlight things like the fact that 98.7% of Outbacks sold in the last ten years are still on the road, its 12-speaker audio system or its cargo space.

Lalka says that while the Subaru name is generally well-known and highly regarded among consumers, many drivers still associate the brand with the “small, quirky-looking” models of the late ’80s and early ’90s, such as the BRAT, Rex, Vivio and Sumo. He attributes this to the brand having spent a relatively small amount on marketing over the years.

“Our job is to really get people to become aware of Subaru and get them to take a look at what the current lineup of vehicles looks like,” Lalka says. “We try to retain all the things that are important to the brand, like a solid reputation for safety, the ability to go anywhere, excellent engineering and durability, but we’re trying to refresh that with the stylish new exteriors and comfortable interiors.”

This is the first major integrated campaign created by Zulu Alpha Kilo for Subaru, though the agency has handled some smaller campaigns since being named the automaker’s Canadian AOR in February. Creative in Quebec is being handled by Agence Rinaldi, with media by OMD.

Lalka describes the campaign as Subaru’s “largest launch ever,” covering nearly every platform: the campaign began with teasers on social media, and has now launched nationally with TV, cinema, digital, OOH and print, as well as in-dealership activations. In addition to helping with broader brand awareness, Lalka says Suburu decided to give the Outback a major push because it has the widest appeal within its vehicle lineup, across age and gender demographics.