Subaru shows the upside of being big

The automaker ends siblings' backseat rivalries as part of a push to strengthen its proposition for larger families.

Subaru-auto-adIts smaller SUVs and crossovers helped Subaru Canada reach some of its best sales numbers at the end of a challenging year, but a new campaign is using sibling rivalry to convey the size of its latest SUV – a value proposition that gives the automaker consideration with larger families.

Using a multi-media approach, the campaign for the 2021 Ascent features a series of dramatic slow-motion battles between siblings over who is left with the crammed middle seat – which, after they get into the SUV, they find isn’t that crammed after all.

The new TV spot is accompanied by a more standard series of series of broadcast and online videos showing off features like the vehicle’s towing and rough road capabilities. Out-of-home assets showcase the Ascent as “larger than life” against various landmarks across Canada.

Ted Lalka, SVP, marketing and product development for Subaru, tells strategy that when the Ascent was initially introduced into the marketplace three years ago, the campaign did not do as good a job of conveying that Subaru has a big vehicle that can fulfil the needs of big families.

“To have an effective campaign, you have to have a simple, straightforward message that means something to the audience,” Lalka says, and that means letting people know that Subaru doesn’t just build great smaller vehicles. “Fight for Space,” therefore, sticks to conveying roominess – Lalka jokes that the vehicle even has 19 cupholders – a key campaign objective that differentiates Ascent from the rest of its lineup.

While the spot is more focused on family camaraderie than past efforts, other elements of the campaign touch on Kelley Blue Book resale value and like prior core messaging, address reliability.

“It’s not just about size,” Lalka maintains.

The overall automotive market was down 20% in 2020, he says, and it’s been a tough year for everybody, but Subaru sales were down approximately 9%, which means the brand has fared relatively well.

This week, Subaru Canada announced that it posted its best-ever second half, market share and closing quarter results, bolstered by sales of Crosstrek, a smaller SUV aimed at a slightly younger audience, which had its best December on record. Subaru Canada retailed 16,412 vehicles in the last quarter of 2020, up 6% over the same quarter last year. While it has achieved its highest ever market share, 3.4%, it still trails the likes of Toyota and Honda, which have Canadian share around 12% and 8%, respectively.

The uptick in Subaru sales in the second half of 2020 reflects broader trends of an industry turnaround. According to the latest insights from Stats Canada, automobile dealers’ sales were up 3.2% in Q3, compared with a massive 35.7% decline in Q2. Much of that growth, as has been the case in Canada for years now, is due to SUV and crossover sales.

Lalka attributes the resilience of the SUV category during the pandemic to consumers seeking value and buying something that’s not just eye-catching, but dependable.

The integrated “Fight for Space” campaign also features digital and social initiatives. The campaign was led by Zulu Alpha Kilo, with Agence Rinaldi handling creative for the Quebec market creative and OMD behind the media planning and buying.