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Savvy and Insightful: How Subaru Reaches its Target Audience


Savvy and Insightful: How Subaru Reaches its Target Audience

In the 1990s, Subaru’s sales were stagnating.

An attempt to break into the luxury market and to compete directly with the likes of Ford, Toyota and others had fallen short. After failed partnerships with trendy advertising agencies, Subaru stumbled onto a marketing revelation: lesbians seemed to love Subaru. They liked the dependability, the size and even the name.

In fact, Alex Mayyasi of Pricenomics writes that lesbians were four times as likely as the average American to purchase a Subaru.

Obviously, there was a potential market ripe for sales opportunities; however, there was a challenge.

During the 1990s, gay and lesbian culture was much more taboo than it is today.

“At the time, in the mid-1990s, few celebrities were openly out,” explains Mayyasi. “A Democratic president had just passed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and after IKEA aired one of the first major ad campaigns depicting a gay couple, someone had called in a bomb threat on an IKEA store.”

So instead of directly and obviously targeting lesbian consumers, Subaru took a subtler approach. They partnered with Mulryan/Nash, an ad agency focused on the gay market. As Oregon Live explains:

“So Subaru [used] taglines with double meanings.

“‘Get Out. And Stay Out’ could refer to exploring the outdoors in a Subaru—or coming out as gay. ‘It’s Not a Choice. It’s the Way We’re Built’ could refer to all Subarus coming with all-wheel-drive — or LGBT identity.

“As Subaru continued to target niche markets, including gay women, its bet paid off, transforming the company’s flat sales into steady growth.”

This is a great example of a company that was savvy and insightful enough to understand and effectively advertise to its target audience.


Moreover, Subaru was able to do this in a way that was coded specifically to its target audience, with the rest of the market largely unaware of the real meaning behind the words. A huge part of the success of this campaign has to be attributed to Subaru’s collaboration with Mulryan/Nash, an agency with insights into the gay community.

This inclusive partnership allowed them to effectively connect with a market that had felt alienated at the time and resulted in positive sales growth for the company. Again, a phenomenal example of the benefits of truly understanding and effectively speaking to your audience.

We call that “key employee demographics required for growth” and this is a great example of exactly why it’s such a powerful concept. How well do you understand, and communicate with your diverse audiences? Be inclusive!

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