Two decades ago, Subaru struggled to make ends meet, but a clever ad campaign changed Subaru’s fate, according to an article on NPR.
“In the early ’90s, Subaru was fighting to compete with giants like Toyota and Nissan. Sales were slumping,” says Noel King of Our Planet Money. “Dealers were nervous. But there was one bright spot for Subaru – their four-wheel-drive cars.”
Subaru decided to investigate their client base. They concluded that their most loyal customers were lesbians.”They loved that they could handle all types of weather and were roomy.”
So, against the standards of the time, and at the risk of “alienating heterosexual consumers,” Subaru developed a subtle, yet powerful ad campaign with the lesbian community in mind.
“License plates read Xena lover (ph) – X-E-N-A-L-V-R,” a nod to lesbian hero, Lucy Lawless of Xena Warrior Princess, and “one of them [read] P-Towny,” a nickname for Provincetown, Mass, the most popular LGBT vacation destination in the country.
As sales numbers rose, Subaru hired their lynchpin, tennis hero and out lesbian icon, Martina Navratilova, as their spokeswoman.
“She was on mainstream television commercials promoting the cars. She was in print ads promoting the cars. She was in outdoor billboard advertising promoting the cars,” says marketing guru Pam Derderian, who originally introduced Navratilova to Subaru.
“In the last 10 years, its market share has doubled,” reports King.
There’s no denying that the lesbian community loves their Subarus (nicknamed “Lesbarus” to some). “I’ve driven a Subaru for so many years you could measure them in decades,” says Liz Reasey of King of Prussia, Pa. “I like the company’s support for our community, and I adore all wheel drive. In my opinion, nothing is as good as a Subaru.’
“We had Subaru as family cars growing up,” says Grace Litka of Upper Providence, PA. Litka and her partner of over 30 years, Tory Bright, now own a 2013 Outback that they purchased from Fred Beans in Doylestown and they take their car for service at Piazza Subaru of Limerick, previously Welsh Subaru. “The staff is friendly and knowledgeable.”
“We have three to four same sex couples per month purchase vehicles from our showroom,” reports Patrick Gilbert, Manager at Piazza Subaru. “While we don’t have market-specific handouts in the showroom, the TV marketing of the 90’s has stuck.”
To read more about Subaru’s LGBT marketing strategy, click here.
To find your closest Subaru, click here.