• Nov 3, 2010
Subaru Car Commercial (YouTube).

Subaru has long cultivated its reputation as a brand for nonconformists. Its cars, with their all-wheel-drive systems and boxer engines, have always set the brand outside the technological mainstream, just as its marketing has often spoken to a devoted owner base at the niche level. But its latest campaign, called, "Mediocrity," stokes the brand's rebellious image with a scathing and sarcastic criticism of its competition.

The campaign includes TV ads but it's mostly based around a website http://www.subaru.com/content/static/fightmediocrity/index.html that pretends to introduce the new 2011 Mediocrity, a car so boring that it's only available in beige. The website may, in fact, set a record for using the most different shades of beige, a perfect complement for the most uninspiring vehicle you have likely ever laid eyes on. But this fake car, the Mediocrity, is actually a thinly disguised, previous-generation Kia Optima. And that's what makes the whole endeavor interesting, that Subaru is so openly cynical about its competition, and by extension, the state of the midsize sedan market in general.

The website is actually quite funny, with plenty of clever stuff, like a quiz to evaluate whether or not you are right for the car. Questions include: "I think it would be fun to: A. Jump out of an airplane B. Weave a basket or two" and "I would like to be a professional: A. Volcano Diver B. Burlap Sack Manufacturer." After I completed the quiz, I was told, "Unfortunately, the testing results show that you are not mediocre enough for the 2011 Mediocrity. We suggest the following tips to help take your mediocrity up a notch: Prune a Shrub, Stop Using Exclamation Points, Buy a Rock Tumbler, Detangle a Garden Hose." Of course all this has to have a payoff for Subaru, which comes in a link back to the Subaru website that's disguised with this kind of verbiage: "Or click here to drive a car more suited to your lifestyle." On the Subaru site, there's a video of the Legacy with the tagline "Fight Mediocrity." While this is all fun and clever, I have my concerns whether quite a few people are going to get lost before they ever get to the Subaru site itself.

Beyond the website, there are three ads that seem to be in rotation right now. The first is simply called "2011 Subaru Mediocrity".

The second is called "Designers" and feels like so many other car ads we have seen where the designers pontificate on their brilliance, but this one does it in reverse.

The last is called "Spokesman". Again, another tried and true auto ad tactic done in jest.

The campaign is really anti-auto industry insofar as Subaru is poking fun at the hype that is typically associated with auto launches. You know what I mean, the ads where the announcer brags about the latest amazing innovation or styling element. (The premise is not entirely new, as you may recall Nissan Altima's "The Cure for the Common Car" campaign.

But any anti-establishment concept like this is also wrought with obvious risk.

First, I have had more than one person ask me if the Mediocrity vehicle was a real car. Now I have to think that most would see the obvious parody, but one can never make too many assumptions when it comes to what people might believe. (Look at the world of politics if you don't believe me.) Next is that people might be turned off by the parody itself and feel as though it is insulting. Then there are others who might actually believe that Subaru does not care or is not taking the business of making cars seriously.

Then there is the issue that while it may be fine to poke fun at the big boys -- in this case taking aim at Toyota or Ford -- it is not very credible when you are not next in line for the sale.

Subaru's sales have actually done quite well over the past three years with 2009 being their best ever at 216,652 vehicles sold, which was a 15 percent increase over 2008. This year Subaru's sales increases on a percentage basis are among the strongest in the business. Yet Subaru still barely scratches the top 10 automotive companies. In a market where there are dozens of new car entries, and much discussion of new car companies (think Tesla), Subaru rarely breaks through. And regardless of the clutter in the automotive space, Subaru has little brand consideration.

As marketers, one of our first goals is to get on the shopping lists, we call it the "consideration set," of as many consumers as possible. The next goal is to get the customer to the dealership or at least to a website where the customer can price and equip a vehicle and hopefully request a quote or find a dealer. Unless you can get yourself on that shopping list, you struggle mightily. Subaru it seems, has been doing a decent job of gaining some traction, but when the competition is outpacing it exponentially, these slight gains may be insignificant. Subaru is not only not next in line to Toyota and Ford, but it is about eight slots away. So the believability factor for a vehicle that is not on that consideration set seems far fetched.

That said, I tend to see more of the positives in this campaign -- but I am always going to give credit to the company that is not afraid to step out of the norm to make a statement and gain some attention for their brand. In this case, what does Subaru have to lose? They are admittedly at the bottom of the auto manufacturing pack in terms of sales and awareness. They have seen some gains in sales but are likely seeking far more than the incremental sales they have been achieving so far. They are also probably quite convinced that their current customer base, one that has a slightly higher level of education, disposable income and is geographically located at the edges of the country, will see the humor in this parody and will be all the more emotionally attached to the brand as a result.

At the end of the day, as with all ad campaigns, the success will be seen in the showroom. My prediction is that this will work in favor of Subaru, providing more attention and delivering a brand image of smart, funny, and out-of-the-norm. All of which are refreshing in the sea of sameness -- the mediocrity -- that we are often subjected to.


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  • 89 Comments
      • 14 Hours Ago
      Where can I buy one?
      • 14 Hours Ago
      After owning a Ford and a Toyota, I decided that I needed a car that I could grow into, and that would last me more than 4 years...I was looking towards having adventurous road trips with my new husband and hopefully starting a family soon. My bro-in-law had a Subaru WRX (all suped up, of course, w/ 400 at the wheel) and he LOVED it. He kept telling me to buy a Subaru. So, I looked into what my choices were for a small, cross-over SUV type car that wasn't too big and didn't guzzle too much gas, but was still sporty and hardy and big enough for a family. I was buying right before the recession, and gas was expensive, so I started with hybrids. Saturn Vue, Ford Escape...then I looked at the Toyota Rav4, Honday CRV and some others. But...I absolutely fell in love with the 2009 Subaru Forester. I also figured that having an AWD vehicle would make it more versatile. I bought the Forester...and it is AWESOME. I love it! Best car I've ever driven. It may be may favorite possession, second only to my wedding ring. And as if to confirm my choice, Motor Trend named the 2009 Forester the car of 2009 and it had the highest safety ratings. Yes, the Subaru is a little cooky. The people that drive them are usually from Santa Cruz or Berkeley, they where berkenstocks, they don't where deodorant, and they hike a lot. BUT, I'm here to say that middle of the road people like me can also enjoy a Subaru. I will never own another brand of car EVER again. Unless I fall into some money, then I'll buy a 60's or 70's muscle car and shred up the highway. But that won't happen, so SUBARU FOR LIFE!
      miamigold
      • 14 Hours Ago
      This has to be a bad nightmare!,a joke! and a bad one at that,this is worse then when Coca Cola did new coke.Myself Being in the Auto Industry since 1980,Selling,Inspecting,and in all Aspect. Subaru has it's market share,it's actually a Basic fair built Car,no frills,just a good dependable Car. Japanase built quality,but this new line if you look at the facia the grille is horrendous,to be nice. The facia will affect cooling down the road guaranteed,not enough air into the radiator and main engine area.The door handle symetric looks like if they are glued on,..The Ad Campaign is SOO NEGATIVE,That Words aren't enough.The indiviuals that approved this should be fired,STAT!,The ad team FIRED,NEVER EVER PROPOSE ANY IDEAS TO SUBARU.Subaru Committed Marque Suicide, the only market for this Vehicle is third world countries.And to make matters worse the Ad car the Worst color,white!,Atleast in Black you get a ray of hope.I don't think I will sleep for a few nights,with this horrendous Ad,..Subaru,I once had respect for you guys,but this Ad!, Are you guys that Ignorant?Dumb?Stupid?or just ready to file for BK?OMG!..Good luck moving the metal,get your fleet guys to unload them quick,quick,quick..Let's hope next year people forget the AD.Actually,why don't you guys just CEASE!the AD'S PERIOD.No Ad Campain,or destroy that and start fresh next year.God help you guys..
      • 14 Hours Ago
      I stereotype subaru owners: An individual that has all the time in the world, drives 15 mph under the speed limit, in the left lane, has no concern or idea of what is going on around them, talks, texts and folds laundry while driving and in general is a traffic hazard. I'm just glad when they do get into an accident, their vehicle does not have enough mass to damage my Excursion. ROFL, LOL
      • 14 Hours Ago
      come on now, who is paying all of these people to slander a brand they probably have trouble pronouncing (do to missing teeth and other red neck hereditary traits). The stats speak for themselves, lowest cost of ownership behind honda, least nondepreciating behind BMW, most mechanically sound, period (no one else is even close), and the STi is the best all around car made. If this commercial struck a nerve then tell your mechanic to hurry up fixing your car so you don't have to spend so much time blogging.
      wil2660
      • 14 Hours Ago
      Hey rmrgdr, maybe you should move somewhere smart and cohabit with your own ilk.
      • 14 Hours Ago
      I love my Subaru. I NEVER have problems with it, it has guts, it's somewhat sporty but not sporty enough that I get stopped by the cops. And no, I do NOT go 15 mph under the speed ************ just cruel to do that to a Subaru. Try one, you'll never go back!
      orrmobl
      • 14 Hours Ago
      I owned a WRX because it was fast. It was also cheaply built and easily broken. I went back to Toyota and tried Honda and I will never again buy other makes because they just run and do it while looking pretty good...
      • 14 Hours Ago
      First time I saw this add a few weeks ago I thought it was a joke! I am all for "normal" but mediocrity is not what I want to spend my money on,,,I think this add and car are foolish and will be a joke in years to come as was the (actually great ) Edsel car.
      • 14 Hours Ago
      Jack, the fact that you actually thought it was a real car makes you the perfect owner for one. (baaah)
      jackscoin22
      • 14 Hours Ago
      My heart sank to a new low point when I discovered the MEDIOCRITY wasn't a real car. I just loved it for it's simplistic look and uncluttered appearance. Beige is even my favorite color. I guess I'll wait around for the car companies to "get a grip" and start thinking about making such a fine looking little automobile!!!!!
      rmrgdr
      • 14 Hours Ago
      Americans are to stupid to get the joke! Intelligence never sells in this country. These comment are proof of that!
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