Subaru Car Commercial (YouTube).

    by: Julie Roehm | AOL Autos

    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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    1 - 20 of 89 Comments
    terezib Nov 22, 2010 2:11 AM
    SPEEDING TICKET gets bleeped?????
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    terezib Nov 22, 2010 2:11 AM
    I'm laughing at some of the comments I see here...you folks DO know that Outbacks are made in INDIANA, right? Sure, some or many of the components are not, but have you taken a look inside your good ol' "American" Chevy or Ford to see where THEY are made? Secondly, to someone who thought that Subaru drivers drive 10 miles below the speed limit - I have a fully loaded Outback and generally drive 10-15 miles ABOVE the speed limit (which has gotten me into trouble a few times). My friend has to keep her WRX on cruise control so she doesn't get a ************ so easy to accelerate. By the way, of my previous 3 Outbacks: I don't know what became of the '90, since we sold it years ago....the '96 is still on the road, and so would the '02 had my son not been rear-ended REALLY hard by teenager in his dad's PT Cruiser - but, since this was an Outback, my son was perfectly fine; the passenger compartment stayed intact even though the trunk was crumpled and enough other damage to declare the car totalled. He replaced it with another Outback. In regard to recalls: in the lifetime of these 4 Outbacks, there have been only 2 recalls that I can, well, recall: one was for the solenoid starter, and now I forget what the other one was, but NOTHING on the level of say, Toyota's many problems. And, if you live in a snowy, mountainous part of the country, look around and all you will see are other Outbacks. What do you think we are in snow country, idiots? Nothing will fishtail faster than a Chevy truck.
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    terezib Nov 22, 2010 1:46 AM
    What if I LIKE using my rock tumbler?!? (which I DO). Geesh. BTW, I am on my 4th Subaru (and have the car badge to prove it). Does this mean they no longer want me as a customer? And here I was, getting ready to research my 5th Subaru...
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    vabtmc Nov 04, 2010 5:25 PM
    The best Subaru going is the Forester high torque diesel available only in Europe and with manual transmission. Meanwhile we here in the U.S. put up with the mediocre mileage of the gasoline engine because Subaru is not willing to try something so novel. It's going to drive me to a VW...
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    bmslegal Nov 04, 2010 1:01 PM
    The word S A T I R E is censored in this comment section? Strange.
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    bmslegal Nov 04, 2010 1:00 PM
    "garyd44 Nov 03, 2010 6:59 PM As long as it comes in that ugly "Sand Gold" color, it could be any Honda, Toyota, Acura, Infinity, Hyundai, or Mercedes. They all look the same." What did I tell you? Look at all the comments from the people that don't get the joke. They are all "experts" on cars! I told you American were too stupid to ************** is too complex for the average drone! Hilarious!
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    valnana Nov 04, 2010 7:42 AM
    Very amusing.
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    bullmonkey118 Nov 03, 2010 9:26 PM
    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.
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    dignifyde Nov 03, 2010 8:25 PM
    Take a look at the Subaru Pro Rally wins in the USA. I know the cars are highly modified, the drivers are above par, but there must be something to it. What did the old lady say many years ago? "Whoop de doo, I love my Subaru." Or something akin to that.
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    jesfilm Nov 03, 2010 8:10 PM
    Here's an advertising account that will be conducting an agency review within a month.
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    wdgpga Nov 03, 2010 8:10 PM
    I have purchased several suburas over the years (80-04) and found them to be very good and a little bit under appreciated, they got good ratings. however , the last one i bought, in 2004, was a disaster. everything went down : transmission (twice), brakes, electrical, a/c, you name it. subaru and jim reed chevrolet in nashville took care of some of this until our warranty conveniently ran out out and my last responce was " this is just a case of bad luck, our cars are great you just got a bad one". pardon me !!!! mediocrity ??? sez it all !!! can you say lemon ??, car and dealer. wdgpga.
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    bryansales Nov 03, 2010 8:05 PM
    Some people here seem to like the mediocre purposely. XD Anyhow, I think this ad campaign is ingenious. Two thumbs up for your efforts!!
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    floridayogi Nov 03, 2010 8:02 PM
    I heard the other day that the Suburu is known as a gay persons favorite car. I thought it was a Miata? but I could be wrong. JUNK!
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    rachelle6g Nov 03, 2010 7:49 PM
    This will backfire...who the hell would want to say "I drive a Mediocrity"...and the price is abour $24 to $25 K...just don't see that kind of cash. I have a MUCH nicer vehicle than this for $28. The car is even ugly....your ads are funny...but the competition is the highest it has ever been. I watched the ads, the spokesman, but after seeing the price...NO WAY!! Looks like it should be $15K to 18K.
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    mthei Nov 03, 2010 7:40 PM
    I like the add, I owned a Subaru mini van for 4 years and I abused it. But, it would not die it just came back for more torture!
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    woodtoyz Nov 03, 2010 7:28 PM
    @micharnijo Sounds like a great idea. Which American car would you recommend?
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    pimpedcelica2002 Nov 03, 2010 7:16 PM
    Personally I think these ads are very funny. However, Subaru using an old Kia to base this on i think is a bad move. Subarus are pretty boring and plain. Their styling has gotten fairly better but their Forester, Outback and Legacy are in my opinion pretty plain jane. Kia/Hyundia has came a very long way...and In my opinion agian has some of the best styling in their newest models blowing away any subaru currently on the market. Subaru does have a good thing going for them with their symetrical awd but in the styling catagory they are lacking a bit. Maybe their future models will be more appealing but for now they might as well just produce the mediocrity and put it in there model line-up because it will blend right in and help add to their less than 250k vehicles sold....
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    joelsally Nov 03, 2010 7:11 PM
    The best thing about this article was to play all 3 video clips at the same time and listen to mediocrity in surround sound......
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    cmcclarty Nov 03, 2010 7:03 PM
    I would love to buy an american problem is there made in mexico!
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    cal4rce Nov 03, 2010 7:01 PM
    My sister bought a Forrester brand new. The carpeting was so cheap and thin it had bare spots in no time. The 4 cylinder was loud and the interior sounded like it had no insulation at all. It was rear ended and started shedding parts like a police car in a 1970's comedy crash-em-up. What a tin can ! The way they rust, they must be made out of ground up Toyotas sent back to Japan for recycling.
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    1 - 20 of 89 Comments
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