Dogs. It’s What Makes a Subaru Commercial, a Subaru Commercial. | Tier10lab
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Dogs. It’s What Makes a Subaru Commercial, a Subaru Commercial. | Tier10lab

Jennifer Lee

A Quick Study on Subaru’s BONEafide Commercial Series

For a car brand without a truck, an oversized SUV, or a luxury line to call its own, Subaru continues to skyrocket in sales — to the point where the company can’t produce cars fast enough to meet the demand.

In the last four years, Subaru’s sales have grown by almost 45 percent. And, according to MotorTrend, Subaru’s sales this past year have climbed 21 percent — a year so great that it accounted for about half of the sales increase within the four-year period.

So how did a bunch of quirky, all-wheel-drive cars get to be so big?

Thank Thomas Doll, Subaru of America’s President.

Pitching a rather risky idea in Tokyo, Doll proposed that Subaru trade in its investment on horsepower for heart. Instead of trying to compete with brands like Honda and Toyota that tout speed, Doll helped the once struggling brand in 2005 go mainstream by making Subaru a lifestyle choice rather than a simple vehicle to purchase. Hence the kids, the feel-good-feel-fuzzy emotions, and the puppies.

Subaru’s latest canine craze, however, is fairly new.

Meet the Barkley family, est. 2013. They are the perfect snapshot of America’s average family of four, and also feature two beloved breeds: the Labrador and the Golden Retriever. The Barkleys were probably inspired by Subaru’s stereotypical driver, who enjoy recreational sports, the great outdoors, Whole Foods, farmer’s markets…and, of course, dogs.

According to Adweek, the stereotype of Subaru drivers as dog owners is backed up by the data. Over half of Subaru drivers own dogs, and dog ownership among Subaru drivers has grown by 49 percent between 2008 and 2013.

Instead of ignoring its stereotypes like most companies would, Subaru embraced them — well, one of them — and made it into the wildly successful campaign, “Dog Tested Dog Approved.” Their latest installment for the campaign debuted during the 2016 Super Bowl with the 30 second spot, “Puppy.”

In it, Mr. Barkley takes a slow drive around town in hopes of lulling his pup to sleep: a ritual still preformed by many parents today. When the youngest Barkley falls asleep, his father pulls into the driveway and opens the car door — only to hear his son yelping, awake again. The begrudged Golden pulls back out to repeat the cycle.

“Since we introduced the lovable Barkleys to the world, consumers have been patiently waiting for the next round of creative to see where their journey would take them next,” Subaru of America VP of marketing Alan Bethke told Adweek. “With the new ‘Dog Tested. Dog Approved’ campaign, we hope drivers everywhere will enjoy and relate to the latest escapades of the Barkley family, while seeing a bit of themselves along the way.”

Many parents can connect with his spot, as these almost-human dogs recall fond (and comically frustrating) moments of being a parent. Plus, having a doe-eyed puppy in almost any ad these days is sure to melt hearts all across the board. Subaru’s cars have officially become associated with puppies and good vibes.

It’s a powerful thing to be associated with dogs and positivity — especially when you’re a brand that’s supposed to sell cars, not puppies. Though Subaru has branched out and started selling things in its dealerships ranging from kayaking gear to Girl Scout Cookies to even pet products.

“Dogs make us look — one of the chief jobs of every ad is to capture the attention of the target audience,” says Kim Gordon from The Entrepreneur. “Consumers are exposed to thousands of ads every day and are multitasking now more than ever before. Each ad needs to rise above the noise.” She continues, saying that dogs engage our emotions. “The recession has changed the way we shop, as consumers scrutinize product and company information more thoroughly. [But] we trust man’s best friend.”

And who would be more trustworthy than man’s best friend?

Subaru’s latest campaign name couldn’t align itself better with advertising psychology and the market. Because if anything is Dog Tested and Dog Approved, you’d bet your Scooby Snacks people would not only be willing to pay attention, but to also trust the brand.

And probably melt at the sight of puppies, too.

Sources: AdWeekMotorTrend