Tom Heath Webmaster
June 21, 2010 10:02 a.m.

From "Marketing Daily"

Subaru Badges Reward Owners' Lifestyles by Karl Greenberg, Friday, June 18, 2010, 2:14 PM

Subaru is doing a little badge engineering. The company has launched, very sub rosa, a new Web site where owners of Subaru vehicles can order badges designed to be affixed to cars. The badges reflect, numerically, where the current vehicle resides in the history of Subarus one has owned. Owners can then expand the numerical badge with more icons representing hobbies, passions and achievements (one says "100K+").

Kevin Mayer, Subaru's director of marketing communications, says people have ordered over 7,000 badges from, which has been live for two weeks.

"They are like merit badges for lifestyle activities," says Mayer. He said the site has proven to be popular beyond owners, and that people are even using VINs for vehicles they don't own as a way to obtain the badges.

The automaker is in the midst of its "Love" campaign, which launched last year. "The recession was an opportunity for us," Mayer tells Marketing Daily. "We needed mass media for our new campaign and when GM and others pulled out of the market, it was huge for us. We did mini upfronts, and looked for opportunities to out-share-of-voice the competitors on TV."

Subaru eschews the traditional tier system for addressing buyers in different parts of the purchase funnel, where national ads are for awareness and brand equity, tier two are dealer group ads for people in market, and individual dealer advertising touting local deals.

Mayer says the "badge" effort is part of a larger loyalty strategy. "We plan to evolve it into our version of a 'frequent flyer' program, so that based on your interaction with the brand [both at retail and online], you can earn things. It's one of those things where one might be able to earn rewards points."

The badge program works well for the Subaru zeitgeist. "Our customers tend to live full lives; they are very engaged physically, love outdoor sports, and are also politically active and involved in socially responsible programs," he says.

The company two years ago began moving from a traditional tier one, two and three approach to parsing the purchase funnel (from national ads for awareness and brand equity, to dealer group ads for products and individual dealer ads for deal-of-the-week type messaging) to a "heart to wallet" approach. "A tier-based approach is really about who is going to pay for that message," he says.

Subaru decided that the less concrete brand attachments don't get left behind when consumers get to the bottom of the purchase funnel. He says while marketing messages for people who are about to buy tend to be about deals, beauty shots and specific comparative features, but consumers in the market for a car are not purely rational.

"We thought that was short-sighted because at the end of the day people buy cars emotionally and justify their purchase rationally," says Mayer. He adds that the company's "heart to wallet" strategy is also media-agnostic. "With TV we run the full gamut at different times. Same with digital. Lots of people think digital is bottom funnel, but we run heart messaging in digital media." Subaru is actually focusing more this year on "heart" messaging [which would traditionally be top-funnel brand equity advertising] because "we are seeing results." Subaru had a good 2009 and sales are up 40% year-to-date. The Subaru "Love" campaign in its current "Dear Subaru" iteration is a bit like a consumer-content effort, where creative is based on letters from consumers.

Ads, like one that shows a vehicle completely covered in mud, may not feature current-model vehicles. One that only shows a worn-down key (that wore out before the car did) doesn't feature vehicles at all.

Cute idea, but I dunno if it's going to make me buy anything. What say you?

tb New Reader
June 21, 2010 10:17 a.m.

I probably will own another Subaru in my life; it absolutely will not have this "badge" on it . I might actually pay extra for an 'emblem delete' package...

maroon92 SuperDork
June 21, 2010 10:52 a.m.

I think it is kind of a nice idea. Having worked with Rally America, I have seen just how fervently Subaru owners cling to brand loyalty.

"Love, it's what makes a Subaru, a Subaru."

They aren't kidding. It is very similar to Jeep owners, and Corvette guys. You fall in love with the brand, the car, the lifestyle, the whole deal!

Matt B Reader
June 21, 2010 10:56 a.m.

Although I'm of the de-badging type as well, I agree that most people like to tell the world what type of a person they are, especially through their car's appearance. As far as a marketing idea, I find it pretty interesting. Even if it doesn't really appeal to this forum's demographic.

MitchellC Dork
June 21, 2010 11:01 a.m.

I consider it a success, since its message was spread on a public forum for free.

Junkyard_Dog HalfDork
June 21, 2010 11:49 a.m.

I wish Volvo would bring back their badges. The 300k+ badge I need for the wagon goes for at least $50 on ebay, and they don't pop up all that often.

If I had another Subie (#3) I'd badge it.

Per Schroeder Technical Editor/Advertising Director
June 21, 2010 12:05 p.m.

I tried to get one, but it's not recognizing my 2000 wagon. I just may have to call them and get a "4th" badge. I think I'll get a lifestyle badge for Tom.

Keith SuperDork
June 21, 2010 12:48 p.m.

My friend Eric needed one that showed he was on his 3rd engine Good for Subaru in showing cars that helped build the brand, though. Old Scooby wagons are like cockroaches.

Junkyard_Dog HalfDork
June 21, 2010 1:22 p.m.
Keith wrote: Old Scooby wagons are like rusty cockroaches.


Appleseed SuperDork
June 21, 2010 2:26 p.m.

Do they have a badge for the activity of PIITB?

Woody SuperDork
June 21, 2010 2:52 p.m.

When I was in high school, I had a completely rusted out '74 Subaru 1400 DL, a car that was so bad that, 30 years after it was built, I had to think long and hard (for about two years) about whether or not I should take a chance on a new WRX.

I did, and I love my 2004 WRX.

Do they have a badge that says, "Although my '74 Subaru was a total piece of E36 M3, I love my WRX and I'll probably buy another one"?

June 21, 2010 3:14 p.m.

I dunno, I feel like I should think it's lame, but I kinda like it. I give them mad props for not being homophobic and having a LBGT badge in the first batch. Definitely interested in seeing if there's a round 2.

Keith SuperDork
June 21, 2010 3:16 p.m.

So Woody, when you were in high school, how rockin' were all the other 1974 cars in the parking lot? I figure the ability of a car to get to 30 is a pretty promising sign.

I used to have a 1987 GL wagon with what was possibly the most complex carburetor ever designed. It would go over the Colorado mountain passes almost as fast as a loaded semi. Top speed on level ground at 4700' was approximately equal to the speed limit, giving me built-in cruise control. But it loved the snow and was the perfect size. Such a basic, honest little car.

93celicaGT2 SuperDork
June 21, 2010 3:17 p.m.

There is an old Subaru GLF in the local junkyard. Looks like an old Celica.

This probably has nothing to do with the conversation.

ddavidv SuperDork
June 21, 2010 3:31 p.m.

I'll see if I can't get one for the wife's Foz. It's already over 100k and is my 4th relationship with a Subaru but only her second.

Sadly, the current crop are all so ugly and bloated I don't see us getting another any time soon.

Nashco SuperDork
June 21, 2010 4:50 p.m.

I wonder if they recognize our Saabaru VIN?

Woody SuperDork
June 21, 2010 6:00 p.m.
Keith wrote: So Woody, when you were in high school, how rockin' were all the other 1974 cars in the parking lot? I figure the ability of a car to get to 30 is a pretty promising sign.

I neglected to mention that mine had an Automatic.

All of the other '74 cars in the high school parking lot were Dusters.

On a side note, I have ordered a badge for myself, plus an LBGT badge to add to the first other Subaru that I see sporting its own badge.

irish44j HalfDork
June 21, 2010 10:53 p.m.

I got some ....well supposedly they're on the way.

My subie is debadged and these won't go on the outside of the car at least. Maybe under the hood. Maybe on my tool chest in the garage. But I'll take anything that comes for free, lol...

snipes Reader
June 22, 2010 8:40 a.m.

Can I get a badge that says "Paid For" in 4 months. I think that is the best badge anyone can get.

June 22, 2010 10:48 a.m.

Do they have a badge for headgaskets?

Woody SuperDork
June 22, 2010 1:59 p.m.
procainestart wrote: Do they have a badge for headgaskets?

Streetwiseguy Reader
June 22, 2010 5:45 p.m.
Junkyard_Dog wrote:
Keith wrote: Old Scooby wagons are like rusty,leaky cockroaches.


Fixed more.

griffin729 Reader
June 23, 2010 12:59 a.m.

Mine's ordered. It may not go on the car, but one day I would love to be able to honestly put an "RSTi" badge on mine. I just need an STi drivetrain, a garage I can do the work in, a DD so that I can still get around while the work is being done, basically I need lots more money than I currently have.

mattmacklind SuperDork
June 23, 2010 8:35 a.m.

Its interesting how Subaru, and Cadillac used to do this, too, talk about how many of the cars the owner has bought with their badges, and Mercedes, or at least they used to, talk about how long the owners kept the one they had.

I never really liked the Subaru ad with the car graveyard at the farm. It sends a double message. The car is fantastic, will meet your needs, is temporary and ultimately disposable. You'll still want the carcass around, though, for wiper blades and light bulbs.

pez222 New Reader
June 23, 2010 2:25 p.m.

I saw on another board that some folks thought that the LGBT Badge stood for Legacy GT. Oh boy.... heeeeyyy!!!

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