“Shhhh, I love this song!” For the last eight years, Subaru has capitalized on the incredible power of consistently tasteful music to help drive their business. With emotional messaging at the forefront of their marketing, Subaru exemplifies how music is the quickest way to your heart.
By the numbers, the “Love” campaign has been an enormous success for the Japanese car company and their Minneapolis-based agency of record, Carmichael Lynch. Subaru sales have tripled in the last eight years, making the car brand the best performing company over that period. In 2016, Subaru set a new all-time sales record of 615,132 vehicles; up 5.6% over 2015.
For Subaru, a campaign’s message and music approach are always synonymous. It comes down to an honest, relatable story that feels down to earth and real. Randy Hughes, Executive Creative Director at Carmichael Lynch, explains, “When a story and a song are on similar themes, there are more layers to make the story richer, and this gives the viewers more ways to connect with the piece.” Like a safe car, consumers enjoy predictability and simplicity they can rely on, both visually and with their ears.
Subaru’s new commercial “Moving Out” debuts today for the all-new 2017 Impreza. In describing the spot, Brian Cavallucci, National Advertising Manager for Subaru of America, explains, “We really loved the idea of just showing the longevity of the car alongside a boy who is growing up before your eyes. Once again, the music is really the icing on the cake and helps tie it together on multiple levels.” The song featured is “Blue Eyed Girl” by Mikal Cronin, check out the spot here:
So what is the DNA of a Subaru soundtrack? I believe it breaks down to organic Americana instrumentation, simplicity and an approachable emotional depth. Whether it’s the story of a family sending their child off to college, a near death accident or the bottomless love for our favorite pets, the music is always there to drive the message home emotionally. I find this approach particularly unique in today’s automobile market sector, where a sleek and modern or rugged and aggressive marketing approach is tried and true.
Jonathan Hecht is the founder of Venn Arts and the music supervisor for Subaru. “If you were to play the tracks from all of the recent Subaru commercials consecutively, you will notice a cohesiveness,” Hecht says. “The songs are banded together, not by genre, but more in a distinctive feeling as if they are kindred spirits.” I admire the thoughtfulness behind creating a sonic connective tissue across years of content, and believe that it is underutilized by many brands in today’s marketplace. You can listen to a Spotify playlist Hecht created from the Subaru “Love” campaign songs here.
Where does the music come from? Subaru doesn’t license huge songs from giant artists. In fact, the majority of their spots utilize independent songs and companies which are sourced through Hecht’s network. Hughes explains, “It’s easy to just write a big check for a well-known song, but I find that you too often get lost behind the song. ‘Did you see the spot with the Led Zeppelin song?’ vs. ‘Did you see the cool Subaru commercial where such and such happened? It had a great song. Who is that?’” This formula is not only successfully spurring musical curiosity from Subaru’s audience, but it also creates positive waves for Subaru’s featured artists. According to Adweek, Subaru launched singer-songwriter Odessa’s career when a Republic Records rep fell for the hypnotic soundtrack on their “Flat Tire” spot (featured below) and used Shazam (a popular music discovery app) to find the artist behind the song.
As for budgets, they are saving a lot of money by going indie. While music budgets in the mid-five-figures will make any independent musician’s year, those numbers are hardly enough to even grab the attention of today’s major artists, labels and publishers.
While Subaru’s market share is small by industry standards, it has grown from 1.4% in 2008 to 3.5% in 2016. Subaru says, “Our target demographic is experience seekers. It’s the same as eight years ago, only we are reaching more of them, in better ways.” A reflection on Subaru’s campaign illustrates the impact of smart music choices, which in this case has proven to be of paramount value to successful marketing. So the next time a 30-second spot has you reaching for the tissues, please acknowledge the power of music (and if you don’t believe me, try watching it on mute!).