Subaru Leads with Interactive for Product Launch

When Subaru was plotting how to build awareness for its upcoming B9 Tribeca luxury SUV — a new model, in a new space — the carmaker went online to build and maintain excitement for a 6-month pre-launch campaign.

The campaign was developed by New York interactive agency R/GA, part of Interpublic Group. It aims to introduce prospective buyers to Subaru’s first 7-passenger luxury vehicle. The online campaign includes a mini-site at b9tribeca.com, and an online sweepstakes. Site visitors are encouraged to opt-in to receive information by email as it becomes available. An online B9 Tribeca giveaway incites users to sign up.

Offline efforts are comprised of traveling interactive kiosks that will provide information and capture customer opt-ins at major auto shows. Subaru will also organize events at the shows for existing owners that will encourage opt-in to the email list.

“Our goal is to harness the pent-up demand for the product, to build awareness, and to let people start engaging with the brand,” said Jonathan Rivard, manager of Subaru’s CRM group.

The three-phase pre-launch campaign began in the fall with a “staging” phase. Images of the new model were released on the site. The goal was to build buzz around the B9 Tribeca. The “reveal” phase started when the site was officially launched in conjunction with the Detroit Auto Show in early January.

As Subaru promotes the B9 Tribeca at other auto shows, the site now functions as a lead-generation tool, collecting leads used to contact prospective buyers as the model becomes available for purchase at dealerships in early summer.

“It’s exciting to launch with interactive leading, without using mass media,” said Anne Benvenuto, director of strategy, planning and integration for R/GA. “But it means these dollars have to work harder.”

It’s a formula Subaru used in the past. It launched its sporty Impreza WRX in 2001. For that model, it launched rally.Subaru.com in conjunction with the Sports Car Club of America. For the redesign of the 2005 Legacy and Outback lines, it used a pre-launch site at need-desire.com to tease prospects with product details in early 2004.

“Subaru consumers are very Web-savvy, from gathering information before a purchase to communicating with dealerships when they’re ready to purchase,” Rivard said. “We provide the tools and programs to drive them to the dealerships.”

The b9tribeca.com site is designed to build consideration for the vehicle. Video shot specifically for the Web shows the driving experience from the driver’s seat point of view, with multiple shots of the vehicle interior and exterior.

“It’s a rich experience. It combines a very experiential layer with a layer full of information,” said Mauro Cavalletti, creative director at R/GA. “We’ll be continually adding pictures and features to keep the excitement level up for six months.”

This summer, Subaru will begin a more traditional mass-media campaign, incorporating TV, print and outdoor in the mix. The b9tribeca.com and Subaru.com sites will still be central repositories for information. Ads in other media will drive prospects there.

Subaru advertises online in various auto interest sites, including Edmunds.com, AOL Autos and Yahoo Autos. It also does some search engine marketing and optimization for select keywords that convey the Subaru brand values.

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