The Subaru Outback’s marketing campaign highlights the crossover’s traditional adventure-ready selling points but also something the automaker hopes to be a new pitch — the model’s interior.
Redesigned for 2020, the Outback’s most noticeable new feature is an 11.6-inch tablet-style touch-screen infotainment system on all but its base trim. The layout, a first for the brand, signaled a stark design change from the outgoing model, which had either a 6.5- or 8-inch infotainment screen.
Subaru bolstered the rest of the cabin with more premium materials throughout, including sound-insulating inner film for the windshield and front-door glass.
Other available creature comforts include nappa leather seats, ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
One new trim, the Onyx Edition XT, has a gray, two-tone interior with water-repellent seat material, a nod to Subaru owners who bring some of the outdoors inside with them.
With the TV spots for the Outback, which were to launch over Presidents Day weekend, Subaru gave the Outback’s interior more screen time and marketing attention than it has in the past.
“The new Outback does what Outback has always done well,” said Alan Bethke, Subaru of America’s senior vice president of marketing. “It’s got the capability, the longevity, the safety, the versatility — all of that Outback stuff. But what’s different for us now is that new interior. You start to see some of that in the creative.
“The interior went from being utilitarian in old Outbacks — kind of simple, basic and functional — to a really nice design, with a large touch screen and great tech.”
The sixth-generation Outback went on sale in August, and Bethke said the new look is connecting with consumers.
The nameplate’s target customer has remained consistent over time. It’s a group Subaru refers to as “experience seekers.” The new Outback marketing focuses on that idea.
“We like to talk about life experiences and how people use Subaru and their Outback to live a life experience that’s important to them,” Bethke said.
In one spot, parents take their young child to Arches National Park in Utah. In another, Subaru tells the story of a teacher who drives her Outback 120 miles each way on her daily commute, racking up more than 500,000 miles before getting a redesigned Outback.
That commercial was inspired by a Subaru owner who sent the automaker a letter and photos describing her experience with her Outback. In past marketing efforts, Subaru has used customers’ stories to create similar ones. But the automaker has gone a step further with the schoolteacher.
“That red Outback in the spot is actually her car,” Bethke told Automotive News. “We borrowed that from her and put it in the commercial.”
When Subaru’s advertising team contacted the owner, she still had her old Outback but had purchased a new Impreza. For her loyalty to the brand and allowing Subaru to use her story and her original Outback in the ad, the automaker gave her a new Outback.
Bethke said the new commercials will run in 30- and 60-second TV formats as well as brief 6- or 15-second clips online.
The automaker worked with longtime ad partner Carmichael Lynch for the commercials.
Outback’s 181,178 sales in 2019 represented an increase of 1.3 percent and marked it as the bestselling midsize crossover, according to the Automotive News Data Center. The redesign will post a full year of sales in 2020.
“Outback has always been a strong seller for Subaru,” Bethke said. “It’s a little bit in between segment sizes because of the body shape. It represents an interesting position in the market.”
Subaru is aiming for brand sales of 725,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2020. If achieved, it would be an increase of 3.6 percent over 2019, and mark the 12th consecutive year of record Subaru sales.