subaru’s lemon & the power of advertising

I was walking around town yesterday when, while patiently waiting at an intersection, a Subaru Tribeca passed directly in front of me. Leave aside for a second that the Tribeca is one of the least attractive cars being sold in America today:

The Tribeca was covered with graffiti, presumably applied by the owner, that said “Subaru’s [sic] suck,” had a big picture of a lemon and included, on the other side of the car, additional anti-Subaru slogans that I couldn’t read but am sure were of the same level of discourse.

That’s not quite what “it’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru” is supposed to invoke.

At a certain point there are always going to be people who make purchases that they may end up regretting…and all the advertising in the world is going to struggle to convince people who have regrets and those that trust the opinion of the consumers with regrets that the brand in question is a good brand.

No amount of messaging tweaking or innovative media placement or outreach will really help, though those things may make it harder for people to be convinced that the brand is bad if the advertising is strong.

Take Apple, for example, which sold me a lemon of a MacBook (it has been serviced by Apple twice in three months and just crashed again this weekend, erasing my hard drive and, in a fit of pique, my external hard drive that I had connected when it crashed). Even as I write of this frustration, Mac users are happily considering me an anomaly.

Now imagine if the computer in question were a Dell.

Or I was talking about cars like I was before…and the brand was Toyota instead of Subaru.

My brother used to work summers at a Dodge dealership near our house and the running joke when that the clutch could actually fall out of a Toyota and consumers would think that it was just regular maintenance but if a Dodge needed an oil change consumers were bitching about what a crappy car Dodge was.

And that is the power of advertising.


5 responses to “subaru’s lemon & the power of advertising

  1. Your Dodge/Toyota analogy is kinda flawed.

    Have you ever looked into the reliability records of the two companies? Or the ownership costs?

    No contest. Toyota makes more reliable cars, on average, by an incredibly large margin.

    Being American, I wish this wasn’t so, but it is. American car makers sat on their buts too long and got passed up. I had a couple GM cars and yes, clutches, alternators, and yes, transmissions went out like clockwork (well, the opposite of clockwork, but you get the drift).

    The very moment that ford or GM makes a good, reliable car with decent gas mileage that lasts 200k miles without many problems, I’ll be there buying. Until then, it’s jap crap all the way.

    BTW, I now own a subaru and it’s been great, so far.

  2. I guess that my point was more about the importance of a brand. Though overall the reliability record of Toyota speaks for itself, there are lemons (like my crappy Apple computer that goes against the grain of overall Apple quality). If the brand is strong enough you’re less likely to turn against it when you get a lemon than if it isn’t.

    I don’t hate Apple, for example. At least not yet.

    [ Subaru is a bit of a cipher because the brand isn’t strong overall, but resonates with its consumer set (though clearly not this guy). ]

  3. I agree with you, but on the contrary, subura are doing very well in the UK, the Tribeca has outsold Chryler vehicles last month despite the company going bust.
    I would say that this car is probably the best American export we have had to date.

  4. I think apple makes great computers however and Subaru certainly has changed for the better.I do think Dodge gets a bad rap.Working as a tech in an independent shop i have seen this first hand.I have seen customers with Imports in the shop as much if not more and with bigger problems in as many cases but they never complain like the domestic owners.I talked to an independent techs that i trusted and he was a GM guy thru and thru, to my surprise he said the Chrysler four cylinders were the best on the market.It’s a public perception fueled by advertising and urban myth more than reality.If a person has a problem with a domestic it’s upsetting but because they hear the myth about imports they switch thinking the grass is greener.Then when they have problems with that too it’s like they have nowhere to complain to or no urban complaint bandwagon to hop on.

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