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Glenn Tan, Tan Chong

Subaru’s regional events strategy

There is stiff competition globally when it comes to marketing a car brand. According to a report done by brand consultancy firm Interbrand, Toyota took the top spot for top car brand under the category “Best Global Brands 2013.” It ranked the tenth position with a brand value worth of USD$35,346 million and a 17% increase in brand value.

Mercedes-Benz and BMW took eleventh and twelfth position respectively.

While Subaru brand is nowhere on the list, distributor Tan Chong International has big plans to raise brand awareness for it in the region.

Glenn Tan (pictured), executive director, Tan Chong International said that the brand’s marketing budget has increased from last year to this year, though he did not reveal the amount. It is also setting its sights on ASEAN markets such as Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

And its events strategy is key to its goals of raising awareness, Tan tells Marketing Events. “We believe that it should be a multi-prong approach. Aside from the aggressive advertising that we place on various media platforms, events have also been key to the company in making the brand more accessible to the consumers in the various markets.”

Tan said that Subaru’s events usually have certain themes – they are fun, active, adventurous, lifestyle-related and pet-friendly – reflecting the personality of the Subaru brand. “At the end of the day, it should showcase Subaru as being a brand that is aspirational and unique,” Tan said.

Stunts and celebrities

Some of the events that the brand has pulled off included the Subaru Palm Challenge, a contest where contestants, in a bid to win a free Subaru car, had to be the last man standing with their palms stuck firmly to the car.

The event concept was first conceptualised in 2002 with three cars and 120 Singaporean participants. The stunt eventually evolved into a 10 car contest with 400 participants from all over the region.

Tan added that the difficulty and drama associated with the physical endurance element of the challenge elevated the MediaCorp Subaru Challenge. The event was also a publicity stunt aimed at showing consumers the reliability of Subaru cars, their  stability and grip on the roads. Besides allowing people to have fun and interact with the company through this event, it has also significantly increased Subaru’s brand recognition, added Tan.

Adding international stars also helped elevate the brand’s awareness in the region. For instance,  Subaru regularly engages UK precision stunt driver, Russell Swift to perform at its events in various markets like the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Called the Russ Swift Stunt Show, it is a stunt show by Swift using Subaru cars, which shows the technology and capabilities of Subaru cars.

Other events the brand has organised include Asia’s Next Top Model, The New Paper New Face in Singapore, the Grazia Style Hunter Awards in Thailand, Eelin Star event in Taiwan and Newman Rhythm & Revolution Event in Malaysia.

A local strategy

Subaru is careful to tailor its strategy for each market.

For markets like Taiwan and the Philippines, where the consumers are more product-savvy, the brand is looking to enforce the strategy of cultivating product knowledge. In Taiwan, Subaru was involved in the Golden Horse Awards, Channel [V] Pop Music Concert and the Eelin Star Event.

Aside from lifestyle events, Taiwan celebrated Subaru’s 55th anniversary by showcasing Subaru’s core technologies at an event that featured the All-Wheel Drive Challenge as well as the X-Mode (traction control system) kit driving course.

In the Philippines, some events that were organised included a ForesterDRIVE roadtrip, as well as a Subaru All-Wheel Drive Experience event, allowing participants to fully experience driving a Subaru.

For markets like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, the brand is looking to focus more on raising the brand awareness through high-profile lifestyle and entertainment events, such as the Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia, the Newman Rhythm & Revolution Event in Malaysia and the Grazia Style Hunter awards in Thailand.

This event strategy will be accompanied by marketing campaigns to cultivate product knowledge for consumers.

What were some results for the brand since adopting this marketing strategy for events?

While Tan, declined to reveal business results from the events strategy, he said that this has been “instrumental” in positioning Subaru as a premium niche Japanese brand amongst people in the region.

According to Socialbakers, the Subaru brand has 48,950 fans with a talkability of 1602. The most number of fans for the brand is in Philippines with a fan base of 9950 while Malaysia is a close second with 8770 fans. Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan are the other countries with the most number of fans on the Subaru Asia Facebook page.

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