Subaru adds lesbians to niche marketing drive

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Carmarker is one of the first to target that buyer segment

Subaru of America is one of the first major marketers to target the lesbian market, part of its ongoing niche marketing approach.

After recognizing a loyal base of lesbian owners--Subaru says its research shows they are four times as likely to own a Subaru as the general market--the automaker decided to launch a campaign from Mulryan/Nash, New York, in gay newspapers nationwide.

The effort, to run March through December, is part of a targeted approach also focusing on teachers, medical professionals and others.


Marketers have expressed an increasing, though measured, interest in the gay and lesbian market. American Express Co. is the first major credit card advertiser, with creative hitting April issues of gay magazines, industry executives said.

AmEx, which wouldn't confirm the new ads, has promoted its Travelers Cheques for Two via Ogilvy & Mather, New York, in gay media for years. Other financial brands are examining the market, too.

Because gay-specific creative is still uncommon for mainstream marketers, even fewer have specifically included lesbians. Little research exists and lesbian consumers remain largely ignored, while gay men have fared slightly better.

Hiram Walker & Sons' Tuaca liqueurs broke a campaign featuring lesbians last August, from Jordan Hamilton, New York.

Standard campaign ads from Saab Cars USA broke the auto category into gay media in November 1994, with work from Angotti, Thomas, Hedge, New York, and Saturn Corp. ran one ad from Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco, in May 1995.

Subaru is the first Japanese automaker to use gay media and its campaign--which includes male versions as well--follows its sponsorship of the Rainbow affinity Visa card, currently running in gay magazines. Do Tell, Conshohocken, Pa., created the ad for the Rainbow Card Foundation.


Subaru '95 media spending revved to $53.3 million through November, up 68% from the same period in '94, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The budget will rise about 2.5% in 1996, said Tricia Cuddy, integrated marketing manager.

"Three years ago we were trying to be a competitor in the mainstream and that...wasn't working," said a Subaru spokesman.

So the automaker switched its focus to all-wheel-drive and wagons, shifting its marketing to narrow but loyal groups. Lead agency Temerlin-McClain, Dallas, handles all other aspects of the target market approach.

Copyright March 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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