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SUBARU, GMC TOP PUSH TO WIN OVER WOMEN SPECIALIZED NICHES, CONVENIENCE, SAFETY CONCERNS TAKE ON ADDED VALUE

By Published on .

Although Mary Treisbach, director of marketing for Subaru of America, is a member of the highly targeted women's market, she doesn't think that makes her an expert on the female car buyer.

"Women don't have a corner on the market of understanding women," Ms. Treisbach says. "But if you understand what the target wants, you can effectively market to them."

There's no mistaking that one of the biggest challenges for auto marketers is understanding the women's market, which accounts for 46% of total U.S. car sales, according to market researcher J.D. Power & Associates.

Women will account for 60% of all car purchases by the year 2000, says Power.

That fact isn't lost on marketers, whose agile marketing strategies have allowed them to address this segment. This year, many automotive companies made obvious attempts to target women-even highlighting females in a number of ad efforts.

Subaru, for example, looked to target women by focusing on specialized professional niches like teachers and nurses. In 1994, 46% of Subaru buyers were female.

A print ad aimed at nurses, created by Temerlin McClain, Dallas, for the all-wheel-drive Impreza coupe is headlined, "A Subaru with AWD and ABS can get an RN to the ER, STAT."

Through research, Subaru found a fair amount of nurses buy its cars because of its all-wheel-drive capability, which they can depend on for commuting in bad weather, says Ms. Treisbach. She claims Suburu is the only car company targeting nurses.

Candace Robbins, general manager of McCann/SAS, Troy, Mich., agency for General Motors Corp.'s GMC Truck division, believes diversity in the workplace is an essential part of understanding the marketplace.

But, she says, being a member of the highly targeted female gender doesn't make her a better marketer.

"It is hard to take your gender out of your professional being," she says. "But, yes, [co-workers] listen to me because it's a different point of view that I can bring from a personal basis."

Last fall's GMC Jimmy campaign featured women in four of the five 30-second TV commercials and also used a female voiceover.

Ms. Robbins says even though women dominate the Jimmy advertising, the message applies to both genders.

"As long as there is a situation that a woman or man can relate to, who you use in the commercial is not as important as what you say," she says.

One spot focuses on ease of entry for a women in a suit jacket and skirt because the new Jimmy has a lower step in height than competitors.

GMC opted to take a different route in marketing the Jimmy than other makes.

"A lot of the sport-utility advertising is designed to show freedom and off-road," says Ms. Robbins. "But with this product, only 1% of consumers take these vehicles off-road."

So the company decided to show sport-utility vehicles in situations most people drive them in and use women "because this market is so strongly influenced by women and the product is bought a lot by women," says Ms. Robbins

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