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How Subaru Creates Genuine Customer Loyalty

Updated on September 12, 2012

Transforming into a Loyal Subaru Customer

This lens describes the process of how I magically transformed into a loyal Subaru customer. It's subtle but effective and it happens to many first-time Subaru buyers like myself.

Since Subaru has replaced Honda as the Consumer Reports' manufacturer of the best cars, a lot more first-time buyers will fall under the Subaru spell.

A Little History

I counted the number of cars I've purchased in the past 40 years:

six Toyotas in a row (Mark Corona II, 3 Corollas, Celica, Supra)

a Nissan Pathfinder when the SUV rage first started

a Honda Accord when I started commuting long distances on a daily basis

an mid-life crisis Audi TT

a Pontiac Grand Prix (highly rated by Consumer Reports)

and a Subaru Forester (I wanted another SUV and the 2007 Forester was a favorite of guess what magazine).

I've had the Subaru for 5 years. The others were kept for an average of 3.5 years. I already have my eye on another Subaru - when I get another car.

Now what happened to change my habit of switching from car maker to car maker and turned this customer to the Subaru brand, most likely for life?

Subaru builds customer loyalty from the ground up.

The sections in this lens illustrate the creation and maintenance of Subaru customer loyalty using myself as an example:

Building the Subaru Customer Loyalty Habit - The New Owner

Reinforcing Subaru Customer Loyalty Part I - Frequent Communication

Reinforcing Subaru Customer Loyalty Part II - Maintaining the Association

Figuring Out How Customer Loyalty Works

Building the Subaru Customer Loyalty Habit - The New Owner

Subaru promotes its cars as family-oriented, pet friendly, safety minded (drive in the snow effortlessly), and sporty. Most people identify with at least one of the attributes promoted by Subaru. So you're hooked and you buy one.

What's interesting is that Subaru marketers are playing on set themes over and over. What?

So does every other car maker. True, but notice that these themes are forever - family, dogs, outdoor living, and safe driving.

Take a look at the commercials in the next section. The first focuses on family, and the second is about camping (starring dogs). They both emphasize forever themes. When I see these commercials, I am reminded that Subaru is a "good guy" company, a characteristic that helps it builds a solid connection with existing owners as well as attracting new owners.

Subaru Focuses on Family

Do Your Dogs Camp Overnight?

Reinforcing Subaru Customer Loyalty Part I

Frequent Customer Communication

After the purchase, Subaru builds its customer loyalty step by step. Once you drive away from any dealorship, you will be contacted occasionally for servicing and deals on new cars.

But my Subaru dealer also contacts me with special service coupons, service reminders, opinion polls, service follow up polls, and a birthday card via email every year (the dealer got my birth month and day from my driver's license).

I get some form of communication at least once a month. This dealership can turn lemons (not as in a lemon car!) into lemonade. About six months after I purchased the Forester, an oil change went bad - a defective oil plug. When I discovered a lot of oil on the driveway to my home, the service manager corrected the problem the same day. I got a free oil change for my trouble. My thought is the service manager saved the day by responding quickly.

Here's the introduction to an email I recently received:

Reinforcing Subaru Customer Loyalty Part II

Maintaining the Association

Technically, Subaru's quarterly magazine is a communication. But it must be read to work effectively to maintain loyalty.

So first of all, the mag has to emphasize family, safety, and adventure as in the picture to the right. It has to be visually appealing with plenty of white space and pictures. And it should promote new products/services.

The magazine Subaru Drive serves its purpose to re-connect owners to the brand.

For those who want an online, there's the web site, multiple forums, the Facebook page, and MySubaru - information you maintain on your specific car. All reinforce the feeling of belonging to the Subaru family.

Figuring Out How Customer Loyalty Works

OK, you might be thinking "My car maker does all that stuff - why am I not a loyal customer?"

Becoming a loyal customer is truly a habit you develop over time after being exposed to countless interactions with the car maker, its representatives, and fellow owners. Subaru has been successful with me (and millions of other customers). If you are not yet "branded" by a car maker, it is not doing its job to create genuuine customer loyalty.

The concept of developing habits associated with a corporation in our society is a key factor in creating customer loyalty. What prompted me to write this article was reading The Power of Habit, a most fascinating book about individual, corporate, and society's habits.

It's a real eye-opener, explaining

how personal habits are formed,

how to break them,

why corporate habits can be counter-productive, and

how groups react to peer pressure.

For example, did you know that Target knows when a women is pregnant by recording and analyzing her shopping habits? And how Rosa Parks single-handedly kicked off the civil rights movement?

Interested in The Power of Habit? Order it below from Amazon.

The Basis for Genuine Customer Loyalty - Habits!

Please Comment on This Lens Content - How Did You Become a Loyal Customer?

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Kudos, Subaru! I love hearing about "Best in the World" companies and the experiences of their customers. I will be paying more attention to Subaru now. Great job on this lens.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I can't predict the future (as in how the car will behave once my maintenance plan and warranty expire) but so far, I love my 2012 Forester. I chose it because Subarus are beasts that run forever with proper care and I needed a car that can get me to work in bad weather. Subaru won my $24K because they offered a compact SUV that combines AWD, a manual transmission, good visibility and better-than-base amenities. (This automotive combination is about as common as a unicorn in 2012.)

      What do I think of the marketing? Well, I like that Subaru is dog-friendly (though I wish they'd make a console cover that stands up better to toenail indentations). Having worked in a bike shop for years, I appreciate that they sponsor a cycling team and have for a long time) rather than a NASCAR team. (While i'm I'm not what you'd call crunchy, I do like my car manufacturer to have a conscience.)

      I do like to poke fun at the Subaru stereotype: I have been known to say things like, "Uh oh, I'd better go camping or hiking in the next month or Subaru might come take my car away."

      When it's time to say goodbye to this Forester, I'd definitely consider buying the next generation or another model -- *IF* I like the body style and they still offer a manual. These are two big reasons why I didn't buy another Acura.

      P.S. I have the same camera as you. I love it, too.

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      Subaru_guy 2 years ago

      Target knew when Rosa Parks single-handedly kicked off the civil rights movement based on her shopping patterns? That's astonishing.

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