Episode 729: When Subaru Came Out : Planet Money Subaru's sales had been slumping for years. Then they went straight to their biggest fans: Lesbians.
NPR logo Episode 729: When Subaru Came Out

Episode 729: When Subaru Came Out

Courtesy of John Nash
Subaru Ad
Courtesy of John Nash

This episode originally ran on October 14, 2016.

In the early nineties, Subaru was in trouble. The cars were great. They ran forever. But sales had been slumping for years. Subaru was up against giants like Toyota and Nissan, and it was losing. It needed a way to stand out.

Subaru hired a new ad agency, to figure out who was buying its cars. The ad firm went out to Northampton, Massachusetts, a hot spot for Subaru sales according to the research. A group of Subaru owners filed into a little room in a shopping mall to answer a few questions and the researchers noticed something right away. All of them were women. Many were lesbians.

This was a hard era for LGBT Americans. It was the time of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. So it was a big deal when Subaru executives signed off on ads aimed at lesbian consumers. And it turned around their business.

Thanks to the folks at Priceonomics for tipping us off to this story. See more of the ads mentioned in this episode on their website.

Music: "Good For Nothin" and "Evergreen High."

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