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What We Learned From Subaru’s Exhibit at the LA Auto Show

By December 3, 2019Uncategorized


By Eric Devericks, Chief Experience Officer

For years, we’ve been helping Subaru create a variety of events and experiences. It’s been a great partnership and we’ve had a lot of success helping Subaru raise the bar — for example, at last year’s NY Auto show we brought some buzz to the exhibit, dramatically increased Subaru’s press mentions, as well as the dwell time in the experience. So during the press days at LA Auto Show, we took a moment to soak in the Subaru booth and think about what makes the experience special.

What follows are a few learning that we think could be applied by other brands.

Tell a different kind of story

Most of the LA auto show was filled with perfectly manicured, slick-style, modern booths. Subaru’s environment featured a rough-sawn log-cabin-style entryway, rocks, trees, National Parks–style signage, and an LED “river” flowing through the exhibit space. The buildout was designed to emphasize the brand’s outdoorsy image by featuring Subaru’s product in its “natural habitat.” (One publication even called it “the most Subaru thing we’ve ever seen.”) And, in our opinion, that was a big part of the reason why the experience worked. Subaru had the gall to stand out, and they reaped the benefits of a unique experience.

Takeaway: Even at an auto show, where companies are largely selling different versions of the same basic products, there’s still room to tell a story that stands out.

Build experiences that evoke feelings

It’s no secret that Subaru loves pets — the company helped raise $2.9 million for the ASPCA in 2018. But at the LA auto show (and the NY show before it), Subaru gave others the opportunity to love pets — by playing with, petting, and even adopting them. And during the press days, even the most jaded automotive journalists and industry insiders could be found in Subaru’s fenced-in adopt a pet area muttering baby talk, and getting their faces licked with smiles from ear to ear. (Heck, we designed the pet area — and even we weren’t immune to the warm and fuzzy feels.) By deliberately placing the adoption area between a high traffic corner and the vehicles, visitors were all laughs and smiles as they spent long periods of face time with Subaru’s lineup. 

Takeaway: Create experiences that appeal to people’s emotions in a unique, unexpected way. You’ll set the foundation for better experiences.

Say that you stand for something

Subaru loves the outdoors. The exhibit’s design masterfully illustrates this brand tenet using natural materials, breathtaking natural vistas, sounds and even smells. It tells the beautiful story of our national parks and the real adventures of Subaru Outback owners over the decades. Soaring vistas fill the two-story screen as Ray Charles sings “America” to a captivated audience finally culminating with a “geyser eruption” introducing Subaru’s newest Outback, emerging from the mist atop an outcropping of rocks. More importantly, the exhibit drives home the idea that Subaru’s outdoorsy vibe was more than just marketing sheen. Since 2008, Subaru’s Share the Love event has donated $145 million dollars to charity including $68 million to the National Parks Foundation. This legacy helps build common ground with visitors (“We both love the outdoors”) and promotes brand loyalty. Even if a visitor didn’t walk away from the booth wanting to buy a new Outback, they left feeling like they knew what Subaru stood for.

Takeaway: We all believe in something. Create experiences based on the things that your company believes. It will help customers better engage with you.