Subaru Accelerating Use of Rich Media E-Mail

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Buoyed by the response to its first rich media e-mail, Subaru of America Inc. will use that tactic to promote all its car models, owner benefits and brand.


An e-mail sent Jan. 9 to 100,000 prospects for the Japanese automaker's new 2002 Impreza WRX all-wheel drive car so far has garnered a 165 percent response, or 165,000 click-throughs, according to Subaru.


"To us, I think, the great benefit is that it still has a life much beyond the initial drop of the e-mail," said Tim Colbeck, director of e-business at Subaru, Cherry Hill, NJ. "In fact, as people forwarded the e-mail, we got 30,000 views alone in the month of March."


Currently available in Japan and Europe, the Impreza WRX debuted in the United States in January at the Detroit auto show. Sold in sedan and sport-wagon versions, the car reached dealers nationwide in March.


Requiring a Flash plug-in, the e-mail offers 360-degree exterior and interior views of the $23,500 car. It has product specifications, a photo gallery and a link to the site at www.imprezawrx.com. Audio accompanies the visuals.


A box at the bottom of the missive lets consumers enter a friend's e-mail address. Subaru then forwards the e-mail.


"Instead of trying to send a traditional e-mail that would have said the '[Impreza] WRX is launching, click here to go to the site,' really we're taking a piece of the site and sending it directly out," Colbeck said. "What we would like to pursue, and what we are pursuing, is where we have our other product lines creating product-centric messages that we can export to the context of the viewer."


BZ Productions, East Providence, RI, created the e-mail.


Names for the e-mail came from lists bought from Yesmail.com, a Chicago e-mail marketing company.


"We were looking for auto enthusiasts who also exhibited an active lifestyle," Colbeck said. "This segment tends to be a little younger and more male than our traditional customer."


Subaru, which sold 172,000 cars last year in the United States, plans similar rich media e-mails to customers and prospects for models like the Outback, Forester and Legacy. Subaru will drop them for the Outback in the first week of May. A similar drop for Forester is planned for soon afterward.


The company will send 100,000 e-mails for each model. The target audience will mix names from outside files and in-house lists.


"The goal is to build awareness around our products and our brands with those who aren't entirely familiar [with Subaru]," Colbeck said. "So, find people who are predisposed and who are like our owners and give them messages that make sense in that context.


"Likewise," he said, "we do a lot of lifestyle marketing, and we'll leverage our relationship with the ski, paddling and outdoors communities to build our image through lifestyle-centric e-mails or partnerships with other sites that bring our content from our site to these other sites."


The partnership with likeminded sites will use the same content dispersal approach as witnessed in the Impreza WRX e-mail.


"We're taking subaru.com and building different content buckets within the sites that support the products, lifestyles and various purposes that various people would come to our site," Colbeck said. "But then, we're taking that content as well as having that as a destination and mobilizing it to other sites on the Web as well as through e-mail."


Subaru has an estimated 1 million active car owners in the United States. About 100,000 of them have opted in to receive e-mail updates from the car maker or entered ownership details on the MySubaru.com service.


MySubaru is a personalized online resource created for Subaru owners. Registrants can receive maintenance notices, record services in a personal log, calculate trade-in values, request news and event information and read stories from other Subaru owners.


"The other thing we're evaluating right now, and it's pretty likely to happen, is a similar type of rich media execution for our owners' site to owners that have not yet initialized their sites," Colbeck said. "We can explain to them exactly what are the benefits of joining MySubaru.com."


So, upcoming e-mails will be based on product or functionality. But the common thread through all outbound rich media efforts is the proactive dispersal of content as part of this new Subaru online strategy.


"I think what it does is increase the likelihood of the end-consumer viewing our message," Colbeck said, "and if you couple that targeted message with a targeted audience, it shows to us you've got very strong results."


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