Longevity, Safety, Versatility and Adventure. Why do you love your Subaru?

Digital storytelling is a fascinating concept because it goes beyond a typical advertisement. According to Ignite Social Media, “today, instead of talking at the customer, companies are successfully talking to them, and customers are talking back. Advertising has left the rarefied atmosphere of one-way communication and entered the public arena. Companies who manage to harness the power of the public meet roaring success. The key: Company image and actions must meet the standards of the brand story. Today’s customers demand truth, and companies that can’t deliver are crucified across all platforms of social media.”

A great example of a brand that does digital storytelling well is Subaru. In 2009, Subaru collaborated with Carmichael Lynch, an advertising agency, to create the Love campaign. “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.” became the new tagline and the company still uses it today. Carmichael Lynch has seen a lot of success with the campaign and stated that, “since beginning our Love campaign, Subaru has tapped into powerful human emotions to double market share and surpass eleven other car makers on America’s list of best-selling auto brands”. With the Love campaign being received positively by consumers, Carmichael Lynch decided to expand the campaign and introduce Dear Subaru. This campaign also began in 2009 and encourages Subaru owners to share their photos and stories about why they love their vehicles. Dear Subaru was launched as a multichannel campaign, however, even after the paid media ended, its owner-centric Facebook app continues to function and serves as a story hub. Readers can scroll through various stories, filter the stories based on themes, and view the ads that were created based on customer stories. Several stories from Facebook are also uploaded to Subaru’s main website. When the campaign first launched, over 150 to 200 Dear Subaru stories were uploaded each week.

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It is widely known that Subaru owners are passionate about their cars and are loyal to the brand. “If you ask a Subaru owner what they think of their car, more times than not they’ll tell you they love it,” said Alan Bethke, director of marketing communications for Subaru of America. The Dear Subaru platform provides owners with a fun way to interact with the brand and share their passion. What I liked about this campaign is that Subaru took the stories and used them within its own advertising. What better story to tell than one from a loyal customer? The stories include how the vehicle saved lives, took them on adventures, helped them plow through snow, and much more. Subaru prides itself on the longevity, safety, versatility and adventure its cars can offer a consumer. These stories continue to strengthen the company’s reputation and encourage conversation about the Subaru brand. Owners are sharing their stories on the site, but often the conversations will extend from online to offline.

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I think Subaru’s use of user-generated content through the Dear Subaru campaign is fantastic. Subaru is providing its owners with the opportunity to tell the brand’s story through photos and personal testimonies. One Spot posted a great infographic that takes a look at the science behind storytelling. Dear Subaru does an excellent job of showing and not telling its compelling content and its digital story.

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Just Fun and Games?

Over the years, Internet and other digital media usage has rapidly increased among young consumers and marketers have taken notice. Brands are expanding their marketing to include commercial websites, Internet advertising, online videos, social media, and advergames. Advergames, online games used to advertise products in a fun and engaging way, are commonly featured on company websites and developed into mobile apps. Advergames are growing across global markets, but brands must be prepared to handle the backlash that surrounds advertising to children.

Food and beverage companies are among many that have jumped on the advergame bandwagon and are using them to reach children of all ages. These simple and enticing games for laptops, touch-screen phones and tablets are far cheaper than traditional advertising and have proven to be effective because it encourages a tighter bond between marketers and young consumers.

One brand that utilizes advergames on its corporate web site to specifically target youth Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.49.49 PMis Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts®. On the Pop-Tarts website, there are eight different games available for children of all ages to play. These games include mazes, skiing simulations, bike riding over a toaster, memory testing, and two holiday themed games. The games are similar to traditional online games; however each game on this web site is unique by being centralized around the product. For example, the main interactive character is a Pop-Tart and the games include items that relate to the product, such as a toaster.

A few apps that have already become hits are “SuperPretzel Factory”, which encourages players to race against a timer to mix bowls of dough, and “Icee Maker”, which has been downloaded more than eight million times since its release in 2012. Mobile apps have become increasingly popular because children can easily use and understand a touch screen. A recent survey conducted by NPD Group found that 37% of 4-and 5-year old Americans were using smartphones and tablets.

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Smartphones and tablets have started to change consumer’s habits and marketers are rushing to build a presence with games that appeal to children.

Even though these games may be successful, many considered this form of marketing to be unethical because it is manipulating children’s behavior without them even realizing it. At Bath University, Dr. Haiming Hang and Dr. Agnes Nairn have conduct several studies on advergames and found that while most children are able to identify more traditional forms of advertising, billboards or television commercials, many were not able to identify advergames as a form of advertising also. Additional research has also suggested that children’s understanding of advergames is undeveloped, which has generated a lot of concern because children are being influenced to make poor dietary choices. Luciana Berger MP, Labour’s shadow Public Health Minister, said she was “alarmed” by the increasing use of advergames. “Parents are anxious about these unfamiliar techniques in new online media and more must be done to ensure they have the information they need to protect their children from being bombarded by these compelling free games that we know most children don’t even recognize as adverts,” she added.

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What are your thoughts on advergames? Just for fun? Or marketing in disguise?