Social media has changed the way we talk -- or at least what we mean when we talk. "Checking in" used to mean getting a key at the hotel desk, "sharing" was done over coffee, and giving a "status update" was reserved for astronauts and combat personnel. Thanks to Facebook, Google, and a host of other social services, all three terms have new resonance. Now, we can add another to that list: badging.
Once upon a time, badges were the province of Boy Scouts and Brownies -- little icons worn on a sash to tell friends and relatives that you could start a campfire with two bottlecaps and a dollar bill (we've seen it done) or that you knew how to find your way home when mom and dad forgot to pick you up from soccer practice. Geolocation apps like Foursquare and Gowalla, however, have taken that concept and run with it, offering badges for visiting certain sites and accomplishing a range of tasks. Subaru, in turn, has brought that idea back to the real world with a new program that offers special badges for your car's rear end.
The Subaru badges have two different components. The first is a large blue circle that show the number of Subaru vehicles you've owned (as in, "This is my 3rd Subaru!"). The other extends off that to the right, and like a Girl Scout badge or an insignia on your class ring, it tells passersby a little about you. There are badges for cyclists, animal-lovers, gearheads, greenthumbs, the LGBT community, even high-mileage show-offs -- and because of the way they're designed (check the photo above), you can add as many as you like. The badges are adhesive and can be ordered from BadgeOfOwnership.com.
In our not-so-humble opinion, this is a very cool move for Subaru. Yes, we've seen plenty of decals and accessories for brand fans over the years, from designer mudflaps to the annoying (and annoyingly ubiquitous) "pissing Calvin" stickers. But Subaru's badges are different because (a) they come directly from the manufacturer, and (b) they incorporate other lifestyle data that has nothing to do with the brand. In a nutshell, Subaru is refining its image by aligning itself with these different interests, telling the world (or whomever's tailgating you), "If you're into snow skiiing, or if you're eco-friendly, Subaru is the car for you!" That creates a great richness for the brand, and because Subaru is controlling the badges, it can control which lifestyle affiliations sit on Subaru vehicles.
Also, they look pretty damn cool, and for accessory fanatics, that's what counts.