Suzuki Hustler: an advertising concept for a Japanese kei car

Suzuki Hustler: an advertising concept for a Japanese kei car

Part of my business plan is to expand into markets around the Pacific Rim. Western advertising concepts don’t always translate well, so I’ve been investing time in research, particularly in Korean and Japanese advertising styles.

Having developed a fascination with the Suzuki Hustler, I created an advertising concept for the diminutive car. It would give me a chance to work with something more Japanese and build on my developing skills.

The “Brief”

For this concept I tasked myself with producing adverts for local papers and magazines. The ads were to build brand and interest and would run single and double page. They’d have to include the Suzuki tagline “Hustler’s Life”, price and fuel economy and an image of the Suzuki Hustler. I gave myself three hours to work up the concepts.

Researching the Suzuki Hustler

About a third of cars sold in Japan are small kei cars. Suzuki has several in its fleet, with The Hustler being sold as a micro crossover. They’re sold in bright colours, and the website advertising includes young people doing outdoor activities. There’s even a range of add-ons to convert your Hustler into a camper van or BBQ kitchen.

I spent a while on the website understanding how the vehicles were positioned. I also tapped my research into Japanese advertising, examples I’ve archived and a few photos I’d snapped of them on the streets. 

In a client-facing project I like to have research from the client about audiences for the vehicles and target outlets. If that’s not forthcoming, I’ll work up my own. Given the dynamics of the Japanese population, I decided on a concept that was relatively neutral with its targeting and could be adapted as the need arose.

The concept

Using “crazy 8s” I worked up a few ideas quickly, then slimmed them down into a single concept. What I settled on was a relatively minimal design that used elements of photo montage and bright, bold blocks. This fits into the slightly chaotic style that Japanese advertising can take.

The Hustler sat top right in a bold position. I tilted it to suggest it was climbing, linking it to the bright banner. To hint at depth, I placed the front right wheel behind the banner.

I used the bright banner to cut the page in half and provide an anchor for the “Hustler’s Life” tagline. A single adjective in Japanese added expectation and reassured the reader this was a native product.

Fuel economy and price were placed inside green circles and positioned bottom right. In Japan a green circle can be used in much the same way as a tick in The West, providing positive confirmation.

An image of a young woman looking at the Hustler reinforced the idea this was a product to be excited about. Looking at the vehicle draws the reader’s attention back to it and past the tagline.

Beneath her sat the advert’s text content. I put my standard disclaimer on it, although in a live ad this is where disclaimers and contact information might go.


I created a pair of layouts – one for double spread, one for single. The double spread layout was designed so each of the main elements sits fully on a page, reducing the disruption a spine might cause. The exception is the “Hustler’s Life” tagline which breaks, although letter positioning might make this less noticeable.


The layout is fairly simple and could be easily adapted by changing the adjective, vehicle colours and the image of the young woman to speak to different audiences. For a brand trying to appeal to varying segments this style of ad can be effective as you have the core concept to tie everything together, with each variation speaking to a particular part of the audience.


As a concept worked up in 3 hours, this does the job of showing the basics of the advert. There are changes I would make if it went forward.

Suzuki branding. The Suzuki brand isn’t explicitly referenced in the concept.

Custom photography. The image comes from a stock library and could appear elsewhere. This might work for a small brand, but a larger brand ought to have its own stock library to support creatives.

Fonts. The Suzuki brand fonts should be used rather than generic ones. The same would apply to colours, potentially taken from the options the vehicles are available in.

Placement. There are some improvements to where items are placed. The model slightly dominates the advert on the double sized spread, although making her smaller upsets the layout slightly.

Black & White. The layouts haven’t been tested for reproduction on black and white stock. Black and white versions will be needed for free newspapers.

Bottom line

Concepts aren’t perfect and there are areas where this one can be improved. Overall, I think the strong and bold layout, coupled with use of Japanese idioms and text work well. The reaction from my Japanese friends has been positive, so I’ll mark it down as a step in the right direction.

About Ross A Hall

A business researcher and writer, I help companies find new markets, form strategies and build successful businesses.

Find out more about my work.

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