Friday, June 3, 2011

Avis - We Try Harder

The 1960s era reminds most of us of man's journey to the moon, but this period also saw immaculate advertising, especially in the U.S.A. In the annals of exceptional advertising, the one outstanding campaign created during this period was Car Rental Avis Management's 'We Try Harder' marketing genius.

Let's paint a vivid picture of the entire scenario. Those were the initial few months of 1962 and Avis had not made any profits for the last 13 years. With a meagre 11% market share in the business, Avis was far behind the leading car rental company Hertz. To be precise, Avis was like that school girl with freckles and dishevelled hair that no one ever noticed in the class. Now the story badly needed a God-sent angel to turn the fairy tale around. Enter Robert Townsend as the CEO of Avis and the distressed company gets onto the 'happy-go-lucky' track for the first time since its 'inception'. 

Townsend appointed Bill Bernbach of ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) and emphatically asked him, "How do we get five dollar's worth of impact for every dollar we spend?" Bill demanded 90 days to learn their way of working and studied Avis' management from head to toe. He recommended the car rental company to overhaul its product before any new campaign sees the dawn of a new day. Bill religiously believed that it is always a mistake to make a good advertisement for a bad product and hence wanted to ensure Avis was a good product indeed.

 DDB involved Art Director Helmut Krone(of the Volkswagen campaign fame) and Writer Paula Green to work on Avis. During the process of understanding the nitty-gritties of Avis, the team asked one innocuous question to Avis' employees, "Why does anyone ever rent a car from you?" And thus came the reply that made a historical landmark in marketing archives, "We try harder because we have to." 

It was as if DDB could see the road ahead from that point. The agency decided to turn Avis' vulnerability into its asset and came up with the 'We try Harder' campaign. DDB broke the standard mould of advertising with a simple yet powerful campaign based solely on truth. The truth which enunciated that Avis is not the top notch company and that's why they have to put in more efforts to create a niche in the consumer's mind, and that's their USP. 

With no creative fluff, whatsoever, a curt and yet a polite campaign sans any cleverness was an instant hit among consumers at large. The company that was lurking in losses for more than a decade began to make resounding profits within a year of the launch of the campaign. And within 3 years, Avis' market share more than tripled from 11% to 35%. Such a distinctively simple, self-effacing and yet a motivating brand experience is worth the 'treble', isn't it!