How about trying harder?
When it comes to studying brand classics, there are several great branding cases that appear on regular basis. Whether you are reading a book about brand management or browsing through branding blogs, you will probably run into Volkswagen, Nike or Virgin examples at some point. If you narrow your classics search down to brands that were successfully repositioned in relation to the market leader, your journey will probably end with Avis. Or better yet, it will start with Avis.
I have studied the Avis repositioning million times. It is a great example of how to challenge the market leader. Avis openly stated that they were number two in rent-a-car business and that they always had to try harder. I was well familiar with the slogan “We try harder”, but only recently I found out that the process that led to it was even more inspiring.
Back in the sixties Avis was only number two in rent-a-car business in America. They lagged heavily behind the leader Hertz and have not gained profit for years. Somewhere during that time Avis appointed Robert Townsend as their new CEO with the main tasks of reviving the brand and boosting profit. The new ambitious CEO immediately started the search for the creative agency that would help him in achieving those goals.
The agency brief was rather challenging. It demanded a campaign that would achieve the same effect as their rivals but with five times less money. DDB’s Bill Bernbach accepted the challenge under two conditions. The first condition was having 90 days to get to know Avis and its business better. The second was running the campaign exactly as the agency has defined it, without making any changes. Two businessmen shook hands and the rest is history.
Not only was the branding and advertising history made that day, but also the history of good and respectful relations between the client and the agency. Robert Townsend wrote a short manifesto making sure that the deal between Avis and DDB was fully respected. He had the manifesto framed and hung in every office at both sides.
Meanwhile, DDB came up with a strategy and the creative idea so simple yet so brilliant stating “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. The advertising was straightforward, truthful, fun and timeless. Within two years Avis was back in the game with its profit and market share steadily rising.
The moral of the story is simple. Why not try harder to trust the agency next time it comes up with some innovative and challenging ideas. It is definitely worth it if you have in mind that trust and mutual respect are the best incentives in making inspiring and timeless brands.