Avis is no longer trying harder

Saw a tweet from @trevoryoung about some problems he was having getting @Avis Car Rental to respond to his problem. Well, no wonder, I thought, they don’t “try harder” anymore. They obviously barely need to try at all because now “It’s your space” and, it would seem, that includes solving problems.

This one goes into the ‘what the hell were they thinking’ basket.

When you own a promise that has meaning for your customers and other stakeholders, that you’ve lived and worked to keep for decades, and that helped distinguish you from the pack, and you then ditch it for a wishy-washy customer pandering statement that doesn’t mean anything – otherwise known as “It’s your space”, which will probably have a lifespan about the same as the next ad agency contract – well, you deserve whatever happens next.

(Can you say dodo in 3, 2, 1…)

There aren’t many taglines that have survived the agency replacement cycle for decades (or even for more than a few years). Generally they get crafted, campaigned out and discarded with depressing regularity – three years seems to be about the usual timeline. It does seem ironic that it was that very cycle that finally led to the demise of this one.

In a predictable (and probably fruitless) attempt to recapture dwindling customer numbers, the head of marketing at Avis ditched the agency, bought in some new guys and, as night follows day, “We try harder” was toast.

But “We try harder” had become much more than a tagline. Whether by accident or design, it seemed to tap into something that the company believed and customers wanted. A tangible signal, a promise that seemed to say, “We care about your custom and will work to make sure we keep it.”

I also suspect that the issues leading to a dwindling customer share probably have less to do with their tagline and more to do with some dramatic shifts in the rental car industry in recent years.

As I have discussed before, marketing campaigns are an easy way to think you’re doing something. They are relatively quick to create and get out (although in this case the associated costs of replacing “we try harder” on everything that moves can’t be cheap). Addressing the fundamental issues within your company is a much more painful and difficult process.

I can only imagine how different the approach might have looked if instead of ditching “We try harder” they had fixed the places where they weren’t keeping their promise, where they looked for new ways they could keep the promise, and where they had actually tried harder.

Michel is an independent adviser and advocate dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.


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