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Size is an interesting thing.

In martial arts such as Jujitsu, a fighter can leverage the size of an opponent to bring him/her down to the ground.

Avis has had all of the size in the car rental industry since their inception. This is mainly due to the fact the founder, Warren Avis, was the first one to put car rentals where travelers needed them the most: inside of airports.

As a result, Avis became #1 in car rentals, and holds that distinction today.

In 1962, Avis used Hertz's success to their advantage. After failing to turn a profit in previous years, Avis hired DDB to create a new branding and ad strategy.

The ad was simple, yet VERY effective in its message:

The "We Try Harder" ad was a huge success!

After one year, that campaign reversed the company's losses, "helping it to go from losing $3.2 million to turning a profit of $1.2 million for the first time in 13 years (Ad Age)."

The campaign was brilliant because it exposed the potentially damaging effect of being #1, such as taking customers for granted. Avis was clearly expressing they "try harder" "because we have to" which gave them an obvious advantage over the reigning rental car giant.

In fact, the campaign was so successful, that the company ran if for 50 years! After all, if a campaign is still pulling, don't pull it.

This campaign led to other campaigns that further deepened this idea of "trying" harder by simply exclaiming, "We Can't Afford..." followed by a minor or major detail of services such as:

  • worn wipers
  • to skip the tires
  • Etc.

As a result, the brand became more about how hard Avis has to constantly work to climb the mountain of market share through excellence in car rental delivery and satisfaction.

So why did Avis eventually drop the campaign?

Well, in 2011 it was discovered Avis was actually now #3 in car rentals, behind Enterprise. It's great to say you're #2, but when you lose market share after running the same ad for 50 years, it's time to "try harder" at something else.

Either way, this campaign was one of the most historic in advertising history.

Don't compete — DOMINATE.

 

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