How 3 Words and a Single Campaign Brought this Brand from Second Place to Center Stage

Kushagra Oberoi
3 min readDec 10, 2023
Source: Author

In 1962, the Avis (rent-a-car) brand was struggling in the market. They were second to Hertz and wanted to do something about it.

They hired an ad agency called Doyle Dane Bernbach to launch a new campaign. And the agency decided to embrace the brand’s second-place status with pride.

They launched a new campaign with a tagline titled “We Try Harder.” The idea was to re-position the brand by focusing on a strong sense of customer service.

The BIG Idea? If Avis is number 2, they HAVE to try harder. There’s no other choice.

Here is a fine ad from the campaign…

Source: Author

Here’s what I love about this ad:

The writing is exceptionally simple and conversational.

It addresses common objections. Plus, the cheeky wit adds to the personality of the brand.

Here’s another one…

Source: Author

Here’s what I love about this ad:

The messaging is no longer about cars. It’s about the first-hand experience of the interaction.

Plus, they justify why they cannot afford to lose you which makes you feel special.

Okay…last one!

Source: Author

Here’s what I love about this ad:

The messaging focuses on a classic psychological trigger; saving time.

Avis justifies it by saying that they don’t have a long & boring form-filling process. They don’t just talk about benefits but also the experience.

The “We Try Harder” ads were an instant hit. Within a year, Avis went from losing $3.2 million to earning $1.2 million — the first time it had been profitable in more than a decade.

From 1963 to 1966, as Hertz ignored the Avis campaign…The market share percentage gap between the two brands shrunk from 61–29 to 49–36.

That’s the power of a simple idea when executed via a great campaign, good copy, and simple ads.

Lesson: Always start with a simple BIG IDEA and then fill in the gaps.

What do you think about the Avis campaign?

Let me know in the comments!

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Kushagra Oberoi

Snippets on What I learn about Copywriting & Marketing. 👀