After 50 years of “We try harder,” AVIS Car Rental has announced that it will replace that slogan with a new one, “It’s your space.” When introduced, “We try harder” was lauded as a brilliant counterpoint to Hertz’s #1 position in the car rental industry. It was a strong brand promise that played off the belief that the #2 car rental company would work harder on a customer’s behalf.
Since the introduction of that slogan, the competitive landscape in the rental car industry has gotten more crowded and more challenging. Having used most of the rental car brands myself, I can confirm that Enterprise has consistently shown that it tries harder in the area of customer service. Perhaps, that’s why AVIS finally walked away from its much-lauded slogan.
While I can understand that “It’s your space” is customer focused, it is not a promise and I am unconvinced that it differentiates. I am sure a great amount of brand research went into the development of the new tagline (or I at least hope it did). But I just don’t get it. As a very frequent business traveler, I am not compelled to use AVIS based on this new slogan.
I will withhold judgment until I have seen the marketing campaigns associated with this slogan unfold, but, for now, all I can say is, “huh?”
What is your opinion?
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I am a big believer in taglines. They are an effective way to communicate the brand’s “unique value proposition” powerfully, succinctly and memorably. It is very difficult to create the perfect tagline, however, because of all of the objectives that it must accomplish:
- It communicates the brand’s “unique value proposition”
- In an economy of words
- It is believable for the brand
- Competitive brands are not saying and cannot say the same thing
- It is memorable – it must stick in people’s minds
- It can’t be trite
- It needs to do more than just refer to the product category
- It should not promise a “cost of entry” benefit for the category
- Ideally, it is entertaining or emotionally appealing
Common tagline mistakes:
- Claiming something that is overused or trite
- We are the [quality/service/innovation] leader
- Excellence in all that we do
- You can count on us
- We care about people
- Saying something that sounds good (is “catchy”) but that does not differentiate the brand in a meaningful way
- Communicating what product category the brand is in…period.
- Claiming a benefit that all brands in the category must deliver (a “cost of entry” benefit)
- Saying something that many or all brands in your brand’s category could also say
- Saying something that is so broad that it is meaningless
- Saying something that is too complicated or confusing
- Using too many words
Taglines must be developed based on a well thought through “unique value proposition” informed by customer insight. Only then should one begin the process of generating hundreds, if not thousands, of tagline options, which will be evaluated against the above mentioned criteria to filter out all but the most powerful options.
In definitive global research, The Conference Board has found the development and consistent use of a tagline to be a key factor in brand strategy success. A tagline that succinctly and powerfully communicates the brand’s promise is one of the quickest, easiest and least expensive ways to communicate the brand’s new position to internal and external audiences. It should consistently accompany the brand’s logo in situations outlined by the brand architecture.
I believe that developing brand taglines (and elevator speeches) are the most important next steps one can take once a brand has been positioned or repositioned.
A tagline should achieve all of the following for your brand:
- Communicate the brand’s unique value proposition (brand promise)
- Be succinct
- Be memorable
- Cause a person to want to know more about or interact further with the brand
Achieving all of the above is more easily said than done. Over time, I have found that the less sophisticated the client, the more they are primarily interested in a tagline that sounds good, even if it doesn’t really say the right thing or anything at all about the brand. Many relatively unsophisticated clients would choose a tagline option that sounds great but that is completely off brand strategy over one that just sounds good but perfectly communicates the brand’s unique value proposition.
Yes, it is up to the brand consultant or marketing agency to create or recommend the perfect tagline, one that does all of the above, but I am amazed at how many clients are willing to walk away from their brand strategy to embrace a cool sounding tagline that means nothing. I have heard marketers and clients say, “I like that tagline because it could mean anything” or “I like that tagline because it could mean different things to different people.” Or worse yet, “That sounds so cool. Does it really matter if it communicates our brand’s promise?” Yes it does. Why bother with a tagline if it is not helping position your brand the way you want it to be positioned? Don’t settle for a tagline that just sounds good. Keep the process going until you have found one that achieves all of the above criteria. You will be rewarded with a stronger brand.
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Any successful brand is successful by standing for something in the mind. Changing what you stand for is almost impossible unless you don’t stand for anything at all. In other words, a brand that is nowhere in the mind is a brand that can be changed. A brand that stands for something in the mind is a brand that is forever locked into its position.
In the cemetery of failed launches are thousands of products like Xerox computers, IBM copiers, Tanqueray vodka, Listerine toothpaste, Coca-Cola clothes, etc. These products didn’t fail in the marketplace, they failed in the mind. They tried to stand for something that didn’t fit the prospects perceptions about the brands.
Mind first, market second. You can’t short-circuit the process by taking a good product to market to demonstrate its superior performance and then, in the process, changing perceptions in the mind.
I have been in more meetings than I can count where a CEO or a CMO has said, 'Here is our product which out-performs our competition. Now it’s your job to communicate that superiority to prospects.'
Forget reality. Forget product superiority. Marketing is a game of perceptions. The perception is the reality. Start with the mind of the prospect and figure out a way to deal with those perceptions, even if those perceptions are negative.
The jingle had no definitive debut: its infiltration of the radio was more of an evolutionary process than a sudden innovation. Product advertisements with a musical tilt can be traced back to 1923, around the same time commercial radio came to the public. However, if one entity has the best claim to the first jingle it’s General Mills, who aired the world’s first singing commercial. The seminal radio bite, entitled "Have You Tried Wheaties?", was first released on the Christmas Eve of 1926. It featured four male singers, who were eventually christened "The Wheaties Quartet", singing the following lines:
Have you tried Wheaties?
They’re whole wheat with all of the bran.
Won’t you try Wheaties?
For wheat is the best food of man.
While the lyrics may appear hokey to modern day society, the advertisement was an absolute sensation to consumers at the time. In fact, it was such a success that it served to save the otherwise failing brand of cereal. In 1929, General Mills was seriously considering dropping Wheaties on the basis of poor sales. However, advertising manager Sam Gale pointed out that an astounding 30,000 of the 53,000 cases of cereal that General Mills sold were in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the only location where “Have You Tried Wheaties?” was being aired at the time. Encouraged by the incredible results of this new method of advertising, General Mills changed tactics entirely. Instead of dropping the cereal, it purchased nationwide commercial time for the advertisement. The resultant climb in sales single-handedly saved the now über-popular cereal.
Sources: Ask the Expert, General Mills
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