Avis announced it is dropping its 50-year-old tagline of “we try harder.”
At first, I was intrigued. The new tagline must be amazing, something to capture today’s car renter and distinguish Avis in an entirely new way.
And then I saw the new tagline: “It’s your space.”
Out with an iconic tagline, in with a tagline that could be easily used by any of its competitors. As a scathing review (of many) in AdAge noted, this new tagline is not inspired. It’s vacuous.
I can only conjecture what prompted the change, but I suspect it centers less on the Avis CMO wanting to make an egotistically driven mark on the company, and more on a tendency almost all of us as marketers exhibit, namely, the tendency to worship the new and show little respect for the existing and old, especially if that “old” was created by someone other than ourselves.
I’m just as guilty of this tendency as the next marketer. After all, I’ve been known to question if “campaign fatigue” is starting to emerge even though the campaign is relatively early in its lifecycle as well as personally to boast about uncovering a previously undiscovered travel destination, a new singer or being among the first to eat at a new restaurant. And Twitter and Facebook only intensify this desire to be onto what is the “new new” because those vehicles offer a way to broadcast those discoveries.
But I’d like to suggest in this continual pursuit of the new and trendy, we overlook the inherent value of the classics—and why those classics became classics. The Avis “we try harder” positioning was brilliant from a traditional branding perspective because it differentiated Avis in a defensible manner that was relevant to, and believable by, the external and internal target audiences.
The great thing about classics is that while they might no longer be “fresh and new,” they still resonate. Think about the music of the Beatles. Fresh? Definitely not. But does the music still have an emotional effect on us? More than likely, yes. Contrast that to music that, as a friend of mine recently noted, sounds dated within three months of release. That is the difference between a trend and a classic.
As cultural “curators” (admittedly, an overused term as of late), we marketers need to be extremely rigorous in assessing whether or not to make a move as drastic as did Avis. Is there a truly compelling reason to toss out a classic, or are we merely feeding our addiction to the “new new?”
A related second tendency is our desire as marketers to demonstrate that we are change agents and innovators, but that tendency also needs further consideration. After all, success at innovation comes from identifying where things need to change relative to what should not change.
As a result, anytime there is a desire to toss out the status quo—whether or not that status quo is a classic or not—a very tough review needs to take place to make sure that the new “thing” truly exceeds the status quo by all traditional branding considerations. Branding fundamentals still matter, especially if tempted by the lure of the new (just ask those of us who through out some of those fundamentals and learned the lessons the hard way back in the dot-bomb days). If the new isn’t not firing on all essential marketing cylinders, the marketers inside the company and in the agency need to show the discipline—and often the courage—to say: “No. Keep the old.”
Hmmm…I might even eat lunch today at an old favorite haunt. After all, I know that I always enjoy and appreciate its take on the Reuben sandwich.