It isn’t often that we get a ringside seat to the dismantling of a venerable brand, but that’s what happened this week when Avis, the car rental company, made the announcement that it has scrapped its “We Try Harder” slogan.
Did your jaw drop? Mine did.
After all, a slogan that conveys a deeply rooted corporate philosophy – motivating employees and promising benefits to consumers – is a rare and beautiful thing. Much more rare is one that’s almost universally recognized by consumers, and has been for half a century.
The appeal to consumers is obvious; the “We Try Harder” has been listed as one of the “Top Ten Ad Campaigns of the 20th Century,” by CNBC. But maybe the people inside the company thought it was irrelevant. To find out, let’s look at this description of the slogan from Avis’ own website.
“The phrase “We Try Harder” has gone down in advertising history as one of the longest-lasting and respected taglines. The origination of the slogan was not to create a cute gimmick, but instead it was – and is – a business philosophy that every Avis employee holds true. “We Try Harder” has helped Avis earn a reputation as one of the most admired businesses in the world.”
Judging from this description, the company was quite proud of its tagline. It was seen as a “philosophy that every Avis employee holds true.” So why would they change it? One possible explanation remains. Maybe the new slogan is even better – more intrinsically truthful, more philosophically relevant, more appealing to consumers? Well, you be the judge. The new slogan is:
“It’s Your Space.”
You heard it right. Avis abandoned one of the most motivating slogans in history to instead describe the empty space inside their vehicles. This seems fitting, because the entire concept is empty. It’s as though Avis has gone from trying harder to not bothering to try at all.
It is rare for a slogan to capture a higher purpose and to unite employees with a guide to behavior, or as one Avis ad calls it, “a doctrine.” It is a tragedy when such a doctrine is scrapped for the expedience of a flashy new campaign.
So I’ll close with a prediction: Within two years, and probably sooner, Avis will again try harder, as employees rise up to reject this foolish insult to a culture of performance that has served the company well for over fifty years.