Being No. 2 and trying harder

I always thought Avis’s iconic 1962 “We’re No.2” (and “We Try Harder”) campaign (by the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach) was intended as a salvo against market leader Hertz! After all, when they say that they are No. 2, our attention automatically heads towards the No. 1, even though they do not mention No. 1 or Hertz specifically at all.

But, it was supposedly a salvo at the No. 3, 4, 5, 6 and so on!

Here’s an excerpt from the book, “From those wonderful folks who gave you Pearl Harbour: Front-line dispatches from the advertising war”, by Jerry Della Femina (pages 39-40) that explains the context!

What fantastic insight!

At first, Hertz, the No. 1, ignored Avis’s campaign, despite the subtle provocation. After all, why give in to the provocation? They are the market leaders anyway.

But, besides helping Avis win over the No. 3-4-5-6s, it also framed the No. 2 as trying to do better than No. 1, and Hertz’s market share dropped from 61% to 49%! And Avis’s market share grew from 29% to 36%! So, unlike what Jerry says in the book (referred above), it looks like Avis did take away customers from both above and below (Hertz, and the ones below it, in market share) with their ‘we try harder’ campaign.

So, Hertz was forced to retaliate directly, eventually. The retorts (by the agency Carl Ally) was smart too, but a bit late.

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