Avis Brags about its Second Position — And Gives Us a Marketing Lesson in it

Hardik Lashkari
2 min readSep 7, 2019

Will you ever boast if you are placed at the second-best position in your niche market?

You won’t, right?

We all have been taught since our childhoods to secure the first position and become best at whatever we do or will do. No one likes to come second and boast about it.

But, hang on. There’s a company who has created a sensation in the advertising world by bragging about being second best.

Avis, an American car rental company, was lacking behind the market leader, Hertz.

In 1962, Avis consulted Doyle Dane Bernbach (an ad agency) for a new advertising campaign.

DDB decided to embrace Avis’ second-place status to show its commitment and dedication in providing excellent customer service.

In its ads, Avis happily bragged about being the second-best car rental company.

They subtly pointed out that they can’t afford to provide sub-par services or ignore customer satisfaction unlike the Number 1 company (Hertz).

Also, they cheekily described their unique selling propositions by mentioning “The line at our counter is short”, “start you out with a new car, like a lively super-torque Ford, and a pleasant smile”.

Did This Ad Campaign Work Wonders?

In the very first year, Avis made a profit, finally. In the second year, its profit jumped by 150%. In the third year, it doubled again. Slowly, Avis started stealing a large part of market share once enjoyed alone by Hertz.

“We Care about People Who Liked It,” said DDB Director

When “We Try Harder” campaign was launched, Avis and DDB team researched to see the people’s reaction.

Naturally, 50% of people didn’t like the concept.

However, Bill Bernbach, the Creative Director of DDB focused on other 50% who liked the concept and decided to continue the campaign.

Even the advertising industry considered this ad as “one-page error”. Most agencies thought it was a blunder and un-American concept.

But, Avis and DDB ignored what others had to say and pulled out one of the most creative campaigns ever.

“We Try Harder.”