№1 shouldn’t concern themselves with №2.
Why Hertz shouldn’t have responded to Avis.
I came across an ad-man reposting campaign’s from the 1960/70s era on LinkedIn. This one was Hertz responding to Avis’s “We Try Harder” campaign. Which had the caption “Oh, brilliant advertising, how I miss you so.”
But is it a brilliant ad?
From one perspective, it is a brilliant ad. Chris Wilkins, renowned Creative Director, says advertising is about changing how people think or reassuring them that they’ve made the right choice, which is what Hertz does.
Avis’s campaign went unanswered for years, leading to Hertz haemorrhaging market share. However, after Hertz launched the “We’re №1” campaign, the market-share gap stabilised.
To quote the ad-man on LinkedIn, “it shut Avis up”.
Copywriting by DDB, Paula Green
At first, my reasoning for it not being a good ad is that it’s rarely beneficial to react to somebody else’s actions. Like in chess, if all you’re doing is responding to your opponent’s moves, eventually you’ll lose your King.
I later discovered that because Hertz was so preoccupied with competing with Avis over the market share — primarily fighting over the airport market, Enterprise ended up surpassing them both.
As №1, Hertz should have been more concerned with growing the market itself, not fighting over market share. As Dave Trott explains in an APG Training session for Planners and Strategists, there’s a simple discipline/set of questions you need to ask when structuring a campaign.
The first question is, are we doing Market Growth or Market Share?
Discipline for Advertising Campaigns by Dave Trott
This first question is integral because, as Dave highlights, your brand owns the market, or they don’t. In other words, they’re either №1 or №2.
Since Avis is №2, their main focus when advertising is to fight over market share and to do this effectively, they must communicate why they’re better than Hertz — “We’re №2 So We Try Harder”.
Hertz’s main focus as the market leader is to grow the market. That means finding new reasons for customers to use their service other than to go back and forth from the airport.
Hertz’s campaign wasn’t brilliant because it was a short-sighted campaign. And a prime example of why №1 shouldn’t concern themselves with №2.
If you’re №1, focus on expanding, not competing.