It isn’t often that we get a ringside seat to the dismantling of a venerable brand, but that’s what happened when Avis, the car rental company, announced that it scrapped its iconic “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. Even rarer 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” slogan 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’s 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 proud of its tagline. It was seen as a “philosophy that every Avis employee holds true.” Why would they change it? One possible explanation remains. Maybe the new slogan is even better—more intrinsically truthful, philosophically relevant, and appealing to consumers. You be the judge.
The new slogan is: “It’s Your Space.”
That’s right. Avis abandoned one of the most motivating slogans in history to describe the empty space inside its vehicles. This seems fitting, because the entire concept is empty. It’s as though Avis went from trying harder to not bothering to try at all.
It is rare for a slogan to capture a higher purpose and unite employees, 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.
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 more than 50 years.
This article first appeared on CRT/Tanaka.