April 15, 2008

We’re No. 2.
Do we try harder?

What’s common between the No. 2 car rental company in the 1960s and the No. 2 test cricket team in 2008?

They’re both No. 2. Apart from that, not much.

While Avis, America’s No. 2 car rental company, came to terms with its rank, India, the world’s No. 2 test nation, isn’t quite there yet.

When Avis cracked its brilliant ad campaign in the 60s, it first faced facts: it was No.2, not No.1. And to be No.1, it must first consolidate as No.2.

Meanwhile, after India’s first ever test win at Perth, it was presumed, somewhat prematurely, that India will soon be No.1. This was constantly communicated by the power brokers of Indian cricket. Nowhere was it mentioned how India would be No. 1, it was just assumed. Possibly because when you’re climbing, after No.2 it’s No.1. No negative thoughts of shaky ground that can make No. 2 slide.

Avis made no bones about their No. 2 ranking, and saw a big-time opportunity in it: a cult advertising idea was born: We’re No.2. We try harder.

And try harder they did. It was the little things like, “cleaner ashtrays” and “shorter queues” they harped on about. Stuff that struck a chord. Better still, they stuck to their promises. And that’s how they delivered. They became a stronger, more credible No.2. And even threatened the No. 1 car rental company, Hertz.

Today, while India retains its No. 2 ranking, it plays more like No. 3 or 4 on most days. In the last series in South Africa, form and a 1-0 lead was squandered. Ultimately, India lost that series 2-1. Appears India’s surprise at winning their first ever test there overwhelmed this bunch of underachievers. Against a rudderless Pakistani side, India at home, barely managed a test series win.

Is team India just a motley crew of the most gifted cricketers assembled together– the Soviet Union of cricket?

When Avis started its “we’re No. 2” ad pilgrimage, it ensured every employee across the United States was on the same page. For India, having one team on the same book is a tall order. Then what must it be like to have three teams play under two different captains?

So, what can the Indian test learn from Avis’ “We’re No. 2. We try harder” campaign

1. Accept the truth: you are not close to No. 1 yet
2. To become No. 1, you first have to be a potent No. 2.
3. To be a potent No. 2, you have to be a world-beater –that is, do more things right than wrong – i.e. win more than you lose.
4. Accept graciously that you’re just about No. 2 today – one good session for South Africa on the 3rd day, and they might have been No. 2. And one session is not enough to separate two teams.
5. Is it possible there is not a team worthy of being No. 2? Instead there are two No. 3 teams.
6. The opposition is not within the team, it is the opposing team.
7. Introspect, ask questions. If ad legend, Bill Bernbach had not asked the folks at Avis any questions, there would never have been any answers.
8. Innovate. Do not copy Australia. Just like Avis did not ape Hertz. Find your own way to beat the best.
9. Every little counts. From “clean ashtrays” and “shorter queues” in the Avis way – to better fitness, improved fielding, running between wickets and overall attitude.
10. Respect the customer – i.e. respect the cricket fan, they make you possible.
11. Try harder.

And an aside, not from the Avis school of thought, but from the Indian cricket school:

Respect your seniors. One day you may play as a senior too. Never know what happens, when you try harder. Ask Saurav Ganguly.


Ottayan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ottayan said...

Granted acceptance of your worth is important. However it is more important to be unsatisfied with your current station in life.

Naked Cricket said...

"can get no satisfaction" is not our team's theme song. Far from it.

Cricket Guru said...

We are going through the same phase as in 2003/04, when we reached the finals of WC, leveled the series in Australia and beat Pak in their own den. Suddenly, the team was hailed as a potential challenger to Australia. What happened thereafter is well documented. I hope there is no repeat, this time around.

Good write. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

Your Avis Vs Hertz comparison reminded me of two other pathbreaking ad campaigns.

The first one was by Volkswagen when they lauched the legendary Beetle car. That was a time when 'big' was the norm in US automobile industry. VW made the small car as their USP.

THe other one was Pepsi's "Nothing official about it" campaign, launched after they lost the sponsorship bid for 1996 WC to arch rival Coke.

Classic case of how to turn adversity into opportunity.

Ona different note, being an ad guy, you must have most certainly read James Twitchell's "Twenty Ads That Shook The World".

Bhaskar Khaund said...

i need to make a "great post" template soon methinks ! I couldn't agree more with this one , G ji. You said it well and covered every supporting point. IMHO , there is a #1 team and then around 2-5 #2 teams depending on team form at the time...On the plus side , we got a slogan that'd seriously threaten Bernach and any "we try harder" type slogan worth its salt - namely "India's Race to No. 1"...prime time stuff that !

Straight Point said...


BRILLIANT post mate!!

we definitely need to try harder...

it will take sometime getting used to being no.2 is my take...we have tradition of being slow starters coming out of cold...

one thing is for sure...they now know that their customers (we the fans) are not going to be easily satisfied...and one win here or there is not going to please us anymore...

i reckon we are in for some good time ahead...

Naked Cricket said...

Cheers Cricket Guru! Nothing Official was the most fun Pepsi ever had in india. think prahlad kakkar did the tvcs, he's quite a mad hatter too.
Where the suckers moon, that's some ad book too.

Naked Cricket said...

b ji, the cricket song about the rankings - "don't mess with my 2-2" songs aside, every team today is 2nd best, including oz. if saf can get sorted n shrinked out, they can beat oz. but then rajasthan royals with warnie can beat saf. but who will smith play for then?
Race to No.1 - you're taking the piss, right?

Naked Cricket said...

Cheers SP!
in addition to away series, india must now play warm up games in home series too! get them outta the cold storage. once they thaw, they won't be haw!!

Soulberry said...

Wonderful article Gaurav. Do they read...those who should?

Naked Cricket said...

Cheers soulberry!
As long as they just do it.

scorpicity said...

Good post Nc... with the right perspective... it is a question of consolidation now. The fact is they have not done all that well.

Naked Cricket said...

may be it's tabloid crap, but what's yr take on - kumble sneaking out of the hotel with his baggage in the middle of the night, on the second day in kanpur. jumbo must have a lotta baggage to do that, no?

John said...

Kickass post.

Naked Cricket said...

cheers John!

ali said...

try harder; than who?
great post...

Naked Cricket said...

Cheers Ali!
harder than nails.