Fifty-seven years ago, car rental brand Avis began telling the public “We try harder.” And while that famous slogan is still in place, a suitable pandemic-era addendum might be: “And we spray harder, too.”
Last week Avis Budget Group, the industry’s third largest player, announced the Avis Safety Pledge, a promise to its customers that everything from the customer service counters to the rental cars themselves will be suitably bombed with Lysol until germs—specifically Covid-19 germs—are dead.
“You’re talking about anywhere that the customer is going to come in touch with us as part of the Avis renting or Budget rental experience,” CMO Maurice Herrera said. “From the time they get onto our buses and our counters and facilities and our vehicles. Those products and protocols we put into place, they’re across the entire journey.”
Products and protocols aren’t just corporate jargon. Avis has formed a coalition to study and implement the new disinfecting protocols. In addition to formally partnering with Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Lysol, Avis has created a medical advisory council made up of physicians and epidemiologists from medical schools including Columbia, New York University and Johns Hopkins.
The council is chaired by Olajide Williams, chief medical officer of neurology at Columbia University, who is also the founder of Hip Hop Public Health (HHPH), which will help disseminate the messaging. HHPH works with “socially conscious artists” to produce “culturally responsive music and multimedia edutainment tools” designed to turn the public on to important health messages.
The strategy of partnering with a leading disinfecting agent and creating advisory boards full of health professionals is not a new one. In April, Hilton partnered with Reckitt Benckiser to create its Hilton CleanStay with Lysol protection initiative across its 6,000 properties.
That same month, Marriott went public with its Global Cleanliness Council, announcing that it will be using hospital-grade disinfecting agents and electrostatic sprayers in its 7,300 properties. Not to be outdone, Airbnb partnered with surgeon general Vivek Murthy and overhauled its own cleaning and disinfecting protocols in April. Then in May, United Airlines went public with its own partnership with Clorox and new disinfecting standards developed with the help of the Cleveland Clinic.
These examples make clear that, for brands in the travel sector at least, the marketing message du jour is disinfection. And since rental cars tend to get a lot of personal contact from drivers, Herrera rattled off a long list of spots inside the car and out that can expect a general whack of Lysol.
“The door to the gas cap—that’s a touch point area,” he said. “The latch you need to open your trunk. Your seat belt. These are the high touch points that we are very dialed into.”
And as Hilton and United Airlines have already shown, dialing into a cleaning products brand with a standing reputation doesn’t hurt, either. Avis’ choice of Lysol, Herrera explained, was no accident.
“They are the No. 1 disinfection brand,” he said. “It comes with recognition, and we all know as marketers we have a very limited time to spend with our customers in telling them our narrative. Having a partner like Lysol [means] instant recognition.”
The lingering question, then, is why did it take Avis so long to come out with a safety message, especially when other brands in the travel sector trotted theirs out several months ago?
“It took a bit to get things lined up,” Herrera said, explaining that Avis and Budget preside over a colossal system with well over 11,000 rental locations. “It took a while to get three different entities on the same page: Lysol, our medical council of five doctors and Hip Hop Public Health.”