You know that meaningful “point of difference” that marketers are constantly searching for to set them apart from competitors? Well, one marketer – “Rent-A-Wreck”- is throwing away a perfectly good one.
Oh, I know – they’ve got plenty of marketing experts to advise them, and I suppose bland and profitable beats quirky and less profitable. But still – you have to feel just a little bit sad when a company that has survived on a brilliant, truly unique “USP” decides to trade it in on a newer (and less banged up) model. Get the sad details here from USA Today. (Should have been in the obits.)
Rent-A-Wreck made its name (literally) by renting vehicles that weren’t quite a nice as those in the Hertz or Avis fleets, and probably had a few more miles on their odometers. But they rented them for less, which proved quite appealing to consumers who were, quite logically in my opinion, stunned and stung by the lofty daily rates charged by the market leaders.
Now to be clear, they never rented vehicles that were unsafe or had real damage, so “wreck” was always a bit misleading. But the business model reflected wonderful insight into a large part of the rental market that wasn’t looking to make any kind of statement by tooling around in a flashy convertible while on a commercial production trip in LA, or trying to impress some date or business associate with a luxury sedan.
See, a lot of people just want transportation from one place to another, in nothing fancier than the car they drive every day, thank you. And they don’t want it to cost more than the airline ticket.But now, that quirky little piece of sanity in the car rental market has been flattened by the Hummers and other high-end vehicles that now populate the “Rent-A-Wreck” fleets.
It’s as if Netflix suddenly decided to forget about the whole “movies by mail” thing and build 3,000 retail stores, just like Blockbuster. Or if the makers of M & M’s suddenly decided, “aw, heck, let’s just melt in their hands like the other candies do.”
Oh well. We have to move on, I guess. But I”ll be interested to see if Rent-A-Wreck’s new approach is enough to make a real dent in the top tier of the car rental market.