When I stepped up to the Alamo car rental counter last week to pick up a car for a weekend trip, I could have won a gold medal if “Multitasking” were an Olympic sport. I was schlepping bags, answering emails, planning what to eat for lunch, remembering things I forgot to pack, and just generally unfocused on the task at hand. I rent cars all the time, and I know the drill, so basically, I put that part of my brain on autopilot – license, credit card, initials in a zillion places, give blood and your first born, and so on.
But when the service agent said these words, all distractions disappeared instantly and I snapped to attention like a guard dog on command: “You’re in that tiny little Fiat® outside. Would you like to upgrade to something a bit safer?”
Did I snap to attention because I was worried about my safety? Absolutely not. (Mom, if you’re reading this…sorry.) What happened was…the marketer in me became fiercely indignant on behalf of the Fiat® brand. All distractions were banished by these thoughts:
- Why would a car rental company want to imply that it rents ANY cars that are unsafe?
- Do the Fiat® sales and marketing executives – who are probably hopeful that people who rent their car could be hooked into buying one – know that their car is being portrayed as “unsafe” at the car rental counter?
- Does Alamo script their service agents with this language to scare people into upgrading to a more expensive car? If so…shame on them. If not…perhaps they need a better training program to educate their team how to “sell up” without “putting down.”
As all these thoughts crowded my brain in the span of 10 seconds, I realized that I was staring at the service agent like she had just committed a heinous crime. And perhaps she did, from a branding perspective. But I know that making a fuss about it would probably cast me as an unbalanced lunatic, so I just looked her squarely in the eye and said, “The Fiat® is absolutely perfect. I’ll take it.”
Clearly, nothing wins my allegiance faster than a marketing underdog. Fiat®, if you’re ever looking for a PR firm in the US, give Redpoint a call. 🙂