Looking to broaden its presence in the car-sharing arena, automaker Daimler's Car2Go is launching a national campaign this week.
In a segment ruled by Zipcar, Car2Go is notable for being owned by an automaker and for offering a fleet exclusively made up of SmartforTwo models. The company has 270,000 members in 11 cities across North America -- it's expanding into two more markets next week.
The main component of the campaign, from Austin, Texas-based EnviroMedia, is a print effort, set to run nationally in USA Today, as well as regional titles including 303 Magazine, Miami Magazine, San Diego Magazine and Austin 360 (all located in cities in which the company already operates).
Ads feature real customers relating stories of how Car2Go fits into their lives. "Andrew," a six-foot-five, 290-pound strongman says he uses Car2Go for errands, concerts and one-way trips. (The one-way trips are a point of differentiation from Zipcars, which are typically returned to the same place from which they're picked up.)
"I do get stares & some laughs as I get out of a car2go. But I'm a big guy. I can take it," Andrews says.
Another execution features a member named "Austin" who relates how he used car2go to rush his pregnant wife to the hospital: "Car2Go sure came in handy that night. Ethan, our newborn, would probably agree."
Car2Go CMO J. Paul DeLong said the "emotion" of real-life customer testimonials is the best advertising of all.
"When my friends tell me to use a service, I'll probably listen to them more than I will a cute tagline or a cute picture. Because I don't have any relevancy to a tagline or a cute picture," said Mr. DeLong. "But if I can interact with it, feel that it's real, feel there's some emotion to this, it brings me back to the whole sharing economy."
The customers used in the print ads also appear in a 30-second spot that will be part of a wider online campaign. Mr. DeLong declined to comment on ad spending support.
The car-sharing segment is growing. According to Navigant Research, there are 2.3 million car-sharing members worldwide -- a number predicted to hit 12 million by 2020.
Carsharing has struck a chord with younger, urban drivers who can't afford cars or who prefer walking, biking or mass transit. But these folks still occasionally need a car/truck to go to a concert, movie or the beach. Or to haul their belongings into a new apartment.
Start-up Zipcar was the first big player in the U.S. But Zipcar, which was purchased by Avis earlier this year, is getting more competition by the minute, particularly from traditional rental companies. Hertz has already entered the fray with Hertz 24/7.
And Enterprise Rent-A-Car has rolled out several new national TV spots for its own CarShare service. Enterprise says it's the first company to advertise car-sharing on national TV.
The pitch, from Cannonball Advertising, St. Louis, is that the program gives "you the freedom to go where you want, how you want."
Big corporations such as Enterprise must adopt to the "dramatically changing" needs of consumers, said Patrick Farrell, chief marketing and communications officer for Enterprise Holdings.
"When I was a much younger man, when you needed to borrow a car, you reached across the back fence and borrowed it from your neighbor. Well, now you don't know your neighbor -- and a car costs a lot of money," said Mr. Farrell.