How hard are you trying?

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Doyle Dane and Bernbach (DDB) created a remarkable brand position for Avis in 1963 with their We try harder® advertising campaign. For Avis, advertising that employees spend a great deal of effort serving the customer — and actually delivering on that brand promise — helped increase sales immediately after the campaign ran. The result, Avis was profitable for the first time in thirteen years. Today, the We try harder® branding effort is considered one of the most successful in modern-day advertising history.

I wonder, though, is there such a thing as trying too hard? Is there a point when effort becomes an unnecessary attribute? For those who set out to accomplish great things in life — whether it's leading a profitable business, finishing Ironman Canada, raising a child as a single dad (or mom) — a good amount of effort is necessary to be successful. But, are there times when putting forth too much effort hinders success?

This is one of the many explorations I'm taking in my life. I consider persistence a positive attribute of mine, however I can't always say I see the direct benefit of it. In some cases, the more effort I put forth, the less I seem to be closer to my end goal.

Interestingly, there are a couple of different takes on the word trying — one, the more common attemptingorstriving — but another, of which is extremelyannoying. Does this imply that their is a tipping point when it comes to effort? Is it like Jimmy Cliff sang, the harder they come, the harder they fall?

A recent post by Seth Godin just spoke to the alternative to failure. Maybe, just maybe, this notion of trying has more to do with the process, rather than the end result. However, for a society that seems to center around achieving things, how do we create a sustainable model for failure? It's hard to imagine a business environment that supports failure since revenue is almost always the primary goal. In the personal world — which I only distinguish here due to the more commonly held view that it's separate from business — failures look like breakups, divorce, custody battles, housing foreclosures and so on.

Circling back to the Avis example, I think the thing that made this campaign — and ultimately Avis — successful is that trying harder was actually a clever way to communicate what was natural to them — that they care about the customer. This is part of their brand essence.

So, perhaps being persistent is simply part of my brand makeup and it would run contrary to my character if I simply achieved things without much effort.

How about you, what is your take on trying? Do you have examples of success where you didn't put forth much effort?