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Hertz's Jodi Allen discusses:
After a few financially challenging years, Hertz Global Holdings, which this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary, has begun to turn its fortune around, as revenue and results beat analyst expectations in the company's most recent earnings call. Chief marketing officer and EVP Jodi Allen, who joined the company last year from a role managing P&G's hair care division, spoke to BTN transportation editor Michael B. Baker about the investment strategy behind that turnaround, as well as the company's new focus on female business travelers.
BTN: In Hertz's most recent earnings call, the company indicated it is in investment mode. What does that entail?
Allen: Yes, [we're] in investment mode but producing the top-line results that we're expecting. In the earnings call, we announced our Q2 earnings were just a little north of 7 percent revenue growth, which is an acceleration versus the revenue growth in Q1. That [comes after] smart investments [like] in the fleet: We have an improved car mix. Even in those cars, we have improved trim, more leather and more of the features that our customers want, whether that's Sirius or back-up-[view] cameras. We've invested in improved services. Our Net Promoter Scores have been consistently improving, which is really great to see and an important part to getting the loyalty we are looking for. We've made an investment from a marketing perspective to reestablish not only Hertz but all three of our brands—Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty—and we are investing in the technology for the long term to have a sustainable platform [from] which to pull.
BTN: Do you mean a new website?
Allen: Yes. We are expecting to have an improved app and mobile-enabled website for Hertz by the end of the calendar year. We are expecting to have a new app and websites for Dollar and Thrifty in the front half of next year and internationally shortly thereafter.
BTN: What are your priorities on the international front?
Allen: We're working within our existing geographical footprint on optimizing the business behind many of the same levers we're looking at for the U.S.: improved fleet mix, improved service levels. They're very focused on improving [Net Promoter] Scores [and the] marketing platform, but we're leveraging our scale better than we have in the past—for example, [moving to] one loyalty program. The reality is: Today's traveler is a global traveler, so our work processes and our system need to be global and our approach to things like the loyalty program need to be globally consistent. Obviously, there will be differences in countries where that's what the consumer expects, but those differences will be consumer driven.
BTN: What's the latest on expansion of Ultimate Choice, which allows a renter to choose a car at the lot?
Allen: We're now at 55 sites in North America, so we've recently expanded it into Canada, as well. We know from the research we've done that when the consumer gets to choose the car that they want, they naturally [score it at] a higher quality level, and we really think putting that choice into our customers' hands is critical.
BTN: Will you expand that internationally?
Allen: We are looking at international expansion, but I'm not ready to comment on it at this point.
BTN: How does corporate travel figure into Hertz's marketing strategy at the moment?
Allen: We are reestablishing our focus on winning the business traveler, the frequent business traveler. We're really getting much more focused on: What is the marketing message we're going to have out there that is more than just a promotional offer? We've reestablished our brand equity with a new visual identity. We've reestablished the tagline, "We're here to get you there." We have put in place more upper-funnel marketing that is more benefit-oriented marketing, including some online videos that are doing quite well and hopefully giving our sales team more of a message to be able to share with their corporate customers. Improving our loyalty program is a key part of that and creating the partnerships that allow us to create experiences that can extend our brand. We've recently entered into a partnership with Topgolf. We have entered into a partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, where we partnered with the No. 24 car and William Byron. The woman business traveler is a place we want to play in a bigger way than we have in the recent past. We did a very good job of highlighting professional women in our ads back in the '40s and the '50s, but the whole industry has not catered to the woman business traveler in a long time so the online videos that we have out there right now very much cater to the female business traveler. We are fortunate in the fact that the first three letters in our name are "her," so we are working on putting the "her" back in Hertz. The work we have online right now very much shows that.
BTN: Are you doing anything at the product level to target female business travelers?
Allen: We are looking at some specific product things, but it's really more highlighting things in the experience that already exist. We are one of the most trusted brands out there. One of the things that we have heard from women business travelers is that going to places they can trust is a key part of their travel experience and working with a brand like Hertz very much gives them the trust level that they're looking for, and that's relative to some of the up-and-coming competitors. We will be looking at additional product features that will cater to women.
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