Can Avis Put Some PR Zip Behind Zipcar?

This week's announcement that car sharing company Zipcar had been bought by Avis Budget Group for $500 million was met with skepticism by some business pundits and wistfulness by others.

With its technology pedigree and unique customer experience, Zipcar, which launched in 1999, was supposed to revolutionize the rental car world. Despite that promise, Dennis Berman of The Wall Street Journal wrote that the company was unable to grow at a rate to be profitable.

Now, a company that is the antithesis of the traditional rental car industry has been swallowed up by Avis Budget Group, part of the rental car establishment and not exactly known for being on the cutting edge of anything.

From an M&A communications standpoint, Avis CEO Ronald L. Nelson was less-than-enthusiastic in a call with analysts, saying that he'd always had reservations about the car sharing model. He did say that Zipcar could help the company "unlock new business opportunities abroad and with younger consumers."

To do that, Avis must quickly crank up an effective marcom plan, one that can lure more drivers into the Zipcar fold. The good news: Avis has the budget to do this. The bad news: Avis is a large company with 29,000 employees, and corporate silos may dampen the creativity and innovation needed to lift the Zipcar brand.

It will be up to communications pros to break down the silos and integrate  the now-mergted  company's media departments to take Zipcar to greater business heights. If not, Zipcar may go the way of the Segway.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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