In conversation with

Aaron Cole

Chief Marketing Officer at THE OUT

Aaron Cole

Introduction

Introduction

When you see the words ‘car rental’ – what do you think? Some might remember holidays that begin (and seemingly never end) in airport carparks; few might imagine luxurious road trips to coastal coves, going 70mph in their dream drive. But that’s what Aaron Cole – Chief Marketing Officer for THE OUT – would rather you think of.

THE OUT is a luxury car rental service powered by Jaguar Land Rover. You might recognise its punchy ads (“Get THE OUT of London”) which pushes the car rental industry’s more plodding, often unadventurous tone. It’s no surprise that THE OUT’s ad copy is challenging  – Aaron is ex-agency, having worked at the likes of Mother and Wieden + Kennedy.

We spoke to Aaron about the challenges of going from agency to brand (“Convincing the board they should hire someone from a ‘creative’ background”), who THE OUT would invite on a road trip (buckle up Spotify and Rapha) and why THE OUT decided to freshen up its tone of voice with Sonder & Tell.

Question and Answer

Before you went in-house as CMO of THE OUT, you worked agency-side. What were the challenges of going from agency to brand?

Convincing THE OUT board they should take a risk hiring someone from a ‘creative’ background. Luckily this role is a beautiful mix of strategy and making.

It has been really brilliant to see the ‘other’ side. I can’t tell you the number of times I asked a client to be ‘brave’. To push/approve the agency’s recommended idea, director, music or simply get more budget to make it all happen. Of course we ‘helped’ them. But now I see just how hard it is to be brave. To be the lone voice within the business. To spend hard-earned revenue or investment on a BIG idea, that might or might not work. It takes a lot of nerve to stand up in front of your peers and boss and say I believe in this. I believe it will work, but not actually make it.

Which brands do you look to for inspiration when it comes to campaigns and copy?

Most recently I’ve been loving Aimé Leon Dore, Kith, Acne from the fashion world. But I tend to slip back to a few long-time loves. Channel 4 comms are just amazing. I mean, ‘Born Risky’ as a positioning is basically the dream brief. I’m also always re-reading D&AD annuals. And loads of good magazines. I’m a short-copy kind of reader.

What three things should every campaign have?

1. An actual idea, not just an execution
2. Make something different people haven’t seen or heard before. Well at least try too.
3. An (ahem) authentic root to the business/brand/product/service the work is trying to flog. No point hiding. It just won’t be effective. Celebrate the good things the business does.

THE OUT is going on a road trip. Which other brands would they invite and what would they say on the text inviting them?

Something like…
“We’ve got the car. Louis V, you bring the bags. Fortnum, pack the pork pies and road snacks. Rapha, don’t forget the extra wheels. And Spotify – well, you know what to do.”

Would you say THE OUT is a challenger brand, and if so – what are you challenging?

I hope so. That’s exactly what I signed up for.

At THE OUT it felt strange to us that no one even liked car rental – a key component of most trips (especially in the last year). Car rental was always the painful and expensive unknown on each journey that could easily ruin the first and last moments of any trip. So we wanted to challenge the preconceptions and the market norms. Creating an experience that is crafted, feels premium but achievable. Provide value beyond price, a customer-first service with built-in ease and flexibility. All wrapped up in a brand that people wanted to engage with and maybe, just maybe be proud to tell people they use.

We worked with your team on a tone of voice concept last year. Why was it important for THE OUT to have a clear set of writing guidelines?

The way we communicate with our customers/fans is obviously crucial. I see it as part of what helps us stand apart from the competition. A competitive advantage. But we also need to ensure we have one tone across all touch points. Otherwise, the magic is lost and so is the experience. And so is our advantage. That’s why (plug alert) we worked with Sonder & Tell. Getting an external point-of-view has been crucial in sharpening our words and work.

Aaron's Storylist

Books

  1. Do Book Series
  2. Stranger Than Kindness by Nick Cave
  3. Pour Me by A.A. Gill

Magazines

  1. Monocle
  2. What Youth
  3. Fantastic Man

Newsletters

  1. Monocle
  2. 2PM
  3. Business Of Fashion

Podcasts

  1. Being Amazing Despite
  2. Tape Notes
  3. Adam Buxton Podcast

Digital Platforms

  1. YouTube

Websites

  1. D&AD
  2. Fast Company
  3. Drive & Listen
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