Luggage isn’t sexy. At least that’s what Away cofounders Jen Rubio and Steph Korey heard from investors while looking to secure funding for their new direct-to-consumer luggage company.
Founded in 2015, Away subverts traditional ideas about what luggage should be by attempting to convince consumers that the thing you pack your clothes into for vacation is as sexy and hip as the vacation itself. Using inspirational travel content, affordable (but not cheap) pricing, and a social-focused channel strategy, Away is turning a relatively utilitarian commodity item into a virtual status symbol.
“Nobody we knew really loved their luggage,” Rubio told Fast Company. “That seemed strange to us. There wasn’t a brand that really spoke to consumers, or that they felt loyal toward.”
In becoming that brand, Away is poised to continue their already-impressive growth and secure a place as the go-to luggage choice for a younger generation.
Inspiring a traveler’s lifestyle through content
Unlike traditional luggage marketing, which focuses on the functionality or the perceived luxury of the product, Away’s marketing associates the product with a well-traveled lifestyle. This association helps position Away as a knowledgeable and trusted source for travel tips as well as a purveyor of travel gear.
Compare the typical Facebook ad from traditional luggage brand Samsonite on the left to the one from Away on the right. While the Samsonite ad focuses on the features of the bag, the Away ad treats their product as a lifestyle accessory. Even though the Samsonite ad dips a toe into the lifestyle arena by talking about style, the Away ad takes it to another level, using copy that positions their product as a world altering, loyal friend. This is a suitcase they’re talking about, remember.
That’s not to say Away doesn’t talk about features, too—they absolutely do—but the overall feel of their marketing is less about how their products work than it is about how they make you feel.
The brand even publishes its own online travel magazine, Here. In an interview with NewsCred Insights, cofounder Rubio explained, “When we looked at the luggage industry as a whole, brands were talking about the features of their products, but none were talking about travel.”
“We realized there might be a gap in the traditional travel journalism space, and that we could use that to our advantage to a) further share our brand’s unique voice and perspective, and b) do it in a way that would solve a real need for travelers,” Rubio told NewsCred, explaining that she believes that good products don’t necessarily make good brands—that requires an extra ingredient: emotion.
Away’s content reinforces their position as the hip and sexy luggage brand by inviting travel influencers, photographers, and writers to contribute to Here. The ultimate example of this is The Places We Return To, Away’s limited-edition, hardcover travel book.
Featuring content from 40 different high-profile travel photographers, writers, and other creatives, the book of influencers was an early promotional piece. They sold out of all 1,200 copies, an early indication that content was a winning strategy to reach their audience.
Focusing on aspirational content and storytelling helps Away cultivate a specific brand identity. It elevates their products in the market and differentiates their company from the competition. Away’s content associates their products with a feeling and a lifestyle—it helps customers see Away as a vital part of the travel lifestyle they aspire to have for themselves.
Crafting a buying experience that feels achievable
Luggage can be a big investment, and, generally, an infrequent purchase. Away’s signature carry-on bag starts at $225, so while they’re certainly not in the upper tier of luxury luggage, they’re not a budget brand either.
To be successful in this space, Away tailored their buying experience to the specific needs of the millennial customers they wanted to attract. By deploying strategic pricing, a generous warranty, and extended trial, Away created a buying experience that was within the grasp of their price-sensitive target customer.
On average, millennials are 40 percent more price sensitive than older generations.
If Away priced their luggage higher to compete with luxury brands like Rimowa and Louis Vuitton, their target customer would be less likely to purchase. Too low, and it would position them as a budget product. By pricing Away’s products between $225 and $295, young professionals can afford them, but they are priced high enough to let them market their products as a status symbol, which supports Away’s position as the hip and sexy luggage company.
Away also does an excellent job of bundling complementary products. Customers can save approximately 10 percent by purchasing a set or by building what Away calls a “travel uniform.” This potentially helps increase their average order value (AOV), as does their lifetime limited warranty and a Casper-like 100-day, no-questions-asked trial.
With guarantees and bundling to drive up order value, and with their strategic positioning in the market, Away appeals to price-sensitive millennials. These strategies are also a key to success with the direct-to-consumer model, which requires brands to convince customers to purchase products sight unseen.
Helping fans be part of the story
Away uses print magazines, hardcover books, billboards, and even TSA trays to showcase their brand. This, combined with a strong focus on influencer and user-generated content on social media, builds awareness and boosts engagement with their company. No matter which channel they’re using, Away is adept at projecting a consistent image as an aspirational, globetrotting lifestyle brand.
Take these posts from Instagram, for example:
Three of these images don’t feature Away’s product at all—the focus is on inspiring customers to travel more, with links back to their magazine site, Here, for in-depth articles on the featured locations. Two of the images show product functionality, and the last four play up sexier aspects of Away’s luggage by setting it against an artsy background.
Two of those posts are from travel bloggers/influencers Hanna Stefansson and Meaghan Murray, who have a combined following of nearly 136,000. Numbers like that make leveraging influencers a great tactic for an eCommerce brand like Away. Much of their products’ appeal is connected to seeing them in use in ways that reinforce the idea that Away products will help customers achieve their travel dreams.
They expand on this strategy through user-generated content. With 75 percent of customers inspired by visual media before making a purchase, the more people seen using Away’s luggage, the better. The brand’s hashtag, #travelaway, currently has over 47,800 posts on Instagram featuring inspirational travel photos (and, often, Away luggage).
It’s one thing for a luggage brand to show off the features that make their products stand out. It’s another for their customers to do it on social media, prompted by nothing other than wanting to be part of Away’s lifestyle story. Their excitement adds legitimacy to the brand’s claims.
Using social media and user-generated content to showcase the identity of their brand helps Away increase their potential reach as well as supports their position as the luggage brand for millennials. Combining an in-print and online magazine with a targeted influencer strategy lends credibility to their brand.
Away is poised to dominate the millennial luggage market by positioning themselves as an aspirational lifestyle brand, rather than just a seller of functional products. By using high quality, journalistic content, combined UGC on social media, and a mid-market pricing strategy, Away has sold an estimated $125 million worth of luggage and is growing faster than the industry overall..
► Generate demand with content
To increase awareness of their brand in a competitive market, Away created travel content that elevated their brand from a seller of utility products to one that helps consumers achieve a certain lifestyle. When you position your brand as the hip and aspirational alternative to what’s currently available, it helps boost interest and sets your product apart from the competition.
► Appeal to a specific customer
Away knows their customer really well and positions their brand to appeal to them directly. If you’re trying to differentiate your product in a market with only budget or luxury options, the middle of the market can present easier and faster opportunities for growth.
► Use price to anchor your position
By owning the space between high-priced luxury and low-budget bargains, Away has secured their own slice of the market. Consider how the price of your own products and services affects the customer’s perceptions of quality and trust in your brand.
► Leverage UGC for engagement
Your current customers are some of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. When people talk about Away on social media, they’re saying, “Hey, I think this product is valuable!” When customers lend their own credibility to a product, it reinforces and signal boosts the claims your company makes.