March 4, 2024


Inspired By Travel

How DTC travel brand Away pivoted during the pandemic

Away is known for its hard-shell suitcases, often touted by influencers and frequently spotted in airport terminals. 

But over the past year, the pandemic has forced people, and their luggage, to stay home. 

Travel bans and quarantines pummeled overseas air travel almost 90% through November, according to the International Air Transport Association. Travel spending totaled $679 billion in 2020, a 42% decline from nearly $500 billion in 2019, per Tourism Economics. 

Away felt the brunt of that shift. But instead going dark as sales plummeted 90% at the start of the pandemic, the direct-to-consumer luggage company adapted its products and its messaging to accommodate the changing times.

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” Tim Roan, executive creative director at Away, told Campaign US. “This was an opportunity to rethink our brand messaging, our brand role and our brand positioning [to] inspire us to travel differently.”

Away noticed that U.S. travel became “nomad-based” last year as people rented vehicles for road trips and camping, and remote workers were free to work from different locations, Roan said. That prompted Away to shift its messaging away from air travel to promote day trips, road trips and weekend getaways.

“We will always yearn to travel,” Roan said. “Let’s just be truthful with what levels of travel we could actually pull off in 2020.”

Away leaned into another pandemic trend by launching its first pet carrier in August, as fostering and adoption rates surged during the pandemic. Away promoted the new line with a clever OOH campaign that included cedar, meat and catnip scented posters that ran eye-level to animals.

In January, as people felt a pent up desire to travel, Away teamed up with Serena Williams on a new luggage line. The campaign, inspired by wanderlust, featured Williams recreating her favorite international destinations at home. 

Last week, Away released a collection of travel accessories that includes a face mask, sleep mask, neck pillow, travel blanket and compression socks, designed for “comfort and safety” as people start traveling again.  

To promote the new line, Away’s in-house creative team designed a direct mail catalogue reminiscent of the defunct in-flight Sky Mall magazine. Roan said the pandemic offered the perfect chance for Away to kick it old school with its advertising.

“People are stuck at home,” Roan said. “You couldn’t ask for a better opportunity for a passive audience to sit on a couch and flip through 40-some odd pages. This addressed that we are all stuck at home, and we all need a little comfort.”