As much as we’re all looking forward to traveling again, after being grounded for the past year, most of us may actually need something as soothing as a security blanket to ease us into leaving the safety of our couch.
Away, the cult travel brand who understands their customers intimately, just launched a new collection of accessories – including that blanket – designed to make travelers feel comfortable venturing out into the world again. In signature Away fashion, the five products share a minimalist aesthetic with lots of thoughtful features.
Because Away knows we’re not ready to hit the skies quite yet, all of these products actually work just as well at home, as they hilariously reveal in a clever, tongue-in-cheek direct mail catalog. Reminiscent of the iconic Sky Mall magazine, it highlights the stir-craziness we’ve felt this year and makes us realize if we’re going to experience cabin fever, it might as well be in a first class cabin. With first class amenities.
The images are perfect for the pandemic. Sure, you can use your travel neck pillow while sitting at your pottery wheel and rock the compression socks as you binge watch your favorite TV show. And you can dream about tossing them in your Away carry-on in a few months and sitting on a plane, wearing them both, as you check out the in-flight movie options.
I reached out to Selena Kalvaria, Chief Marketing Officer at Away, to find out more about the new Travel Accessories collection. Here’s what she had to say about the products, the future of travel and about being a travel company during the pandemic.
Why did you decide to introduce these specific products now?
These travel accessories have been on our product roadmap for quite some time and we thought this was a perfect time to finally release them. The return to travel feels right on the horizon, but we also recognize that it’s not quite here yet. While we are already seeing our community preparing for future trips – getting vaccines, booking flights, and buying travel goods – many others still remain at home, awaiting the time when they feel ready to travel again.
With this in mind, we wanted to offer products that provide comfort anywhere, whether you’re at home or on the road. We’re thrilled to introduce our new array of travel accessories, all of which are thoughtfully designed to create a comfortable state of mind.
Can you talk about the idea of comfort – why it’s so relevant now and how each product fits into that theme?
Over the course of the pandemic, we recognized that prioritizing wellness and comfort was critical to our mental and physical health. Earlier in the year, Away released Travel Wellness Kits that were curated with products designed to promote self-care and wellness, and our focus on comfort feels like a natural extension of that theme.
We’ve designed each new accessory with both physical and mental comfort top of mind. Key elements include:
· All of Away’s new travel accessories (excluding the compression socks) feature an antimicrobial finish on the outer fabric.
· The face mask features adjustable ear loops and back head strap to ensure proper fit and includes two disposable inner filters with each purchase so travelers always feel prepared and protected.
· The extra soft, molded eye mask allows the eyes to move freely without feeling constrained.
· The neck pillow has built in adjustability, providing personalized comfort and is machine washable for easy cleaning after use.
· The travel blanket features an interior kangaroo pocket and foot pocket for added warmth as well as snaps that allow connection to the neck pillow or another blanket.
· The compression socks are multi-wear, featuring anti-odor technology, and were constructed using the minimal amount of seams for maximum support and comfort.
Tell us a little about Away’s pandemic experience. How did business change when people weren’t traveling?
As a company that sits at the intersection of travel and retail, we’ve, of course, been hit hard by COVID-19. At one point, revenue was down 90% but we’ve seen our own rebound following a successful end of 2020 and strong early performance in 2021. As we continue to monitor indicators that people are increasingly eager to travel, we are optimistic that the overall travel industry recovery is forthcoming.
When travel was at a standstill, we successfully re-defined the concept of travel to include any trip, no matter how big or small. In the last year, we’ve been able to highlight the functionality and versatility of Away luggage and bags, launch – and sell out of – new products, unveil brand-led campaigns, successfully host the brand’s first and second-ever sales, invest in our company infrastructure, support non-profit partners, and continue to engage with our community.
What lessons were you able to learn during this time and how will they impact the future?
This past year has been full of many lessons, but above all else, it proved that consumer behavior is driven by emotional connection and brand affinity. We’ve been reminded that our ability to engage and connect with our community is our strongest asset, and it will remain a critical component of our business strategy moving forward.
What are your customers thinking about travel? Does it seem like people are starting to prepare to travel again?
One thing is crystal clear: travel is on the horizon and our customers are already preparing. As we continue to track promising internal (sale performance, web traffic, etc.) and external data (vaccine distribution, TSA figures, Google search trends, lodging & flight bookings, etc.), we are optimistic that the travel industry is already on its path to recovery
Travelers are already beginning to book summer “vaxications,” with many prioritizing domestic travel, exploring nearby cities or the great outdoors. We expect this trend to continue as people continue to favor road trips, weekend getaways, and visiting the friends and family across the country they haven’t seen in months. While domestic leisure travel recovers more quickly, we anticipate international travel gaining momentum heading into 2022 as countries continue to open their borders and the global population receives vaccinations. Business travel is likely the slowest to recover, in large part a result of increased ease in virtual communication and remote workforces.
I love your “catalog” and think it’s so clever! Give us a little background about how it came about and how it will be used.
Marketing a new line of travel accessories during a time when very few are traveling may feel strange, but rather than running from this challenge, our in-house creative team embraced it. From the start, we wanted to be playful, surprising, and offer our community a tongue-in-cheek way to engage with our brand and our products.
Interestingly, there are two key tensions at play with this idea: Firstly, Away is a modern, digitally native brand engaging in a very traditional, historically un-exciting tactic: direct mail. Secondly, as the eagerness to travel is at an all time high and stir craziness is reaching a fever pitch, the world is still not quite ready to jump back into travel.
As phrases like “unprecedented times” and “new normal” became tropes in everyone’s lexicons and our community felt exhausted after a year of remote work (and more eager than ever for a change of scenery), we recognized an opportunity to infuse humor and nostalgia for pre-pandemic days. The concept of an old-school, nostalgic catalog enables us to showcase these products in an at-home environment as opposed to forcing them into a travel context that doesn’t exist for everyone just yet. We are excited to provide a bit of an escape for our community, transporting them back to the nostalgic days of mid-90s era magazines as well while tapping into the stir-craziness we’ve all experienced during quarantine.
Hundreds of Away customers across the country will be receiving the print catalog in their mailboxes, not their inboxes, in the coming days. The creative campaign will also come to life across a number of Away’s channels, including via our web experience, social media partnerships with TikTok content creators, and catalog creative-inspired postcards in our retail locations. We’ll also be engaging Away’s Instagram followers through 90s inspired GIF stickers and an AR filter experience inspired by the new suite of travel accessories.