What Makes AWAY a Cool Brand?

It wasn’t until after I finished the book “How Cool Brands Stay Hot” that I started understanding why I prefer some brands over others. I just thought it was a matter of following a trend and participating in the mainstream, but there’s a recipe that makes a brand perform better than others. While the book breaks down what are the building blocks of a cool brand and how it stays relevant through the CRUSH system – you can learn more about it here – I looked into dissecting new brands who have made major strides in their marketing, in the likes of Glossier and ASOS.

One of my favorite brands was established in 2015 by 2 women and has really proven itself strong as it has reached $12 million in sales in its first year and is valued at $1.4 billion as of May 2019. AWAY has earned its cool tag, and here’s what I believe got them the label:

  • Improving a Quality Product 
    • A brand is as good as the product it sells or the service it offers. AWAY has really put effort into designing the product they’re offering their consumers and it shows. The reviews they receive on their website and social media accounts are proof of how much care they have put into bringing the ultimate suitcase to their consumers. The main reason-to-believe of the product stems from what the consumer needs and what they look for in a travel bag. Aside from the reviews, I have experienced the product firsthand and was really impressed by how it matched everything I was missing from previous travel bags I have used. The compartmentalization, the durability and the add-ons are all features that really put the brand on the map. Once a consumer is satisfied, they automatically become the unofficial spokespeople of the brand, not necessarily online only, but also offline, through the best marketing technique that ever existed – word of mouth. The brand didn’t just offer a product to its users, but also value, which is what the consumer ultimately looks for in any product or service purchased. When a product is developed with the consumer in mind, it has a natural way of evolving.
  • Making the Brand about more than the Product
    • The brand is not just about selling luggage, it has actually positioned itself as a travel brand. The messaging is angled in a way that enables travelling and exploration while the product itself exists only to elevate the whole experience. A lot of their posts do not even include their products, because even though their main business model is to sell bags, the aim of the brand is to inspire their followers to travel, which ultimately puts AWAY as a top-of-mind brand the next time traveling is in the plans. Even during COVID-19 and its ravaging power over the travel industry, AWAY kept communicating with its users, sending out inspirations and different ways to use their product indoors – such as tables, nightstands or playpens.
  • Building a Community and Making it about the People
    • The product is as interesting as the people using it. AWAY definitely didn’t make it just about what they’re selling, instead they made the user part of something bigger. The brand went even further and tapped into different interests, such as featuring pets. Listening to their audience and their interests allowed AWAY to craft messages so they fortify the sense of community. Only those who care would ask me about my pets. Furthermore, this learning reached the product development team at AWAY and eventually created a pet carrier – an item permanently added to their collection. AWAY’s social media posts highlight their community and encourage them to share their experience with the product – it’s a cool product to take a picture with.
  • Investing in Quality Visuals
    • AWAY posts very clean and attractive imagery on their social media pages, mainly their Instagram and Facebook accounts. They also repost user generated content without compromising the aesthetics of their grid. The brand invests in beautiful imagery when releasing a new product, but they also make sure to stay engaged through UGC and even memes that fit both their tone of voice and visual identity. This makes their online presence relatable.
  • Engaging Community Management
    • A quick scroll through their social media channels show that AWAY is keen on good customer service, and it goes without saying that community management has a great responsibility in this field. The brand responds to its customer’s needs and questions in a timely manner, as well as keeps them engaged through questions and informed about major corporate decisions or new releases. Staying connected to their customers makes AWAY a brand that listens.
  • Consistent Product Development 
    • Whether it’s releasing new colors, new sizes or limited collections, AWAY keeps coming up with interesting releases which shows its commitment in bringing the best to its consumer. Whoever thought that suitcases are boring pieces of travel wouldn’t expect AWAY to keep us hooked from one product release to another. AWAY signs on very interesting collaborations such as with hand-lettering artists, brand collabs such as NBA, and even collab with boss women like Serena Williams. The FOMO effect leads to a sense of exclusivity which generally adds an umph of cool to a brand.

  • Remaining Relevant in an Everchanging Social & Political Climate  
    • AWAY hasn’t shied away from bringing up topics that might be considered too political or sensitive for a brand to talk about – such as posting about BLM, voting efforts in the USA, or its COVID-19 contingency plan in letting go some of their staff. Staying relevant in the current climate and acknowledging the current social shifts as a brand is quite controversial – if the brand posts, it might sound opportunistic, if the brand doesn’t post, it might be considered tone deaf – AWAY was able to find a sweet spot on the spectrum between genuinity and relevance, in line with their initial brand voice and value.
  • Enabling Trust with their Pricing Strategy
    • AWAY positioned itself as an accessible luxury – a very trendy and high quality product at a relatively affordable price. It is a product that doesn’t have much turnover in a customer’s lifecycle – a suitcase usually lasts at least 5 years without major damages – so the consumer would splurge on this purchase. An accessible product would enable more customer acquisition, and ultimately wider brand awareness. AWAY also claims that it sells its product directly to the user avoiding the middleman’s markup, leading the customer to believe that they are getting exactly what they’re paying for. Their pricing strategy excludes sales and promotions, so the product is not subject to price shifts depending on the annual calendar and sales cycles – this leads the customer to trust the brand and believe that what they bought was at its best value. 

The concept of “cool” remains subjective and can’t be really defined by a set of criteria, but there’s a general sense of the idea that can be easily felt by using a product like AWAY. It is also important to keep in mind that a business needs to look as cool on the inside as on the outside.

Leave a comment on what brands you consider cool and why!

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