Our Culture AI's Take on Airstream's Digital Marketing
Juley is a full-time RV-er. She embarked on this journey in 2012 in the USA with her late husband. She now travels solo in her Airstream travel trailer with her dog Murphy. She also runs an online shop for RV gear and accessories and hopes to equip aspiring solo female RV travelers with the necessary knowledge and skills to travel by themselves with confidence.
Emily and Matt have taken up RV life more recently. Since November 2020, they have been living and traveling around the USA in a renovated Airstream with their dog Mia. They believe in intentional living and vlog about their adventures.
The internet reveals many such stories of people who have taken to the road in their Airstream trailers. In November last year, we studied the different kinds of RV owners in America. As a sequel, we decided to study Airstream: what sets them apart from other RV brands? What are they doing right, and what can others learn from them?
History of the brand
Wally Byam built his first travel trailer in his backyard in Los Angeles. It was the year 1929, the stock market had crashed, and he needed a new venture to survive the losses from his magazine publication business.
With an adventure spirit and an eye for design, he built the trailer using Masonite and tested it out with his wife on a camping trip. They loved the experience, and he published DIY guides to help others build their own travel trailers. He was soon commissioned by neighbors to build trailers for them, and that’s how he founded Airstream in 1931.
‘Clipper’, the first Airstream, was named after the first trans-Atlantic seaplane and cost $1,200. The rest, as they say, is history. The company survived the Depression and even World War II and opened a new facility in Jackson Center, Ohio in 1952, where it continues to manufacture a variety of trailers and motorhomes to date. Airstream, today, also has distributors in the UK, Ireland, Germany, and Italy, and over a dozen Airstream parks in the USA where Airstream-ers can buy, rent, or lease a site.
Airstream motorhomes have been used by NASA to transport astronauts to the launch pad. In fact, Boeing partnered with Airstream in 2019 to build a modified Airstream Atlas for their commercial crew astronauts.
Airstream trailers have also been used as mobile quarantine facilities for Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, on their return from the moon in 1969, in case they brought back lunar pathogens with them.
Historical positioning and marketing
Old Airstream ads promise “carefree, exciting, and economical” trailer adventures by the sea, in the woods, and the mountains. The Airstream life appealed to wanderlust adventurists who could afford a comfortable trailer to explore places with their family and friends, whenever and wherever, much like Wally Byam himself, who traveled through the jungles of Central America and the castle towns of Europe in a caravan.
Airstream: The #1 luxury trailer
Airstream has remained committed to its core philosophy and model over the years. Airstream trailers achieve that fine balance between luxury and functionality and continue to make some of the best travel trailers in the American RV market. We scanned the internet to understand what makes Airstream unique and relevant to date.
Built to last
Made of riveted aluminum, and hand-crafted at the Jackson Center, Airstreams are known to be long-lasting, passed on from generation to generation. 100-year old Airstream RVs can still be found on the road, and the average RV lifespan is 15 years. The interiors are aesthetically pleasing and environment-friendly, with insulation made of recycled glass. With high-quality standards and materials, Airstream trailers may seem costly, but they have lower maintenance costs and are built to last.
The Airstream way of life
Like all great brands, Airstream has managed to create something bigger than their product itself: an aspirational way of life, the Airstream life. Instagram posts with hashtags like #airstreamlife, #airstreamliving, #airstreamdreams, #airstreamadventures, and #airstreamtravel show us a glimpse of the Airstream life, from outdoor cooking and glamping to cozy interiors of trailers and a conscious effort towards minimalist living.
For many Airstreamers, everywhere is home, and their trailer makes this possible and comfortable. While some use it as a vacation trailer, others live in it full-time as digital nomads engaged in remote work (also called ‘workampers’). RV owners value freedom, individuality, adventure, and self-sufficiency, irrespective of their age, gender, and socio-economic status. The Airstream way of life gives them this.
When we ran Airstream’s Instagram posts through our Culture AI, the top emotions detected were solitude, fear, and happiness. Life on the road entails all of these in abundance: time with self and co-travelers, the fear of the unknown while embracing life on the road, and happiness felt by living close to nature and on one’s own terms.
Glamping and road trips are the safest travel options available to American travelers right now. RV travel has become an alternative to plane travel and hotel stays, and RV sales are soaring, with increasing demand from younger customers. Airstream encourages travelers to not only take the road less traveled but also carve out their own path, instantly inspiring younger generations to try out the RV life.
A close-knit community of dreamers
One of the biggest factors that sets apart Airstream from other RV brands is the close-knit community of Airstreamers. Airstream makes a special effort to nurture its community of dreamers, offline and online, through community events, Airstream parks, and sub-communities like ‘Her Way and the Highway’ for female Airstreamers, Vintage Airstreamers, and a network of Ambassadors.
Their love for RVs and Airstream binds them together, and the Wally Byam Caravan Club International has chapters across the USA, Mexico, Canada, and Europe.
Airstream celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. For nine decades, Airstream’s iconic trailers have been home to thousands of travelers, and they continue to evolve with the times. With durable products, attention to detail, an understanding of customers’ lifestyle and interaction with the brand, and a close-knit community, they’re thriving.
Further, Airstream has a strong digital presence compared to most of its competitors. Their posts aren’t limited to product features, like build and interiors, but humanize RVs by making ‘the RV life’ aspirational. Instagram posts showcase ‘the Airstream life’ rather than the trailer’s features, unlike some of their competitors. They attract customers who don’t view RVs as a mere vehicle, but as a home on wheels — their own little place in the world.
The RV market was valued at USD 26 billion last year and is projected to reach USD 35 billion in the next five years. 15 million millennials own RVs in the US. When we look at search data, the same trends are represented there too. With the growing demand for RVs and the resurgence of the great American road trip, RV brands can take a leaf or two from Airstream’s approach to marketing.
Keeping in mind Airstream’s ethos, we deployed our proprietary AI-powered ad generator, CREATE, to make ads for Airstream. Here are two samples:
Write to [email protected] to test our product and learn more about AI-powered digital marketing.
We’ll end with Wally Byam’s wanderlust words:
“Keep your eyes on the stars, and the stars in your eyes… see if you can find out what’s over the next hill, and the next one after that.”