Airstream resurges in popularity

Airstream Inc., whose sales represent only 1% of the total recreational vehicle market, is possibly the most easily identified brand in today’s marketplace, reports The 80-year-old RV manufacturing company is marketing its travel trailers and touring coaches to new buyer demographics—younger and creative affluents attracted to the Airstream for its design elements.

With a design inspiration reaching back 80 years, Airstreams are still years ahead of all other makes in style, strength, lightness, durability, quality, and comfort. Photo: Photo courtesy Airstream

“It is the fastest-growing segment,” Airstream’s VP of marketing, Sue Dooley says. “We are attracting people who appreciate the design, and are typically using it for alternative, often stationary, purposes: guest house, home office, or studio.”

Ironically, much of the recent press on Airstream has been not in RV magazines but design and fashion books. Antenna Magazine did a feature on Airstream this fall. This summer, Sunset, a West Coast lifestyle book, ran a spread on Airstream and put one of the trailers on its cover. Modernism also ran a piece.

The Jackson Center, Ohio-based company is currently partnering with Bloomingdale’s for its fall “Hot” campaign with an Airstream trailer appearing on the cover of the home catalog, and across Bloomingdale’s marketing platforms in stores nationwide. (To read earlier post, click here.)

The Airstream Ranch, another creative use for retired Airstream trailers. Photo: Photo courtesy Airstream Ranch

Bloomingdale’s is also hosting lifestyle events where Airstream dealers will show their best-selling travel trailers and touring coaches.

There is also a long list of celebrities who own the silver live-in lozenges: Johnny Depp reportedly has one as a pool house; Steve Carrell bought one he wanted on the set of “The Office” as an … office; and Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock have them.

Ace Hotels is doing a tour in an Airstream to promote its properties. The tour, visiting Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs, California, ended in the last city with at an annual celebration of modernism around mid-century design, per Dooley. “There was a special installment of vintage Airstreams,” she says. “People are attracted to them. We did an event with Sunset in Palo Alto this spring. People waited for 30 minutes outside in sweltering heat to sit inside an Airstream.”

Internationally, a roster of boutique hotels has grabbed the silver bullets for promotional activity and as outré hotel rooms, accessories for bars, rooftop lounges, and the like. In Cape Town, South Africa, the Grand Daddy hotel has a “penthouse trailer park” on the roof, and sibling Old Mac Daddy’s, a “luxury trailer park” uses them for guests.

Dooley says the company sparked a rediscovery of the brand among a wider, design-centric audience three or four years ago, when the company partnered with Design Within Reach. “Around that time, we also worked with industrial designer Christopher Deam, who helped us create the International series of Airstream trailers. It had almost a Soho loft interior with dark cabinetry and accent pieces, great fabrics, a very cool statement for us.”

Worth Pondering…

Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than they expect to get.

—Nelson Boswell

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