Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Don Draper's finest pitch came at the end of the first season of "Mad Men," when he was tasked with coming up with a campaign for Kodak's new projector. After recalling how his first boss explained that in Greek, nostalgia literally means "the pain from an old wound… It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone," Draper elaborated on the power of nostalgia as he clicked through his own family photos on the projector, which he dubbed the Carousel. "It lets us travel the way a child travels," he intoned. "Around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved."
That same power of nostalgia illuminates the latest summer campaign from Samsonite, "Travel Like Your Parents," which debuted in June and will run through August. The campaign was created in partnership with global advertising agency Iris and is supported by paid media across connected TV, online video and social channels.
In a 30-second hero spot, a young woman prepares for a trip by grabbing a piece of Samsonite luggage and comes across an old hat with a Polaroid of her father in it. The spot then time travels to the past, to one of her parents' travel adventures. With the appropriate grain and frame rate of 8mm footage, we see her parents' road trip — with a map splayed on a pool table, that Polaroid being snapped at a gas station and a late night nearly-skinny dip in a hotel pool — in montage. "They made memories they promised to never tell you about," the narrator says, "and now it's your turn."
"Travel Like Your Parents" is the end result of extensive first-party, secondary and qualitative research by Samsonite into its brand identity and consumer base that allowed the travel solutions company to tap into its 113-year legacy and make it relevant for a new generation of travelers.
Samsonite has the benefit of getting high marks for market share, trust and both aided and unaided awareness. But the brand had some work to do to increase its relevance, like other "challenger legacy brands," according to Nicole Adriance, senior director of brand marketing at Samsonite.
"We [wanted to] maintain that equity driver of being a trusted brand, reposition our relevance within the marketplace, modernize the retro feel of our brand as an iconic [one], and then tell original travel stories," she explained.
Turning research into a platform
Rather than having to start from scratch for every marketing season, Samsonite worked with Iris to build a long-term strategic platform, called "Travel Back to Now," with "Travel Like Your Parents" as the first iteration of the platform. In creating the campaign, the brand and agency keyed in on the idea of nostalgia travel, wherein consumers seek to experience simpler times when people were more connected — a highly resonant idea in the wake of several years under the cloud of the pandemic.
"[Consumers] ultimately want to disconnect to reconnect," Adriance said. "No other brand can really own this trend of nostalgia travel like we can, because we were there."
From there, interviews with Gen Z and millennial consumers revealed the idea of seeing Samsonite as a brand their parents favored. Rather than shying away from that connection, the brand leaned into the parental element, in the same way that certain sneaker brands have embraced the "dad shoe."
"Travel Like Your Parents" is rooted in the learned experience and amazing stories that past generations can offer. The campaign film positions the main character's parents as aspirational trendsetters who were connected in an age before smartphone distractions. The use of the Polaroid camera — which also informs other campaign imagery — is a nod to how travel memories were captured, in a style that Instagram filters can only mimic.
"Our point of view is that travel is better when you take time to connect with the places that you visit, and the people that you visit them with. Those are the moments where you're really going to be able to travel with more intention, where you can connect with a culture, connect with the experience, foster personal growth and ultimately create lasting memories," Adriance said.
"Travel Like Your Parents" is an integrated campaign across channels and will run through summer. To extend the campaign, Samsonite is relying on a long-term advocacy program that teams the brand with 14 diverse influencers for a "Page Out of Your Parents' Scrapbook" activation that sees influencers recreate parental travel photos. In addition, Samsonite is making the campaign a part of its corporate culture, encouraging its employees to be advocates for the type of travel highlighted by the campaign.
"We want to tell original travel stories [like] the parallel worlds of the daughter and her parents traveling," Adriance explained. "Those original travel stories ultimately pay off our leadership position as a travel brand."