I attended a talk by Kirsten Green, a venture capitalist and founder of Forerunner Ventures, a couple days ago, and specifically remembered the moment when she discussed Away, a modern travel and lifestyle brand widely known for its minimal suitcases and travel bags. Kirsten mentioned how she had met many startups that tried to pitch to her the vision of disrupting the traditional travel industry, but when she met with Away, instead of talking about how versatile the suitcase is or how light the materials are, the team pitched to her the image of modern consumers who enjoy travel and consider it an important part of living. And Away comes into the grand picture by creating suitcases that consumers take with them to fulfill that vision of easy, hassle-free traveling, whether the destination is under the starry skies in Norway or by the Portuguese beach.
I have lots of respect for entrepreneurs who create products and platforms, but even more so for those that create dreams. Away is just one of the plenty examples of modern brands that are rapidly changing the consumer landscape — SmileDirectClub promises consumer the vision of “bettering themselves through straighter teeth and better smiles”; Allbirds created the vision of “not having to think about which shoes to wear and always walk light and comfortable”; Heyday is your “spa without the high markup so you can look great all the time without feeling guilty for your wallet. Essentially, I believe startups that successfully incentivize customers to give up the traditional ways do so by make consumers feel empowered to achieve the vision they’ve always had for themselves with the help of certain products of services.
And often times, consumers don’t purchase to necessarily materialize that vision either. I have plenty friends that purchased Away suitcases because they were drawn to the idea of modern traveling — the one where you get out of work in Manhattan on a Friday evening and then somehow wake up to the sunrise on Mt. Fuji with a bottle of hot sake in your hand. But, how many people can actually afford the lifestyle that they associate with Away, and even if they can afford it, how many of them have actually done so since owning those suitcases? At least within my friend group, I can count with one hand. Similarly, people who buy Glossier aren’t always persistent with other skincare routines to get that dewy skin, people that own Allbirds probably still need to switch into shoes that give you blisters every once in a while, and people that fly Blades may still be caught in line at check-in (unless you’re also a member of Clear then you’re probably invincible). The point is, as a brand, you don’t always need to fulfill the entire dream — just enough to make it more real so consumers feel more comfortable thinking about it.