For anyone who loves travel, the suitcase brand that comes to mind is Away. Taking over social media by storm, these beautifully simple, yet revolutionary designed luggage have made what some deem the worst part of a trip (packing) into their life saver. Taking the reigns of this social travel phenomenon is Emma Bates. A globetrotter in her own right, traveling across the world and documenting her adventures through her blog and instagram, she has put her unique insight towards growing the Away brand and helped bring success to this now travel staple.
Entering the heart of the lower east side we joined Emma at her beautiful apartment for a cozy one on one.
So tell us a little bit about your role as Head of Global Marketing at Away.
At Away I sit on the Brand Partnerships and Experiential team. I specifically focus on global brand partnerships, looking at the most effective way for us to expand into new markets, and how we can make the biggest impact when we do so. I came on to the team to launch the London and Berlin pop up stores in the summer of 2016, and then transitioned to sit on the Brand Partnerships team when it was formed shortly afterwards!
What drew you to work for them?
I had been introduced to Away’s co-founder, Jen Rubio, a couple of years ago through a mutual friend. When the company launched, I remember thinking that the way they were positioning themselves as a travel company instead of just a brand aiming to sell luggage was pretty amazing, and a unique approach in the industry for sure. As someone who’s always been interested in partnerships and storytelling, I was so excited to be able to work for a brand who was doing something new and different. The opportunity came about when they were looking for someone to help launch experiences in London and Berlin!
Tell us a little bit about your background, where did you grow up?
I grew up just outside of London and later moved more central when I started uni at King’s College London. I studied War Studies there, which (evidently from it’s name) is not at all to do with marketing.
Whilst I was there, I started a website to upload photography and travel recommendations, which quickly became a blog in a time when the blogging world was still evolving. This sparked my interest in how to grow and communicate with a community, and specifically how a good brand could help start-ups. I quickly learned that I was more interested in telling other people’s/brand’s stories over my own, so began to look at how I could do that in a workplace.
How many countries have you lived in? Which country made the biggest impact on you, and why?
I’ve lived in 3 countries. I was born in Singapore, though I don’t really remember my time there. My family moved back to the UK (where I spent the majority of my childhood), and then I moved to New York just a couple of years ago. New York has (so far) had the biggest impact, whether that’s because its been the first place I’ve lived as a proper “adult” or just because it’s New York, likely a combination of both, but it’s definitely had the biggest impact.
Have you always had a passion for travel?
Always. I’ve been very fortunate to have two parents who are possibly even more passionate about traveling than I am, so I grew up visiting lots of wonderful places, and that fueled the passion for exploring that I have now.
How many countries have you visited? What’s your favorite?
I honestly couldn’t tell you how many I’ve visited (somewhere between 30 and 40) and don’t have just one favorite. But one of my favorite trips was to Kenya, which was absolutely incredible. Another trip that I really loved was Harbour Island, a small island in the Bahamas; you can’t fly onto the island, so you have to fly onto the island next to it and then get a speed boat across. It’s the ultimate place to relax, and the sand is pink! I recently went to Tulum with friends—it was so relaxing and such a fun place to be.
Which countries are in your top 5 wishlist?
I was actually having this discussion with a friend the other day. I would say top of my list would be Australia and New Zealand. I visited both when I was younger, but would love to go back as an adult. There are also areas of Italy that I haven’t been to yet that I’d love to see. And then potentially somewhere like Bhutan. I’ve seen quite a lot of Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and others), but I’d love to go to Bhutan. Oh, and Antarctica! I would love to go to Antarctica. I’m sure I’ll think of others, and am always open to spontaneous trips to somewhere new.
With certain airlines banning the built-in chargers, will there be any changes on Away’s carry-on baggage?
Both of our carry-ons (The Carry-On and The Bigger Carry-On) have built-in and easily removable chargers, so we won’t be making any changes to either of these bags. That said, we’re working with the airlines to ensure a consistent experience at the airport, and we’re proactively communicating to our customers to ensure they are up to speed on the latest policies in case they need to gate check or check their carry-on.
You are also the co-founder of The Un-Idle Collective – tell us a little bit about it and what lead you to start it.
It was founded by myself and a couple of friends at the beginning of 2016, and was recently renamed to Pink Protest. I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to focus on it recently because we’ve been so busy at Away! However, my co-founder, Scarlett has really been taking the reigns and doing such an insanely incredible job in the UK.
We decided to start it because we were feeling increasingly helpless in the midst of everything that was happening in the world; with events like Brexit, the US election, and politics that were increasingly focussed on fear mongering instead of actual policy. I’ve always had a huge interest in international relations, history, and politics, and we founded this organization based upon a common interest in promoting education on topics and causes we saw as important. We know that education helps to combat ignorance, so we thought putting a voice behind causes that were bettering the world was a small step in the right direction.
With social media ever changing, what has helped you grow Pink Protest, as well as your personal brand?
Social media is a constantly evolving industry. When I first started sharing on Instagram, it was completely different from how it is now. But one thing has stayed the same: it’s all about connection. For Pink Protest, we know that encouraging a lively dialogue is going to further promote the causes we think are important. For my personal account, I use it as a platform to share and discover travel tips! I love that social media provides a space for people to connect with each other, and I think the brands and people that do it effectively will see organic growth because of that authenticity.
As a social media winning brand, what kind of influencers does Away look to work with?
We work with a wide range of people who love to travel, and their ability to share their love for the Away brand has definitely helped us to reach more people, and is a contributor to our rapid growth. In fact, the second-highest way people indicate they’ve heard about Away (behind referrals from a friend) is through Instagram! So we know it’s an important platform for us. We make sure to focus on working with influencers who are truly passionate about traveling and who support our brand mission of making traveling more seamless for all—that way we know they’ll be excited to share Away with their audiences.
What have you been working on recently that you can share?
We have some really exciting projects and partnerships launching this year. Our most recent launch was The Coordinate Collection, which featured three dual-tone suitcases inspired by some of our favorite meeting points around the world. We’ve been thrilled to see how well it’s doing—after just two weeks of being available it’s almost entirely sold out!
Any tips for influencers and bloggers trying to expand their brand?
My biggest piece of advice would be to remain authentic. Don’t change what you’re posting based on what other people are doing. People follow you because they like what you are sharing, and in an increasingly saturated marketplace, being authentic is key! Your followers will see right through anything else.
Keep up with Emma and all her adventures on her instagram, and see where her globetrotting adventures take her.