🛠️ The Product Person - Issue #6

How do you build a brand for your company?

Hey Product People 🛠️ Today, I summarize an episode of a podcast. It’s episode 258 of The Foundr podcast by Nathan Chan. In it, he interviews the founder of Away, Steph Korey, and she started and grew Away. I break down her story into 3 tips that’ll help you build a brand for your product.

Let’s get to the summary…


Here are 3 tips that helped Away build its beloved travel brand & sell over 1 million carry-on luggages.

#1 - 🕵️‍♂️ Understand your customers’ problems

To build a good brand, you must know what problem(s) you’re solving for your users. Ideally, you want to be able to quantify their problem with concrete numbers.

The away founders sent a survey to 50 people they knew, asking about their travel habits and their pain points while traveling. Once done, those people forwarded to 5 more people.

By the end, Steph Korey & Jen Rubio had responses from 800 people! Precise data that was used to create their signature product, The Carry-On. 🧳

#2 - 📕 Craft a story that goes beyond your product

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said it well when addressing his team two weeks before the preview release of Slack:

“What we are selling is not the software product — the set of all the features, in their specific implementation — because there are just not many buyers for this software product.

We’re selling a reduction in informational overload, relief from stress, and a new ability to extract the enormous value of hitherto useless corporate archives. We’re selling better organizations, better teams.”

Investor Garry Tan also explains this concept well in a tweet. He says:

Around November 2015, months before release of their 1st suitcases, Away put together 2000 gift cards & books featuring short travel stories told by chefs, writers, and other artists. Each person was asked about their favorite place in the entire world, why they loved it, and what they did during their visits.

The books and gift cards sold out by Christmas. Each artist spread word about Away and the book created excitement about the new, visionary brand.

Why this was a brilliant move:

1️⃣ With months until their first launch, Away creates fans. The artists and readers evangelize the brand which creates organic excitement and virality.

2️⃣ They establish themselves as a travel brand before releasing any product.

#3 - ♻️ Get user feedback & iterate accordingly

To build a good brand, you must form a consistent dialogue with your users as they use your product in real time. Then use those insights to continue to improve the product.

Away (now former) CEO Steph Korey made listening to customers’ pains her religion. Here are some product improvements done along the way as Away listened to key customer pains:

  • Zippers and wheels designed to last a lifetime.

  • Removable laundry bag for sweaty/gym clothes.

  • Maximizing internal luggage space while remaining the size of a carry-on.

  • Name and initial engraving on bags for personalization.

📚 Takeaway

“Brand” is essentially the collective, unique experiences that your customers have when they interact or associate with your product.

To build a good brand, you must:

  1. Understand your customers’ probs. Ideally, quantify it with concrete numbers.

  2. Craft a story that goes beyond the product you sell.

  3. Build a habit of talking/listening to your users as they use your product in real time. Then iterate accordingly.

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You can also find this issue in tweet form here. Would mean a lot if you fave’d or retweeted it. 🐦

📝 You can listen to the podcast episode here.


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