VIDEO: Wally’s World

Posted In: Airstream, Destinations, Video

“Do they still make those things?”

Every Airstream owner, sooner or later, hears this question. This indicates the degree to which the Airstream travel trailer has achieved iconic status. But if I were running the company, I’d find the question deeply troubling. I mean, if your potential customers don’t even realize you are still manufacturing your product, you’ve got a serious problem. It’s particularly ironic when you consider the history of the brand.

Can you imagine what Airstream’s founder Wally Byam would say? The flamboyant Byam had a knack for landing Airstream in newspaper headlines. His marketing stunts were such sheer genius, we’re still admiring them 50 years later.

The guy took a group of Airstreams across Africa — AFRICA — and he did it FIFTY YEARS AGO. Can you imagine the cost and logistics and danger? But he did it because he knew it would pay off. It paid off, and for decades.

Recently, some enthusiasts attempted to organize a 2009 caravan to mark the 50th Anniversary of Wally’s boldest adventure. Their plan was to follow in Byam’s footsteps, and take a caravan from Capetown, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt. After a couple of years of planning… they gave up. The logistics of planning an African caravan proved overwhelming in 2009; so how did Wally do it in 1959?

If Wally was alive today, he’d likely be planning a LUNAR group caravan in collaboration with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic outer space ventures. Okay, the notion of taking Airstreams to outer space may seem a little extreme, but the point stands: Byam’s chief brilliance was in the marketing department. He grabbed the bull by the horns. He invested money, energy, and creativity in the marketing effort. He was not a brand manager; he was a brand evangelist.

Wally Byam’s passion firmly planted Airstream into American consciousness. In many respects, the company is still feeding off the momentum that he created, so many decades ago.

So, this video? This one’s for Wally.

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