DECADES ago, a man named Garry Davis provocatively renounced his American citizenship and declared himself a citizen of the world. Now, Tumi, which sells luxury suitcases, bags and other products for travelers, is proclaiming the arrival of the “global citizen.”
In a worldwide campaign scheduled to begin on Sunday, Tumi is saying, in effect, that it will let competitors that include Louis Vuitton go to market with famous faces like Angelina Jolie, Keith Richards, Madonna and even Mikhail S. Gorbachev. According to Tumi and its creative agency, Yard, potential buyers of Tumi’s wares are more likely to respond to less-well-known figures who, though not megastars, are still men and women of distinction and achievement.
It just felt more interesting, more authentic to pass up celebrity-level people in favor of people for whom travel is basically a way of life
“It just felt more interesting, more authentic” to pass up “celebrity-level people” in favor of people for whom “travel is basically a way of life,” said Stephen Niedzwiecki, chief creative officer at Yard, which is based in New York.
The initial batch of global citizens, as Yard and Tumi describe them, are Alexandra Cousteau, an environmentalist and explorer who is the granddaughter of Jacques-Yves Cousteau; Paolo Ferrari, North American chairman and chief executive of Pirelli Tire; and Amanda Sudano-Ramirez, a songwriter and singer. They were all photographed in Los Angeles.
The global citizen is “our target customer,” said Alan Krantzler, senior vice president for brand management at Tumi in South Plainfield, N.J., “real people who are hyper-travelers, across time zones, across borders.”
(Mr. Niedzwiecki defined “hyper-traveler” as the 21st-century successor to the road warrior: “They’re not about schlepping anymore. It’s more about being a world traveler.”)
Mr. Krantzler described the participants in the campaign as “very reflective of our consumer base at large.” Spending for the ads, estimated at $3.5 million through the rest of the year, represents a “significant investment” for the company, he added.
The campaign includes print ads in publications like Esquire, Interview, Paper, New York and The New York Times T Magazine; video clips; ads on Web sites and blogs like the Condé Nast Digital Network, The Huffington Post, Refinery29 and UrbanDaddy; ads in outdoor places like phone kiosks, bus shelters, bus wraps and billboards; and a presence on social media like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
In addition to appearing in the United States, the campaign will also run in places like China, Hong Kong, Japan and Russia, Mr. Krantzler said.
“We have a lot of people very interested” in appearing in the next iteration of the campaign, he added. Mr. Niedzwiecki said, “We’re in production right now for the next round,” which will be photographed in another location that, like Los Angeles, is a gateway city for global citizens.
As part of the desire for the campaign to be deemed authentic, said George Esquivel, creative director at Tumi, it was important that the people in the ads actually be Tumi customers because “at the core of the brand is that it’s a very real brand.”
“Some of these people have been using Tumi for 10 or 15 years,” he added, and “we tried to marry the product” that appears in each ad “with what they’re using” as travelers.
Madison Avenue’s ardor for celebrities ebbs and flows, depending on factors like the economy (the rich getting richer from endorsement deals may turn off cash-squeezed consumers), whether there is a perception that too many campaigns are using stars simultaneously and whether the value of celebrity is being diminished by a spate of stars getting into trouble at the same time, as in the recent lost endorsements for Lance Armstrong, Ryan Braun, Paula Deen and Lil Wayne.
Featuring less-familiar faces in ads has been a popular trend for over a decade, particularly people who are known in narrowly focused fields. The idea is that an effective way to cultivate a cutting-edge image may be to sign endorsers known only to an in-crowd.
The relative obscurity of such people was a drawback in the past, but now the Internet makes it easy to learn more about Tumi’s global citizens or other far-from-famous ad figures.
“If you Google Amanda,” Mr. Niedzwiecki said, referring to Ms. Sudano-Ramirez, “you’ll find out a lot about her that’s extremely interesting.” Referring to Ms. Cousteau, he added, “And Alexandra’s story is also worth digging deeper into.” Such research by consumers can increase their engagement with an ad — if they decide it is worth spending the time.
Global citizens probably have lots of time for online reading, with all those delayed flights and lost luggage (Tumi or otherwise). But then, perhaps hyper-traveling means never having to say you fly commercial.