The couple also contributes to the association's blog, called
The Scenic Route, which is filled with personal stories of
hard-core RVers. In one post, they shared pictures from a trip last
summer to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where they attended a rally
hosted by the National African-American RVers Association. The
family stopped at a historic plantation site, prompting this blog
entry: "We couldn't help but wonder what the lives of our ancestors
had been like. ... It was again one of those moments where RVing
gave us a chance to educate our boys on a piece of not so great
The Baums also tout the RV lifestyle on behalf of the industry.
Brooke Baum, 28, writes content for Outdoorsy and Winnebago, and
her husband, 35, chips in with photography. The work helps pay the
bills, which include gas, food and parking fees at campgrounds and
state parks. (In a practice known as "boondocking," some full-time
RVers park for free in remote undeveloped areas.) In a post last
year for Winnebago's lifestyle blog, Brooke Baum documented how
they became full-time RVers. "As I got rid of favorite decor
pieces, clothing, and special mementos, I imagined the freedom of
the open road," she wrote.
"Neither of us wanted to go back to working 40 hours a week
again," she says in a phone interview from Fredericksburg, Texas,
where the couple had just attended the RV Entrepreneur Summit,
geared to people who want to build a life on the road (see
sidebar). The Baums have logged about 25,000 miles so far, she
estimates, dedicating most of their time to soaking in the scenery,
like their fall trip through the colorful foliage of Vermont.
But wanderlust-fueled RV purchases from young couples, while
attention-grabbing, won't be enough to sustain long-term growth in
the industry, says Foster Finley, who co-leads the transportation
and infrastructure practice for global consultancy AlixPartners.
Older buyers, like snowbird retirees taking annual trips south for
the winter, are still where the money is, he says, versus the
"modern hipsters that are trying this out for a spell."
Thor Industries gets less than 10 percent of new purchases from
millennials, estimates CEO Bob Martin. But "we are trying to
communicate with the younger generation, the millennial, because we
see it as such a big opportunity," he says. Thor, which reported
record sales of $2.23 billion in the first quarter, has pointed to
favorable demographic trends in recent presentations to Wall Street
analysts, including that Gen Xers and millennials accounted for 72
percent of campers in 2016.
Go RVing, the marketing arm of the RV Industry Association, is
filling its ads with young faces—and dogs and cats because
the group sees the rise in pet ownership as a major plus. "A lot of
people don't like to leave their pets behind, so an RV is a great
way to bring their pets with them," says Karen A. Redfern, VP of
brand marketing and communications for Go RVing, whose agency is
Richards Group. One spot shows a young couple sipping wine by a
campfire, dogs in their laps and their RV in the background.
The booming RV market is fueling the group's ad budget, which
rose to $18 million this year, because money comes from RV-makers
that pay an assessment on each sale. Some of the money is used for
experiential marketing at music festivals, a fertile market for
potential young buyers. The group will park a couple of RVs and
give tours in hopes of sparking interest from festivalgoers. "They
often see that white box that passes them on the highway but they
have no idea what the inside of an RV looks like. It kind of gets
the wheels churning," Redfern says.
Airstream is also reaching new audiences via a host of brand
partnerships and licensing deals. The maker of pricey American Girl
dolls is selling a toy Airstream Travel Trailer meant to be paired
with a 1950s-themed doll called Maryellen. The tiny trailer retails
for $350 and comes with a pretend refrigerator and oven, working
lights, a retractable awning and a button that plays nine different
The endless caravan
Last year, Pacifico beer outfitted a customized fleet of real
Airstreams with yellow branding and brought them to festivals and
other events. The brew also gave away an Airstream rental. For
buyers willing to part with $76,900, Airstream is selling a
special-edition Tommy Bahama-branded Travel Trailer that includes
Caribbean-style matte-finish cabinetry and polished wood plantation
shutters and blinds.
Airstream's marketing includes its Endless Caravan program,
through which participants receive the use of an Airstream in
return for spreading eye-popping content on Instagram and
elsewhere. Last year, Airstream struck a deal with celebrity chef
Hugh Acheson. He took a trailer on a 25-city book tour, which
included stops at Whole Foods parking lots, where he demonstrated
how to slow-cook pork shoulder.
For the Baums, Whole Foods might be a little spendy. Every
dollar counts when you are rumbling down the highway into parts
"We try to just make sandwiches or do inexpensive things in the
RV," says Brooke Baum. "We try to not go out to eat too often, just
to limit our costs, because usually we'd rather spend that on a
cool activity we find in a place we are visiting."
"We find ourselves talking with strangers at campfires when we
are at parks and talking to people on hikes," she adds. "Those are
some of our favorite moments. It's just something we hadn't really
thought about until we got out on the road."