Marketing creativity & traveling light: the Japan Airlines story

I’m a huge fan of traveling with only a carry-on. But Japan Airlines recently took packing light to a whole new level!

The Japan Airlines story

The company introduced a service where they will rent you clothes at the destination, eliminating the need to pack a bag altogether. Prices range $28-48 to rent a wardrobe for two weeks. You select clothes by gender, size, season – summer, winter, spring/fall, and occasion – casual, smart-casual, or a mix of both. Clothes are delivered to you at the destination.

With fewer bags and weight to transport, there’s obviously a cost savings for the airline on fuel, as well as a sustainability story at play here. This service also eliminates the potential for lost bags, which has increasingly become a worry for travelers. Read the original article in Conde Nast Traveler here.

For the chronic over packers, I sensed anxiety, so I put Japan Airline’s idea out to my LinkedIn and Facebook connections – asking folks if they’d be willing to stuff their toothbrush in a hip pocket and board a flight with little more than the clothes on their back.

Here’s a summary of comments, grouped into yes, no and maybe.

Heck yes!

“Sounds perfect to me. There used to be a program on British TV called “Don’t forget your toothbrush” and they would send contestants on holiday direct from the studio with nothing more than a toothbrush and their passport. No worries! Mind you, I’m not really confident that Japan Airlines would have clothes or shoes in my size (4XL, size 14 feet), unless they are catering for Sumo wrestlers…”

“I’m in Japan right now, if there was a snowboard option with a certain calibre of clothing I’d give it a go! Fit fit would be a challenge I imagine.”

“Definitely an idea that sounds good on paper.”

“Yes! I love this idea and would relish having someone else dictate my wardrobe. I wonder what kind of treasures you might come across.”

“Love this. I would give it a try!”

“I wonder if there’s an option to purchase anything you wear during the trip? I’m guessing not, as it would mean packing it back home.”

“Love this idea – I’d do it!”

“I’d like to try it. It would be interesting to see what was actually provided styles wise as well as size accommodations. And I am a chronic over packer. I concur shoes would be an issue.. might have to throw a pair or two in with my toothbrush!”

Not a chance!

“Absolutely not! Is there a woman alive who would trust any company to have clothes that fit them well? I traveled carry-on for years when I was on business trips to lecture about my books

 for expats. But even then, I ran into problems waiting for dry cleaning to be returned in time for an event. It’s a great idea on paper but the mirror will definitely not cooperate with the plan in my opinion….”

“I think any of us gents who are a little far away from who we used to call “British Standard Man” (5′ 11″ and 12 1/2 stone) would have serious problems. I’m assuming there’s a discount on the fare if you’re not taking baggage?

“Not for me!! I would rather pay for my luggage!”

“Sizing will be an issue. Clothing manufacturers don’t even have standardized measurements. One brand’s size 8, is another’s size 12.”


“Wow. This is creative. Can’t decide whether I’m a fan or not, but definitely creative”

“I travel with small carryon anyway. What a concept ! I’m not sure that would “ fly” in North America though.”

“Depends the purpose of the trip but I really like the idea!!”

“Interesting for sure!”

The bottom line here seems to be a concern about sizing, and the type of clothing available for a range of activities. There certainly were some absolute non-takers, but equally a lot of curious interest too.

Target audience

What I was able to glean from the comments, and a familiarity with the people who were making them, I’d say the target audience for this would be someone who already travels light with a carry on, a person of average size, with interest possibly skewing more male then female. Most importantly would be attitude though, with this appealing to someone who is generally curious, open to new ideas, and comfortable with a degree of uncertainty and risk.

Marketing spin

Any way you look at it, this idea was a great ploy to generate awareness for Japan Airlines through word of mouth, sharing on social media, and garnering free earned media and publicity.

Because the idea was fresh and creative, it was bound to generate interest in an otherwise negative news cycle around air travel of delayed flights and lost luggage. A quick Google search shows they generated articles in USA Today, CN Traveller, Japan Times, Times of India, Business Insider and Travel + Leisure. If you want to check out the original press release with all the details, link to it here.

And it you want to see how the actual reservation system works, check out the “Any Wear, Anywhere” company website that Japan Airlines was using:

Customer service as marketing

But at its core, the idea was about customer service, and creatively dealing with a pinch point in the customer journey – packing, paying for checked bags, and the fear of lost luggage.

In response one online question received in my post about being able to buy the clothes if you liked them, I suggested that they could allow customers to order the item online after having worn it, and have it shipped directly to their home – ready to wear upon return! And with that, a whole other income stream or business partnership was born!

Creativity & innovation

It’s a pretty cool story. Great marketing is all about creativity, and innovation from the customer perspective. And this initiative had it in spades. Will it actually fly? Who knows, but I can guarantee you that they generated a lot of free marketing in getting media coverage, and people talking about it.

Now back to you – how could you use creativity and innovation, like Japan Airlines did, to leverage marketing and awareness for your business?




Mary Charleson

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