JanSport recently introduced the Liminal Collection, unzipping new pockets of opportunity in the backpack world. The 56-year-old company says the new bags are based on the changing needs of college-aged consumers, often eager to take the on-campus backpack to festivals or on gap-year adventures.
“Liminal has a slightly elevated, more mature aesthetic,” says Alex Reveles, JanSport’s vice president of global brand management. “We see some usage opportunities with students looking to travel for gap years, and so we’ve done a lot of research on that opportunity.”
Besides having more room and better backpack protection, the bags have travel features like a pass-through trolley handle.
The point is that JansSport is eager to stay up-to-date with the movements of its Gen Z core, Reveles tells Marketing Daily.
It competes with companies like LL Bean, Nike, Adidas, Herschel, Fjallraven and the North Face, and its young consumers are inundated with social-media advertising.
That means that in addition to communicating the right product features, JanSport has to reach people through the brand lens, sharing values like inclusivity, mental health, sustainability, self-expression and trust. Recent efforts, she says, include mental-health initiatives around March Madness.
The company also wants to stay close to pop culture. “If you’ve watched a Netflix show or movie recently that happens on a campus, nine out of 10 times you're going to see a JanSport backpack there,” she says.
It also works closely with influencers like Emma Rogue and skateboarder Eunice Chang.
Sustainability messages are also increasingly important. Some collections are made from factory scraps, others from textile waste.
Reveles expects that environmental interest to continue to build, especially as Generation Alpha, with the oldest turning 13, enters the brand’s orbit. JanSport currently repairs bags through a limited lifetime warranty, and while it doesn’t yet sell used backpacks, that’s a move under consideration.
“For us, Gen Z is still the pulse of youth culture and culture in general,” she says. “Our bags are beloved by all ages, from elementary school to beyond. We want to be the bag for everyone. But Gen Z is that generation of changemakers, and we're hoping to stay with them as they enter the real world and for the rest of their lives.”
VF Corp., which owns JanSport, Kiplinger and Eastpak, has recently begun exploring a sale of the backpack division.