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Straegic Brand Messaging 

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Rustic Pathways

Case Study: Rustic Pathways Strategic Brand Messaging


Established in 1983, Rustic Pathways is a student travel company that offers immersive, service-based programs all around the world. While the company prides itself on their impactful, transformative experiences, their external messaging and sales structure was built around aggressive discounting and promotions. As a result, they were not only cannibalizing their margins, but also damaging the core value they offer to customers. We saw an opportunity for them to pivot their messaging and focus back to what they really offered their customer, to get away from selling on discounts. 




To help Rustic shift their marketing focus from discount-based back to value-based, we hosted an immersive brand summit to rediscover their core values and mission. Rustic’s key differentiators are their service-based trips and their thoughtful program design that takes into account their impact on local communities. Determining a north star collaboratively empowered all participants to get behind the new direction. With this in mind, we were able to develop new messaging guidelines for Rustic’s external communications. This included was not limited to their website (homepage and product pages), social media channels, and email marketing. 


We also used this lens to reimagine what a non-discount-based promotion program would look like for their sales team. This meant working collaboratively with the sales team to develop language to leverage the inherent value of the programs rather than immediately offering a percentage off. Our new promotions were built around incentives that complimented trip experiences and rewarded alumni referrals.


The value based positioning we implemented saw an immediate increase in trip sign ups, however due to the timing COVID-19 pandemic, overall results were impacted. Despite the unforeseen events and as a result of the shift in value based messaging, Rustic Pathways was able to adapt to the situation and create content that drew on its core values and mission to continue engaging with its consumer base, despite restricted travel.

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