MIDDLEBURY, Ind. – Winnebago Towables has renewed its longtime partnership with brand ambassador Robert Morales, whose “Traveling Robert” YouTube channel is fast approaching 250,000 subscribers, as the Florida-based content creator recently took delivery of a 2023 Micro Minnie 1720FB.
But the collaboration goes far beyond a simple relationship between a YouTube influencer and RV manufacturer.
Think of Morales as a combination focus group/test pilot – but with an audience.
Joel Eberlein, vice president of Winnebago Towables, said the partnership with Morales began at a “grassroots level.” Years ago, and already a 2014 Micro Minnie 1706 owner, Morales created a YouTube channel. As his audience grew, he caught the attention of Eberlein and Adam Christoffersen, senior product manager at Winnebago Towables.
“We started watching him and invited him to some of the retail shows. Then, we started talking product, and we started talking about having a more in-depth relationship,” Eberlein recalled. “And through that, Robert said, ‘Hey, I’d like to do a couple of things.’”
Those “couple of things” turned out to be a host of technology and components that Morales installed on his rig – by then it was a Micro Minnie 1708 – so he could go on off-grid adventures.
“When I started with the Micro Minnie back in 2014, we were doing trips around South Florida. We didn’t think that we were going to need any upgrades at the time because, being in South Florida, there’s not much boondocking out there – and it’s too hot and humid to do anything without air conditioners,” Morales told RVBusiness. “But we started branching out and doing longer trips and we started getting farther away. So, I put in solar panels. I put in an extra battery inverter …”
Now partnered with Winnebago, Morales explained his upgrades to Eberlein and Christoffersen and mentioned he’d like an even more robust off-grid package.
Christoffersen recalled, “We had a call with Robert, Joel, myself and Matt Burbank, our engineering manager, and said, ‘OK, if you want to go five days off grid, what do we need to do here? Because the system we put in your 1708 was not going to work.’”
Eventually, this led to what is now known as Winnebago’s high-tech FLX edition of its Micro Minnie, which includes a full suite of factory-installed, integrated technology and components to provide at-home comfort when connected and for up to five days when disconnected. The setup includes 200-watt solar panels plus prep for a portable panel, 320-amp-hour UL-listed lithium-ion battery, 3,000-watt pure sine wave inverter, Showermiser fresh water reclamation system, and the Truma Aventa air conditioner, AquaGo water heater and Varioheat furnace.
“So, from this whole package of battery inverter, suite of Truma appliances, from an efficiency standpoint, really all of a sudden came the FLX package. And he had the very first one – but it wasn’t branded Micro Minnie FLX yet,” Christoffersen said.
“And then we’re in the heart of the pandemic,” he continued. “Campgrounds are full, and people want to socially distance. So, it was pretty quick where we said, ‘We need to commercialize this.’ And we went to market with it in January of ‘21 at Tampa.”
Morales was even included in the development of the 20-foot, non-slide 1720FB, Christoffersen mentioned.
“He said he’d be interested in coming back to a non-slide, so we said, ‘Well, hold on a second, here’s a handful of things that we’re working on,’” said Christoffersen. “So, I would email him some 3D prints and mockup drawings. ‘What do you think of this? What do you think of the shower design?’ So, along with some of our key dealers, we got some input from him.”
Needless to say, both sides are very pleased with the partnership.
“Yeah, very pleased,’ said Morales. “I mean, when they made the original upgrades to my specifications, or to what I needed, I didn’t know that they were actually going to mass produce it. Apparently, they realized that my wants were the same wants of many other potential customers out there. And it’s really great that they took my advice and the feedback from that.”
Eberlein said Winnebago’s benefits from the partnership are “almost immeasurable because you’re getting this intimate feedback of how it’s being used.
“And Robert is also kind of the leading edge to how people were using their RVs,” he continued. “I mean, COVID changed a lot of things, and one of the changes was, ‘How we go to work?’ Even though you’re now starting to see some people come back to offices, there’s definitely more acceptance to a flexible work life balance and people working remotely and things like that. So, the things he brought to us and his lifestyle helped us build a trailer that’s designed for that emerging consumer.”