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Bags And Luggage As Promotional Products

By Erik Caplan

Why do we recommend bags or luggage for your promotions? Well, for starters, they're practical, incredibly adaptable and highly visible. And who couldn't use another bag? Go ahead. Get carried away…

Way back in 1981, offbeat comedian George Carlin included a funny segment during his stand-up routine called "A Place For Your Stuff." Like most of his work, the bit was really more of a series of observations with his wickedly cutting humor as commentary, but the message was clear: Everyone feels uncomfortable unless they have a safe place for their "stuff." In Carlin's esteemed point of view, folks are always a little touchy when they travel because they have no place for their things. With this in mind, using bags and luggage in a promotion shows a great deal of respect for end-users - you're providing a safe haven for their stuff.

Backpack You Name It
There are all flavors of luggage available these days: backpacks, laptop cases, gym bags, garment bags, briefcases, school bags, beach bags - you name it, and there's probably a bag for it. And old luggage hardly ever finds its way into the trash. Bags tend to be passed along to family members or given to friends many times before their basic functions completely expire.

Simply put, bags make useful, long-lasting promotional items with great visibility and a high perceived value. Those bags will accompany their users on business and pleasure trips for years to come, and your logo will be etched into the users' minds every time they pack for a vacation or check their luggage at an airport or hotel.

"They're useful," says David Fischer, president of Superior Promotional Bags (asi/90253). "They're very showy. People carry them around, so your logo is everywhere the person goes. It's not like a pen - pens are small, and people put them in their pockets. When someone walks down the street, you can't see the logo on a pen, but you'll see it on the bag. The logo is right before your eyes."

Although this product category has something of a pricey reputation, when you think about the broad range of sizes, descriptions and price points, the true costs involved in a luggage-related campaign are absolutely consistent with those of almost any other promotional item.

"Bags are not overly expensive," emphasizes Bill Kerch, vice president of sales at supplier Imagery Accessories Inc. (asi/62238). "Price points are often under $35 each. That's quite an inexpensive cost for a promotional item - especially for an incentive."

Matching Your Bags
We use them to lug our laptops on trips and carry important papers to meetings, but bags also say something about the person carrying them. They're part of our image and the way others perceive us. Like any accessory, the right bag helps to accentuate its owner's appearance - and the opposite is also true.

Obviously, most high-profile businesspeople wouldn't dare wear a groovy, super-modern backpack to an important meeting, and hipster types wouldn't be caught dead carrying a stodgy briefcase to a swanky dinner meeting., You need products that mesh with the impression you wish to give others about your company."

These are items that people always use," says Michael Gisser, vice president of Superex Line (asi/90231). "People always need them. There's a lot of ways to make a bag into something personal and individual. Bags are one of those things where new styles and features come out every year to match different personalities." You can tell a lot about a person's activities by the type of luggage they're carrying. A duffel-shaped bag sporting a gym's logo with an attached water bottle implies a workout is in its carrier's near future, while a slick-looking leather briefcase tends to indicate a business meeting is in the offing. Unfortunately, the form-follows-function ethic has its downside as well. Laptop cases, for example, while practical, are dead giveaways that an expensive piece of gear lies inside. In this case, making a bag's use obvious isn't always the best idea for safe traveling.

Rolling Business Case Going A Little Further
Imprinted bags and luggage can add greater depth to a primarily wearables-oriented program. Matching artwork and colors on a T-shirt and bag unite the products thematically, and the addition of a bag to a promotion provides a means for users to carry other products. Promotions like this also work for just about any age group, and most bags are unisex. All points worth pondering when it comes to selecting bags and luggage for a promotion.

Another trend: "Since 9/11, we've seen a marked shift to substantive and utility items," says Janet Trachter, director of marketing at Starline USA Inc. (asi/89320). "A cooler bag, for example, is about function and lasting utility.

Promotional Business Case"While plaques and statuettes are nice, travel bags or luggage sets also make practical, excellent employee recognition, retirement or service gifts. They also fit into incentive and safety programs, while matching pieces and accessories offer options for continuity or multi-level promotions. A logoed piece of carry-on luggage is also a natural and welcome addition to those taking company-sponsored vacations or business trips.

"We've seen bags given away in safety programs - as in companies or plants that go 100 days or so without an accident," Gisser explains. "We've also made bags with emergency kits in them. The possibilities are wide open.

"Tote bags, wheeled travel bags and cases or briefcases are unforgettable gifts for clients during the holiday season or to thank them for continued patronage. And any company outing can be enhanced by the inclusion of some sort of casual bag, as they can be used specifically for the trip, as well as for years to come.

Much like logoed polo shirts or emblematic jewelry, some companies like the idea of outfitting their salespeople with logoed briefcases or travel bags in order to promote a unified, positive corporate image.

Bags are ideal for cross merchandising as well - they can carry other promotional items for even greater impact. Adding a matching T-shirt, a logoed towel or a small travel alarm clock to a logoed travel bag gives any promotional campaign or incentive program an extra kick.

And let's not ignore the ever-popular convention and trade show market for tote bags. Attendees always appreciate a handy bag for carrying around the piles of literature and samples that abound at these events.

Obviously, all of these products and program ideas offer a great deal of visibility and possibilities for regular use and constant renewal as you hire new employees, plan new occasions, visit new clients or reinforce your relationships with established clients.

First Class Or Coach?
As with any promotional campaign, it's absolutely essential to know what your client wants and needs when it comes to recommending bags. Since there are so many different materials available, their attributes can greatly affect the overall appearance of the piece.

"A bag made of urethane sends a different message than one made of canvas," Fischer explains. "It's classier, but it might not really be the right thing for you.

Luggage "Similar appearances can be emulated with less expensive materials, allowing the perceived value of a piece to be far higher than the actual price point would imply. Processes and materials have improved greatly in recent years - simulated leather no longer inspires cringing and thoughts of cheap, plastic-like surfaces and squeaky bags.

Another key element to keep in mind is the bag's intended use. Will it be carried daily? Will it contain computer gear? Does the recipient have specific sizing needs? Ultimately, the best bag is one that will get the most regular use.

As with most imprinted products, pricing issues are also paramount when using bags in promotional campaigns. In this case, the bags themselves aren't always the biggest expense in the equation.

"The size of the logo tends to dictate the cost," says Kerch. "The stitch count is important. The larger the logo, the greater the cost, but it seems most people don't care as much about the price if you can give them the look they want. The logo can cause the price to fluctuate quite a bit, though."

And although screenprinting is sometimes a less expensive option for imprinting other promotional items, the process can actually prove to be more costly for luggage

Tracking The Trends
Making a design impact in any product category is difficult, as many of the most usable, attractive designs are fairly widespread. Good ideas are quickly assimilated and expanded. Bags and luggage are no different, and suppliers seem to be split regarding the best ways to grow the line.

"Quality and specialization are big now," says Trachter. "Our beach tote is a popular addition to our category, while remaining summer- and recreation-specific.

"According to Michele Marini Pittenger, director of communications for the Travel Goods Association, other baggage suppliers/designers are headed in the opposite direction. "The trend is toward convenient, multi-purpose bags that also deter theft by disguising the fact that business travelers are indeed carrying a computer," she says. "Because travelers are typically limited to two carry-on bags, a multi-purpose bag allows them to carry an additional overnight bag."

The past 10 years have seen the advent and popularity of wheeled luggage, retractable handles and a wider range of color choices. Of course, the affordability and recent explosion of laptop computers has opened up a separate product category for bags and luggage as well. However, it seems bag styles haven't changed as much as the materials used for creating them - recycled cotton, metal, rigid plastics and micro-fibers are giving old standbys like canvas and leather a run for their money as designers seek new ways to make an impression on the public.

"People are using different materials than they've ever used before," says Gisser. "For example, next year we're going to make bags out of a material that's almost exactly the same as what they make basketballs from."

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Erik Caplan is associate editor of The Counselor

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