OOPS! Marketing Error on Behalf of Luggage Company

I realize I’m not the only person in the world with an opinion, but those people who don’t have many; don’t worry, I’ve got enough to share. Since I have a high quota of opinions I must keep up, I’m always looking for things to judge — er, um, I mean, “evaluate.” One of those happily popped into my field of view within the last couple of days. To me, it’s an example of a company trying to improve a product, but actually going backwards. Now, mind you, I could be wrong, maybe the improvement has helped their sales or it fills a new niche, but in my case, it caused them to lose 29%.

So, pour yourself a cup of coffee (or tea if you’re a little agitated) and sit back while I relay the story of:

“The Little Suitcase That Didn’t”

The history

I am hard on suitcases. I travel a lot. Therefore so do my suitcases. Most of the time, they stay with me; periodically, the airlines send them on magical and mysterious journeys of their own where they visit far away lands without me, usually coming back days later (but leaving me in my travel clothes for days at a time). In order to prevent this from happening, as well as to have the ability to catch earlier flights (which you cannot do if you check your luggage), I have become relatively proficient at packing what I need in one carry-on suitcase and one computer travel bag (referred to as my “personal item” by the airlines).

It is not easy to pack seven days of clothing, books, accutrements, and products into one 22-inch suitcase so I look for one with a large interior as well as outside pockets. I had found such a wonderful suitcase (put out my Costco, called “The Smuggler” — and kudos to them. It’s a great suitcase.) However, after several years, its little wheels are coming off, the zipper jams, it’s hard to close. It’s just — like the rest of us — not as easy to use as it was.

Off to find a new suitcase

Two SuitcasesI rejected many, but last week, in light of a looming travel deadline, I found a great one by American Tourister. (It’s the suitcase on the right in the image to the left.) It’s a name I trust. It was a sold suitcase. It had lots of room and pockets on the outside.  It even was what they call a “spinner” with four wheels instead of two so it moves in all directions. And, it had a flat top. That might not seem important to you but I place my computer bag on the top of the suitcase, securing it to the extended handle, so I don’t have to lug two bags across the airport, only having to pull one. It’s convenient. Many people do it; who know? You might be one of them.

I brought in home, played with it, made sure everything worked, examined the pockets, caressed its material (oops, I didn’t really do that, just got carried away in my writing…). We were going to spend a lot of time together, I wanted it to feel at home. I knew we were going to be very happy together.

(insert dramatic music here...)

The Problems Begin!

(exciting action videos after the jump...)

While preparing to get ready for my presentation for ASTD next week, I noticed a minor problem I had not seen in the store: It was virtually impossible to keep my bag on the telescoping handle. Since there was only one bar (instead of two like the suitcase next to it), my computer bag would swirl around and hang off the end. You can see what I mean by this video.

“Oh,” you say, “Who treats a bag like that?” C’mon, when you’re running through the airport, trying to catch a flight because your previous flight was delayed, do you really think you’ll make sure your bag is properly aligned and completely vertical? Moreover, do you want to be stopping every 15 seconds to pick up your bag?

I think not.

So, I sadly said farewell to our budding relationsip and  returned the bag, finding it’s older cousin (last year’s model) still on the shelf. As you can see, there are some minor design changes, but the trusty two-bar handle is still there. Notice the results in the “shake and break” test.

You can shake it. You can run with it. You can almost knock it over. Yet the computer bag stays firmly in place. Plus the bag was $20 less than its newer cousin.

Recap

Marketing Rule Recap: People buy products or services becuase of the benefits they provide, not because of the features they possess.

No one gives a damn about what your product or service. They care about how it will make their life easier. As good as suitcase number one was — and I’m sure it’s got some great advantages in material or design — it failed (at least for me) in one major point: convenience. If I have to continually pick up my bags and rearrange them, I don’t want the bag, no matter how “good” it is.

They could have fixed this by providing some sort of bungie cord I imagine — even increasing their profits along the way. What surprised me is that they didn’t “real world” test the bag.  Or, as I said at the beginning, maybe they did and I’m just an exception. It wouldn’t be the first time.

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~ by scottqmarcus on May 27, 2009.

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