Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Branded, Part 2

My girls Heidi and Cece were good enough to fill me in on the idea that it’s the quality of a Coach handbag that has caused women all over the world to fork over the moolah to own one. While I appreciate the response, I really don’t think that it’s just the quality of the bag that makes women gaga over these bags. There is a very strong emotional appeal for these bags as well, and it’s much harder for Coach fans to qualify that emotional appeal than it is to qualify the craftsmanship that goes into manufacturing a Coach bag.

Have you ever observed a group of women talk about handbags? One of the women mentions Coach, and a dreamy look falls over the eyes of the rest of them women, and they say “Ooooh! Coach!” Or “That is such a cute bag! It’s Coach? Ooooh!” It’s this very response that manufacturers and marketers dream about. Not only do marketers want the public to know that their brand is available but they strive for the public to have a positive attitude about the brand. It’s this positive attitude that makes people wait in line for four hours on the day the new iPhone hit the stores. It’s this positive attitude that makes women gaze longingly at a Coach bag.

So, why Coach and not some other brand? I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s this very phenomenon that has fascinated me all through my marketing career and through grad school as well. Marketers take classes in consumer behavior to try to understand the motivations behind the consumer and then align their marketing strategy with what they’ve learned about the behaviors of their target audience. Over the years companies have tried to develop a favorable attitude toward their brand by tying the company with a cause or a concept. For example, Coca Cola launched their fruit drink “Fruitopia” to compete with the popularity of Snapple by using creative packaging and naming the drinks silly names. And Fruitopia was wildly popular until another marketing campaign for bottled water told people that the ingredients in Fruitopia were crap and people stopped buying the drink.

If you take a utilitarian look at a purse, it is something to use when you are walking around and you have stuff you want to bring with you. Ultimately that is what a Coach bag is, a vessel with which one carries around their stuff. Coach hit the marketing formula nail on the head and caused women all over the world to view this handbag as something more than a basic bag used for carrying stuff. Coach understands that women develop strong attachments to the thing they use to carry their stuff, and they have come up with a way to sell this very basic item to the people and to conjure strong emotions about it.

I am not saying that women who buy Coach bags are suckers. I know loads of women who have bought these bags. I also know loads of women, like me, who cannot be bothered to buy a Coach bag. I often wonder what the difference is between the Pro-Coach group, the Anti-Coach group, and the Ambivalent-Toward-Coach brand. Is there some kind of magic trait that the Pro-Coach group has that the others do not? And I suspect the Coach marketing department knows what that trait is.



Blogger The Creeper said...

I'm a cross between Ambivalent-toward-Coach and Anti-Coach.

Ambivalent because I'm picky about the design of a purse and must put my hands on one before I buy it. Living in BFE does not exactly afford me many opportunities to hang out in a Coach store.

Anti because holy mother of god have you seen the prices for those? Maybe if I was a single gal with no kids to pay for and no hubby/SO to explain the price to.

Yeah, they just aren't me. Give me a $15 Target special that I can get on clearance for $7.99 and call it good.

July 30, 2008 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

I don't really buy the quality thing. Sure, they are probably heartier than a bag at target... but 10 to 15 TIMES better constructed? I don't think so. I have a black purse I bought from The Limited for $30 when I was in college and it still gets complements when I wear it. It's 8 years old and still looks great, and I am not easy on purses. Also, I personally don't want anything that I have to worry about spilling coffee on, or setting on the ground. I also personally prefer a "fun" bag with a more unusual color or shape, and I am not going to pay a premium for something that I am going to wear for a season (even if it's for several years worth of seasons).

July 30, 2008 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think for the majority of the people that buy them it is a status thing. It's an expensive label and everyone things you have class/taste/style/money if you carry a purse with a label on it. It's the same thing with clothing...people are going to think you're more stylish wearing Ralph Lauren than Old Navy.

I still remember being in the Coach outlet and a mother/daughter arguing over purses. The daughter was probably no more than 9 years old and she was whining to her mom about getting a $120 Coach purse. That to me is ridiculous. No child should carry a purse that expensive.

For me, they're a treat and not something I buy over and over. I have 2 that match what I like to wear and I rotate between those. But when I'm truly carrying a ton of stuff or know I'm going to be somewhere it might get dirty I carry my cheap wristlet or my Lands' End tote.

July 30, 2008 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

I do understand the idea of an expensive handbag as a treat. And in that respect I am all "do what you want, it's none of my business."

But I think there's an unconscious status appeal to the bag. I don't think people actually think "People will know I've arrived b/c I have this bag." But I don't think coach bag owners mind if people think that, you see what I am saying?

July 31, 2008 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger *~*Cece*~* said...

Heidi hit it on the head w/the status thing. Good answer so I'll go with hers! lol

For me Why Coach & not another brand? Because Coach is an expensive purse that I can afford. Unlike LV or Prada.

Its also a treat for me. I work, I pay my bills, support my kids and I feel I deserve to reward myself with an occasional indulgence so why not save up for a nice purse? What makes that any different than Tito treating himself to a super nice/expensive power tool that (IMO) is just going to sit in the garage until he finds a project to use it on? No difference. I can afford it so I'll buy it. That's all. (Besides, most of mine were gifts! lol)

July 31, 2008 at 5:39 PM  
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