What Do You Use Your Bag For?

Osprey make the best bags, particularly their day packs. They have fully adjustable harnesses, so each bag is a custom fit. But it’s not just the features, it’s the comfort in knowing Osprey will repair or replace that bag for life. It almost doesn’t matter what you do to an Osprey bag, if something breaks or fails, they’ve got your back.

Or at least that’s what my brother tells me. I could just as easily tell you that Hermes make the best bags, or ASOS, or Crumpler. In fact, just like you’re probably passing judgment on some of the brands I just mentioned, “best” is so subjective that it’s also quite revealing.

Tell me your favourite bag brand and I’ll tell you what you value.

You could speak at length to a Hermes customer about the durability of your bag. It wouldn’t make a difference. She doesn’t care about the fact that it has a waterproof compartment or a lifetime warranty. That’s not how she uses her bag. The fact that it carries her things is a feature, not the primary function. What’s more important to her is the story it tells when she walks into a room. One of class, sophistication and of course wealth!

To someone else, a student perhaps, their tote bag is the best bag they own. It’s environmentally friendly and they got it for free at an event. They also decorate it with pins from their favourite bands and anime shows.

Even the time at which you adopt a brand can say different things about you.

When Crumpler first started it was created by a bike courier that couldn’t find a bag that would stand up to the rigors of his job. So he experimented with seatbelt material to make the most durable mesh possible and used it as a platform to sell the bag.

Word quickly spread through the bike courier community and the bag became a big success. To the early adopters, the fact that a Crumpler could take so much abuse made them the best. However, as word spread, Crumpler’s story also appealed to another community: Hipsters.

Nowadays, showing off your brand new Crumpler bag might be more of a subtle flex to your white collar coworkers than a sign you weren’t getting enough durability out of your old bag.

The story a product tells always depends on the circle that your customer is in. Phil’s Crumpler bag might raise his status at work, but lower it among his wife’s fashion-conscious friends. Likewise, Sue’s Hermes bag does its job perfectly at her weekly Sunday brunch. However, the same bag might convince a potential client who runs an NFP that she’s slightly out of touch.

No one product suits every person, because not everyone’s world view is the same. Companies win when they champion a customer’s world view and create products that allow customers to amplify what matters to them.

“This is a bag for people who believe _______.”

Your goal should be to learn to speak the language of your customers’ world view. Not just with words, but with everything you do. To become a master of symbols and signals that tell a very specific person, “this is for you”.

Mike Drysdale

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