Feature Article - November/December 2010

Motivation Is in the Bag

What's New in Luggage & Leather Goods?

By Emily Tipping

From airline fees that make you think twice before you pack that extra pair of socks to TSA regulations that give you pause as you choose your shoes, traveling has gotten more complicated. And, as you jump through hoops to get from point A to point B, you might not always consider how much thought goes into the tools you employ in your journey. The carry-on bag you stuff to the gills, the briefcase that holds your precious laptop, the tote that's a virtual treasure chest of everything too dear to send into the belly of the plane—these items, when well-designed, are a precious commodity.

But that doesn't mean you want to spend your hard-earned money to get the best of the best. That's why brand-name, top-quality luggage and leather goods—as well as other travel-related items—make such a smart insertion into your awards, incentive and recognition program mix.

"Luggage is one of those categories that you can honestly say, 'You get what you pay for,'" said Brian Rivolta, senior vice president of sales and marketing for St. Louis-based Incentive Concepts. "But people, particularly those who travel infrequently, have a hard time justifying the expense for a quality set of luggage. When someone earns a good piece or set of luggage in a program it's a win-win. The recipient is happy to have an item that is practical and that they can enjoy for years. Meanwhile, the awarding company has given an award that will leave a lasting impression."

That impression is highly reliant on the items you choose to place in your program. Recognized, respected, sought-after brands are the key.

"In incentive programs you're trying to motivate someone to modify their behavior, and you need an aspirational brand," said Mike Landry, director of special markets for Tumi. "The other thing is that travel reminds you of the best times of your life, like vacations. And luggage dovetails perfectly with the multimillion-dollar incentive travel business. When people travel somewhere, they're thinking about good things: a friend's wedding, a vacation, or some venue where they want to have some fun. The luggage is perceived as part of that."

On top of these happy associations, luggage is a necessity for anyone who travels, as Norma Jean Knollenberg, owner and CEO of Oshkosh, Wis.-based Top Brands Inc., reminds us, adding that luggage is unisex, popular with people of all ages, and that "travelers may not want to spend their discretionary money on a good set of luggage."

Luggage is appropriate for any kind of reward or recognition program, from years-of-service recognition to points-based loyalty programs. Travel goods fit nicely into airline and credit card loyalty programs. "They're trying to keep frequent flyers interested and keep it fresh," said Paula Ambrozic, director of corporate compliance for Rymax Marketing Services Inc., of airline loyalty programs. "So, they have to have the latest and greatest pieces. People travel and accumulate points and want a great quality bag that will last."

So what is the latest and greatest? In the realm of luggage, it's all about making things easier, whether it's through lighter weights, more maneuverable wheels, tools to streamline check-in or other versatile tools that keep us on the go.