Thumbing through United's inflight magazine Hemispheres on a trip to Denver last week, I nearly flipped past a ho-hum article on new luggage and business travel gear until I spotted the following quote: "Women want anything but a black laptop case, and if it's pink all the better." I nearly spilt coffee all over my lap. Glancing down at the beaten up black laptop case under the seat in front of me, I tried to imagine walking into an interview with one of the engineering executives I'd be meeting later that day with a pink laptop case. The thought made me laugh out loud.
The quote came from the sisters McHugh, a couple of entrepreneurs who, upon inspection of their web site later that evening, have admittedly designed a quite fashionable line of laptop cases. To set the record straight: I admire them for coming up with something different than your basic black bag. There are plenty of women (and men) who might love a kiwi or navy—or pink—laptop case.
What bothered me was the suggestion that "luggage for women"—apparently a burgeoning business in the baggage world—means pink, "distinctively colorful," or, as in the case of the "Ladies' Classic" collection by EZ-Swany, a suitcase "trimmed with a simple floral design." While the story mentioned a couple of companies who seem to be thinking beyond pink, it served as a reminder, as FC Senior Writer Linda Tischler wrote in "Where the Bucks Are," (March 2004) that "too often, [marketers'] first impulse is to paint the brand pink, lavishing their ads with flowers and bows, or, conversely, pandering with images of women warriors and other cheesy cliches." I'm sure Lisa Johnson and Andrea Learned, authors of the forthcoming Don't Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy — and How to Increase Your Share of This Crucial Market (AMACOM, June 2004) would agree.
What do women want? When it comes to laptop cases, exactly what men want: the lightest material possible (the black case I was carrying was heavier than the laptop inside it), an indestructible fabric, a few appropriately sized zipper pockets and a shoulder strap that doesn't cut off the circulation in our upper arms. When it comes to marketing the bags to us, we want the same thing there, too.