Don't Think Pink

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.

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13 Comments

  • Jen

    I agree with others. We should not be afraid of "color" coloring our (professional) image.

    It does not have to be any color as long as it's black. Only look at the color of cars thes days!

    Why can't bags for computers be colorful? Certainy the language we hurl at them is!

    Personally I love the ones at www.westiebag.com

  • Amy: Detroit, MI

    I came across this website because I googled "pink laptop bag". Clearly, at least one woman I know wants one. Incidentally, so does my thirteen-year-old stepdaughter. I want a pink laptop bag and I'm not embarassed, though my sister would not admit to knowing me if she saw me carrying it. I am network design engineer. My sister is an architect and would rather die than be seen wearing or carrying anything pink, including, I'm sure, a laptop bag.

  • Dana

    For professional woman in the work force a pink laptop bag might be a little much and unprofessional. As for a college student wanting a bag out of the ordinary, pink is not a bad color. Young college woman don't want to walk around campus with a cold black bag just like the next person. The business for unique laptop bags is sure to bring in some money. In fact i found this article while looking for a unique bag for my self. The bags don't nessisarily have to be pink, but it is different and thats what people want.

  • Allison

    I agree with Ginny and Susan above. Women have always had more color in their life compared to men and there is nothing wrong with continuing this into our professional lives. I think carrying bright colored bags doesn't impact professionalism in any way, it just shows style. I recently got one of the hot pink laptop bags from Rainebrooke (www.rainebrooke.com). It's a simple bag but it's light and perfect for taking my laptop around to my appointments throughout the day. I'm an interior designer and my clients are always complimenting me on the bag.

  • Susan

    Color is one of the zillion ways that life is great. Getting to pick your own colors on the job is a very simple sign that you've got power in your own life.

    Choosing colors you don't adore to signal your professionalism, intelligence, practicality, sobriety, or anything else may be a price you have to pay to break into the work you want, but it's still sad.

    I get to work with and for teachers, and I've just realized that colleagues who love color is one more delight in my job. Buying the brightest case will also generate laughter among people who think laughter is yet another reason life is extraordinarily great.

  • Ginny

    Why is that women feel they need to dress like men to be successful? I love pink and feel it is definitely appropriate for any environment. The colors you wear are not what make you professional. It is all in how you wear them. As women, we do not need to wear mens' suits and ties that are all black to show we are intelligent. Let our successes speak for themselves. Anyone who judges me negatively by the color of my bag is someone I don't want to be working with.

  • Steve D

    The article is a great catalyst for a search to turn up the best of alternatives - for men as well as women. Interestingly, it was not as easy as I thought it should be. In addition to CASAURI, I found AcmeMade.com which has fabulous choices from pink with circles or poka dots to electric green, gold and great fabrics. They weigh in at about 1.5 pounds which is not bad for a bag that will protect the notebook and is vewy kool. Also liked the Sumdex site "She Rules" collection but the fabric choices are very limited - but nice style. All three are right on target and should keep on creating. The Acme bag is more a case. It is designed to be slipped into a larger bag if necessary (can be as slim as 1.5 inches) but has a very minimalist theme. If you give us lots of pockets - we'll find a way to fill them. And, believe it or not, the pressure against the notebook LCD from having the bag too full can actually damage it. Oh - Men like design too, we just repress the notion of pink other than the one off dress shirts but we are trying too. Actually I just started to wear lavender as well. I'm all for choice - it's finding the choices that has become the new challenge.

  • Pauline

    My Casauri bag is more than just a "fashionable" bag. It's streamlined, protective, and functional. It is the best kind of "luggage for women"-- correctly proportioned, with a comfortable strap. It's also the lightest bag I could find.

    This article automatically assumes that a pink bag can't be a well-designed bag! Kind of like how the Old Boys assume that a pretty face can't also be concealing a brilliant business mind.

    I agree that maybe the author's interviews aren't ready for a pink bag, but a bold kiwi or red is perfect for any influential woman. Or for an engineering executive.

  • Elizabeth Albrycht

    Here is another site for feminine laptop cases. eBags.

    I liked the style a little better then at Casauri, and I ordered one today. I am glad to see a few companies start to address this potentially huge market.

  • Emily

    While I'm still in "blog mode" I have to add one more thing. The key to this discussion is that people in general (male or female), want to have a choice. To think pink or not to think pink - it's your choice and no one else's. Unlike Henry Ford who told his customers that they could have any car they wanted as long as it was black, Casauri offers a choice of colorful laptop bags, pink happens to be one of them, just like kiwi, red, or grape. There should be no uproar or spilled coffee over that. Imagine if there were no choice of colors in anything - clothes, shoes, lipstick, flowers, or even ties??!!?? What dronedom would that be. I guess because laptop bags have been so masculine for so long, that it seems inconceivable for one to finally be feminine or truly cool.

    I agree with the basic premise that women do not want to be pandered to, that would be utterly asinine and pathetic on the part of a marketer. And obviously not all women want pink, but they certainly don't all want black either - now they have a choice, at least in laptop cases, and mercifully, also in cars.

  • Emily McHugh

    This morning I received a call from a gentleman in Portugal who told me that he had just read an article about us in Fast Company. When I logged on to fastcompany.com, I was pleasantly surprised to find that our pink laptop case was the subject of discussion. I want to thank Jena McGregor for mentioning our product and for opening up the dialogue on marketing to women. My company Casauri designs fashionable laptop cases, of which pink is one of the many colors, albeit the most popular. I started the company with my sister Helena from a class project at Columbia Business School. Like many women out there I was so tired of the boring laptop case I was condemned to carry, that my sister designed a stylish one for me. I fully agree with Jena, as well as the two other ladies Kat and Kirsten who added their posts as well. It took us a while to decide to offer pink as a color option. But as a result of the scores of emails and phone calls from women all over the country asking for pink and willing to get on our waiting list, we produced a pink laptop bag. (No one has asked for daisies yet, but you never know....) From a marketing perspecitve in general, it would be shortsighted to think that the only way to market to women is to make something pink as THE way to apeal to women, quite the contrary, the product with all its functionalities, beyond just the color, has to resonate with the customer and meet her needs. Our products are not just marketed to women,there are a lot of men who buy our products precisely because they do not have to sacrifice function for style, they can have both, plus they want something other than basic black. All of our cases are ligthweight, water-resistant, and have good pockets. Our designs are meant to cater to the various needs of the different types of people who carry laptops. In addition, many photographers and graphic designers use Casauri cases for their portfolios. But for those who do want black, yes, we do have some black laptop cases, as well as slate gray and, navy blue. Please check us out at www.casauri.com a/k/a www.pinklaptopcase.com. We look forward to continuing the dialogue!

  • kirsten

    Hear Hear, Kat! Long ago in a far off land women were forced to think "asexually" and "ineffeminately" to succeed. No longer. A woman's ability to partner with clients for exceptional results and communicate intelligently and strategically should not circumspect because she has a sense of style and occasionally carries a lime green designer briefcase. That's why re:invention's blog showcases a shoe each week -- you don't have to wear the shoe, but you should be able to appreciate the full frontal feminity and not fear business backlash. Within the next few weeks, in fact, re:invention is launching a shoe gallery (soliciting women to submit photos of their dream shoes without fear of being judged less than a consummate business professional).

    We hope you'll be one of the first to send us a photo of a dream shoe, Kat! No daisies required.

  • Kat Bourgeois

    I agree that women want what men want in laptop case basics but I think we're at the point where if we like pink, we do a pink case and not worry about whether anyone thinks it's a girl color. Surely we're past not wearing "girl" colors because they are "girl" colors.
    Style and good taste are always welcome in the boardroom. Tacky is tacky anywhere. I'm not a fashionista, but somewhere I do recall reading that pink is the really hot color this year - and frankly I'l be glad to see less black, maybe not pink, surely not daisies, but less black. So maybe you saw pink and thought "gender-issue!" when it really was about how to incorporate the hot new color into your business wardrobe.
    Everytime I was with virtual team colleagues for a few days, each day's clothes were a variation on our travel black microfiber theme. (Even the guys were all in black, but somehow they looked cool.) Tasteful, mixy and matchy, and wrinkle-free. Boring!
    I kind of like the idea of stealing a glance at the new lime green laptop case next to my chair during the meeting to perk me up while someone is droning on about "leveraging" and "synergizing"... In fact I might use a little shot of pink in my next PowerPoint presentation. But no daisies, never daisies.