women-buying-bags.jpg I was doing what I do best: getting lost in cyber space, and I came upon this article. It is a tad long, but a well written article that makes you think about exactly why handbags are the perfect accessory for every woman. Enjoy the fun read!

NEW YORK — I am fond of quoting the adage “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” However, I recently had the privilege of conducting a qualitative research study on another topic that’s near and dear to my heart: handbags.

As a result, I have come to realize that handbags can be considered””together with diamonds””one more indispensable member of a female’s close coterie.

Walking around various high-end stores in upscale Bergen County, N.J., I could not help but marvel at the diversity of the women looking for their expensive handbag “fix”: regardless of age, income or career path, women today certainly seem to understand that a beautiful, high-end pocketbook can simultaneously give them the emotional high they yearn for and telegraph to their female peers that they have class, taste and a hip sense of style.

In 2005, handbags (aka purses and pocketbooks) dominated the U.S. accessories market, accounting for more than $5 billion in sales. Consumer research from Mintel finds that British women are becoming increasingly enamored with their handbags as sales there grew by 146% between 2000 and 2005 to reach an estimated $680 million (or £350 million).

By: Tanya Krim
Story via Brandweek

Read the rest of the article after the jump!

Functionally, a handbag transports a woman’s essential daily items. Emotionally, however, it perhaps plays a more powerful role. Oddly, current advertising for the category does not focus on the emotional threads that often tie women to their purses.

Handbags are a form of identity and individuality, and, like the women who carry them, they may or may not have multiple identities. Regardless of whether a purse acts as a mini-office, pharmacy, snack bar, mobile beauty salon, family photo gallery or a combination of all of the above, it is also a beloved and trusted accessory that reflects a woman’s specific personality or provides a glimpse at the one she aspires to project.

Handbags can also instantly telegraph messages about a woman’s mindset, mood or life stage. The person pushing a pram and carrying a large, practical black handbag might be resigned to the fact that her handbag screams out “Responsible Mother” rather than “Trendy Young Woman”; nonetheless, she knows that this is the one she needs because she is in her maternal mode life-stage.

A handbag can also reveal whether a woman is into power and status, glamour and luxury or fun and fantasy, and using it to make a fashion statement is unquestionably appealing to women.

Regardless of its exterior, a handbag’s contents generally reveal the owner’s true essence and soul. What is on the outside of the bag may separate one woman from another, but what is inside may unite them; a peek may reveal whether a woman is feeling overwhelmed and chaotic, or together and in control. In fact, many women seem to have a relationship with their bag that is similar to the one they have with a dependable and trustworthy female friend/confidante: it knows everything about her and her life.

On some occasions, however, it is undeniable that handbags appear to be more like good-looking, desirable men than close female friends as they become objects of women’s deep-seated, unbridled lust.

According to my research, women view their handbag as their one-and-only real personal space, a kind of safe haven and security blanket that keeps them from feeling naked and vulnerable. It carries all the items they need or might need, and as a result of this, is synonymous with feelings of warmth, safety and togetherness.

Interestingly, women also perceive handbags to be the one and only fashion item that does not discriminate against them based on looks, size or age. While they may feel too old for certain styles of clothing or shoes, most women believe that they have more leeway with crossing the young-old lines with a trendy bag.

The emotional territory surrounding the pocketbook category is clearly enormous. Nonetheless, most women I spoke to for my study readily testified to the dearth of emotion visible in contemporary handbag advertising.

In today’s world, handbag advertising tends to consist of print rather than TV. Although there are undoubtedly numerous handbag print ads to be found in glossy women’s magazines and other upscale general interest titles, these communications are not really very differentiated from each other.

Female consumers recalled that all purse print ads feature the handbag brand’s logo and iconography as well as beautiful, thin women with perfect hair””usually alone on the page with the product. The eye-catching, desirable handbag is usually displayed dangling off a long, elegant arm or shoulder, or alongside a pair of flawless legs perched in an enticing pair of shoes. The images are unquestionably eye-catching and telegraph””albeit only via visual cues””product usage mood as well as easy-to-comprehend messages about it: “If you buy this glamorous, sexy little evening bag, you, too, will get noticed/feel sexy and beautiful.” Or, “You will have fun if you buy me!”

Women admitted that they often lust after the bag as well as the pair of shoes they see promoted in these advertisements because they look stylish, sexy and eye-catching. However, as yet, no one brand of handbag appears to have differentiated itself in a relevant and memorable way by using imagery, words or an insightful tagline that show that the brand really “gets” how women feel psychologically and emotionally about these accessories. No manufacturer seems to be trying””directly and overtly””to move away from merely grabbing a share of wallet and focusing more on grabbing a share of heart.

Even the Manolo Blahnik handbag brand hasn’t achieved relevant differentiation in the minds of many consumers. This, in spite of the fact that Manolo Blahnik shoes became differentiated years ago because of their cult status among celebrity fans and a frequent presence in Sex and the City episodes.

It is interesting that the status of handbag advertising today seems to be somewhat comparable to that of shoe print advertising: the lack of emotion in campaigns for these products is perhaps all the more surprising as both handbags and shoes are perceived by women to have particularly enticing and alluring DNA that could be used to generate highly emotive and creative advertising.

There appears to be a huge opportunity for a popular handbag brand to be the first to market with a campaign that layers on more meaning and emotion, and moves away from the tried and true “product is hero” formula. An ambitious handbag manufacturer might even try to position itself as the “look good, feel good” brand for females rather than just contenting itself with being in the “stuff storage” business.

The possibilities for the development of emotionally resonant handbag advertising are endless. A brand might wish to position itself as the one that really “gets” that handbags are a woman’s most-trusted accessory and ally; or it might want to convey that it’s the ultimate lust-inducing object, a can’t-live-without-it organizer or the quintessential pick-me-up purse.

Then again, handbag marketers might strike that emotional chord by positioning a purse as the one that can help a teenager feel sophisticated or an older woman recapture a slice of her youthfulness.

Teens already seem to be gravitating to certain brands””such as Coach and Betsey Johnson””and sticker shock doesn’t seem to be an object.

For an older woman, the reality is that no matter how much she notices the appearance of crow’s feet ’round her eyes, how desperately unhappy she feels about the collection of unappealing extra pounds on her hips or the discomfort caused by those pointy, sexy shoes she used to strut around in quite happily, a handbag can transport her back to more youthful, carefree days. It can help her telegraph to the world that while she has the experience of years, she is still proud to retain that enviable youthful sparkle.

Lockheart, a California-based handbag brand that launched in July 2006, and which is available in boutiques and upscale department stores including Nordstrom, offers women beautiful, eye-catching, romantic-looking handbags. The price point is quite high, although brandishing one of these pieces on your arm is an uplifting experience: I know, because I have one! [Ed. note: Lockhart is not one of Krim’s clients.] Maybe this will be the upstart brand that begins to shake up the category?

The fact is that handbags and women have a close-knit, warm and satisfying relationship. In today’s often lonely, frightening and disappointing world, advertising that capitalizes on the “look good, feel good” aspects of life is likely to resonate particularly well with women. Because, no matter how intelligent, profound and analytical we are, we still also long to score points on the got-it-going-on-ometer!

P.S. Please consider supporting our small, bag-loving team by clicking our links before shopping or checking out at your favorite online retailers like Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, or any of the listed partners on our shop page. We truly appreciate your support!

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