Business Travel. For some of us, it's a getaway, a break from the nine-to-five grind, a chance to schmooze with clients and sip Manhattans in the name of business. For the other 99.9 percent of us, it's a headache, a gauntlet of lines and delays culminating in the realization that when our boss said the conference was in Miami, he meant Miami, Indiana.
The one constant in business travel? Everybody's got baggage. (And not just the emotional kind you get from flying coach too often.) There are big bucks to be made with branded bags―all you need is a little market knowledge, some decorating ideas and an understanding of the latest trends.
"Naturally, the corporate community is the first market one thinks of when it comes to business bags," said Paul Rehm, marketing manager for Atlanta-based Ad Products Bazaar. Given the numbers, it's easy to see why. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Americans make more than 405 million long-distance business trips per year—and that's not accounting for shorter trips (those under 50 miles) or daily commutes.
In other words, business bags get used. A lot. "These bags are effective as promotional products because they are daily-use items for nearly every corporate or business professional, or at least anyone who carries a laptop or files," Rehm said.
Rehm noted that gym bags and duffels are popular giveaway items for corporations that run incentive programs to promote employee wellness. "When we originally began our fitness line … we never imagined how much of its success would come from corporate wellness programs," he explained. "Everyone needs a place to put their fitness towels, change of clothes, yoga mat, exercise band, pedometers, hand grips, jump ropes—why not make it a branded bag?"
While corporations are a good place to start, Andrew Spellman, CAS, vice president of sales for TRG Group, St. Louis, pointed out that the market for business and travel bags is much broader. "[Bags] are used by everyone, there is no key market that stands out from the others," Spellman said. "Whether it's a pharmaceutical sales staff, to a board of directors, to a college student, we all need something to carry our stuff."
Rehm agreed. "It's always impressive to see people use bags for markets not typically associated with business and travel," he stated. "For example, we've done a few projects for political conventions this season with portfolio bags and other traditionally business-oriented items." He also mentioned churches and religious conferences. "Organizations such as these, with annual meetings and large conferences in which gifts and documents are exchanged, can be a great target for distributors," he said.
One of the biggest selling points to business and travel bags is the wide variety of decoration options, allowing for flexibility when it comes to branding. Want an understated, traditional look? Rehm recommended screen prints or embroidery. "Screen printing is often more cost-effective, while some people simply prefer the look of one to the other," he said. "Both are durable, and depending on the promotion, either can be ideal for bags such as these."
Want something a bit flashier? Richard Hennessy, vice president of Bagworld, El Monte, Calif., suggested full-color decals, 3-D decals or rhinestones. "These new trends in decoration allow customers to have a larger range of colors and produce full-color logos that are superior to the traditional methods," he explained.
Either way, business and travel bags provide plenty of opportunity to get creative. "The most creative promotions are the ones that take an item with a commonly understood use and turn its function upside down by branding it in a specific way," Rehm said. He mentioned one promotion where a company printed an aquatic scene on the exterior of a clear vinyl portfolio bag. "The water-like appearance of the material lent itself to alternate interpretations," he added.
The guy next to you on the subway. The woman pretending to pay attention in church. Your five-year-old nephew. What do they all have in common? They're probably using a smartphone or tablet, right now.
The portable technology craze is going strong, and it's not likely to slow down any time soon—research firm In-Stat projected that 65 percent of Americans would have a smartphone or tablet by 2015, according to a CNET.com report.
It's no surprise, then, that end-users want bags that reflect their tech-heavy lifestyles, and many suppliers have already begun incorporating tech-friendly features into their bag lines. "A new trend of products has formed around the tablet/iPad trend," Hennessy said. He added that many clients have begun asking for bags with padded pockets for tablets, and that Bagworld has tailored its product offerings to meet the demand.
"Much of this demand is utility-related," said Spellman. Smart phones and tablets often require a variety of accessories and attachments, and business bags provide a mobile repository for gadgets and gear. "The other trend we see in business bags is needing the proper storage and protection for your stuff," he explained. "Making sure there's a place for your smartphone, your tablet, your laptop, the chargers of all of these items, etc. is key."
Aside from the abundance of smartphone- and tablet-friendly features such as built-in sleeves and additional compartments, Spellman mentioned another reason business and travel bags make sense for the iCrowd. "While there are still plenty of traditionalists that stick with the briefcase, we are seeing a huge trend of people in business migrating to a backpack as their case," he said. "With all of the technology that people are using today, the ability to be hands-free with a backpack is a big incentive."