Building a great brand means going the extra mile

My Briggs & Riley bag

My Briggs & Riley bag

Want a great brand? Building a great brand means going the extra mile. Let me give you an example.

I travel a lot so I decided it was time to invest in a suitcase that could take the beating that 100+ flights a year dishes out without having to be replaced every year.  So after doing more research than a suitcase purchase should require, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Briggs & Riley suitcase.

Keep in mind, I’m usually a run to Target and buy a bag kind of guy.  So this was a big money decision for me.

I made the investment because the bag is guaranteed for life.  Here’s how they talk about their guarantee:

If your Briggs & Riley bag is ever broken or damaged, even if it was caused by an airline, we will repair it free of charge – Simple as that! Here’s how the Briggs & Riley Simple as that® guarantee works:

A. Simple bag repairs – you can send or bring your bag to a local Authorized Repair Center. No repair number is needed. Please note that you are responsible for any freight charges incurred when shipping your bag to an authorized repair center.

B. Badly damaged bags – we recommend sending them directly to Briggs & Riley at one of our Official Company Repair Centers.

Our ‘Simple as That®’ guarantee will cover the repair of all functional aspects of your Briggs & Riley bag for life.

In my mind, that meant:

  • It would last a really, really long time before anything broke, ripped or didn’t work
  • It would be easy to get it fixed, if I ever had to
  • These people really care about their customers

I love the bag.  It’s easy to pack an entire week’s worth of stuff into, if I need to.  Shirts and sports coats travel well and come out pretty wrinkle free.  So I’m happy.

photo[2]_optFast forward to 10 months after the purchase.  The bag has a rip in it.

So I go to the B&R website and complete a form.  It’s relatively painless (who knew a suitcase could have a serial number?) and I submit it.  Unfortunately, because there were no authorized repair centers in my area, I had to send my bag back to Briggs & Riley.

The email telling me this gave me all the information I needed but didn’t express any sentiment or apology for the fact that I was going to be inconvenienced.

I had to take the bag to a UPS store because really — who has a box big enough for a large suitcase laying around.  By the time I bought the box and paid for the shipping, it was close to $100.  Lovely.

photo_optThen, I waited.  And waited.  I didn’t hear anything from Briggs & Riley.  It had been a few weeks and I was just about to reach out to them via their website when voila, my repaired suitcase arrived with this card that outlines what got fixed.  And that’s it.

So let’s review.

  • Briggs & Riley makes expensive and well crafted bags
  • They guarantee the bag for life and will repair the bag for free
  • They make it simple to get the bag repaired
  • They honored their promise — fixed my bag and sent it back to me

So they follow all the best business practices.  They make a quality product and charge a premium for it. They back their product with a rock solid guarantee and then they honored that guarantee.

They did it all right. And yet….they screwed it up at every turn.  They had so many opportunities to build a bond and their brand and they whizzed by every one of them.

When someone pays a ridiculous amount of money for something you sell — they want to be reassured that they made a good call.  they want to be your fan.  Let me say that again — they want to be your fan.  But you have to extend the invitation and make the effort.

If I was the Director of Marketing for Briggs & Riley, here’s what I would do different:

  1. When someone buys one of our bags and registers it (with the serial # etc) I would send them a hand signed thank you note from the CEO/President, welcoming them into the B&R family and inviting them to join our customer exclusive club
  2. Our club would offer travel tips for the seasoned road warrior, packing tips etc.
  3. Every holiday season, we’d send a small gift (like B&R luggage tags) to the members of our club.
  4. If someone came to our website to report a damaged bag, we’d have them fill out the form but the email confirmation/reply would outline what they should expect, in terms of time frame etc.  It would also offer a sincere apology that they have to be inconvenienced by not having their bag.
  5. We’d have a suitcase loaner program.  No one spends that kind of money on a suitcase unless they travel a lot.  We’d offer to ship them a clean, used bag to use while theirs is in our shop.  All they’d have to do is pay to ship it back.  (I doubt very many people would accept this offer…but the gesture matters)
  6. When their bag arrived at our repair center, we’d notify them that it had arrived and give them an estimated date for the return of their bag.
  7. Sometime during the repair timeframe, we’d send them a funny video about their bag recovering from its surgery and as soon as it was released…it was headed back home.
  8. In the box with the returned bag, we’d send them a thank you note from the repair team, thanking them for their confidence in Briggs & Riley and apologizing again for the hassle.
  9. In 30 days after the bag was returned — they’d get a letter from us, asking if the bag is now performing to Briggs & Riley standards.

Most of those ideas wouldn’t cost very much money.  But each one would get one step closer to creating a brand zealot — someone who raves about their bag and convinces other people to buy one too.

Building a brand doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s about doing what’s right and then asking yourself — what else could we or should we do? And then doing it.  That’s how you create a love affair with your customers.

Don’t rest on your great product. In today’s hyper competitive world, you have to do a lot better than that.

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41 comments on “Building a great brand means going the extra mile

  1. John Dodds says:

    I’m a little more sympathetic than you are. The promise you cite makes no mention of timescale – they did what they promised, you do have a bag for life.

    That said, I absolutely agree that they fell down by not keeping you informed about the progress of the repair – that’s a real no-brainer. And they could have been more open about the likely shipping cost – that woud work in their favour because users might think twice about sending in minor repairs if aware of a $100 transit cost.

    I’m absolutely not an apologist for mediocre service, but equally I’m concerned about the reality of the sense of entitlement that exists in some customers.

    I don’t include this case in that category, but I often marvel at people I see complaining about minor or indeed debateable failings and wonder if they perform in their own jobs to the standards they are loudly demanding.

    On the other hand I wholly endorse your penultimate paragraph.

    It’s complicated.

    1. John,

      Please understand — I am not at ALL unhappy with B&R. I feel sorry for them because they missed SO many opportunities to really turn me into a brand zealot. I got “fine” service. They did everything they said they’d do. They just didn’t do any of the little things that could have taken it to a whole new level.

      Their product is awesome. Their guarantee is awesome. The understanding of what paying some attention to their brand could do for them is completely lacking. That’s really my point.


      1. John Dodds says:

        So, you want more than awesome?

        1. John,

          Nope — that’s not what I was saying at all. Their bags and their guarantee are indeed awesome. But their process doesn’t covey any emotion, awesomeness or even any concern/care that I am without my bag. As I said to their CEO Richard in my reply to his comment — they’re so close and they’ve already done the hard work. Now, they just need to wrap it up in customer care/compassion and they’ve got it made.


    2. Phuong says:

      Totally agree with you. But this is so hard to do. Im a new one too and trying my best!
      Halong Cruise Bookers

    3. Collette says:

      It’s not about “a sense of entitlement” and, even if it was – so what? A company should not base its performance standards on whether or not its customers adhere to those same standards.

      A personal touch at any point in this process *could* have created a customer-for-life. Moreover, *because* so few businesses take the time to make even the most minimal effort beyond the obligatory, they lost an easy opportunity to wow a customer, and cement their brand’s relationship with him. Opportunity: lost.

      Everything about the way this transaction was handled implies that the company doesn’t care if this customer is happy,or if he ever makes another purchase from them. Opportunity: lost.

      The chances are that a customer who is willing and able to pay for a premium product, has friends and acquaintances who are also willing and able to pay for a premium product. Opportunity: lost.

      Now, instead of getting a rave review and some (free) positive publicity, they’ve garnered a “Meh” from a purchaser who is not likely to become “a customer”, or encourage any of his friends and acquaintances to become customers, either.

      Opportunity. Lost.

      1. Collette,

        I actually do think they care. I just think they don’t show it very well. It’s a little like those men (being half Italian I don’t relate to this) who are the strong and silent type, believing that just because they provide for their family — that communicates their love.

        I want B&R to shout their love, to delight their customers and to wow people when they have a problem with their bag — all so they can generate word of mouth that just draws more people to their brand.

        That’s all I’m saying…


  2. Great post Drew. I loved all of your suggestions, especially the bag recovering from surgery. It’s always disappointing when company’s miss on the little things that can make all the difference.

    1. Dennis,

      As you and I both know, in marketing it is the little things that get noticed and make all the difference in the world.


  3. Vinnie Vinson says:

    Drew, did you send a version of this note to the company?

    1. Vinnie,

      Nope. Call it a test but I want to listen if they’re listening.


  4. Robert Vedral says:

    I found this to be an excellent and insightful article. In my customer experiences with various vendors I have found that doing the little things on a consistent basis can make one an ambassador for that particular service or product. As you indicated there are so many lost opportunities to create a memorable customer experience.

    1. Bob,

      So many lost opportunities because 1) most businesses don’t take the time to ask the right questions, 2) don’t want to invest the time to think it through and 3) don’t want to make the commitment to consistently deliver an extraordinary experience.

      Which is why, when one actually does, it is so remarkable.


  5. joe large says:

    You’re right Drew. I was all ready to hear about these luggage guys sent you a new one or some over the top thing. Then nothing. Went on their web site and they do ask top dollar.

    You would think with Travel, you could come up with a lot of spiffs that would benefit people who buy from you. Discounts, meals, special travel access. etc.

    Now I’m going to look for their stuff on ebay, the first steps of just being another commodity. Thanks for a solid post.

    1. Joe,

      It seems easy to be extraordinary — but most brands either don’t value it enough or haven’t taken time to map out a course and then honor it. Honestly, I think post recession everyone is in the lean and mean, sell, sell, sell mode. We need to shake our brands out from that dangerous place and start trying to do something worthy of earning our customers’ attention and loyalty. Or, as you say — we better get used to being a commodity.


  6. Deb Brown says:

    Brilliant Drew! In a past life I sold Briggs and Riley luggage and they are one of the best at what they do (after Tumi and Hartmann) — and I love how you pointed out the opportunities they’ve missed.

    I’ll be sharing this blog post with my Chamber members – because its a great instruction on how to step up your game.

    Rock on.

    Deb Brown

    1. Deb,

      They make a really great product. But so do a lot of other people. Being good is not enough. Happy to have you share this story with your Chamber members. It’s a lesson we all need to keep in mind.


  7. Hi Drew,

    You mean there are alternatives to shopping at Target?

    Reading your post and banging head on desk. I don’t understand how so many companies don’t understand the difference between brand promise and brand delivery. Forget hand-written note, even a well-crafted automated email would be a start.

    And I thought my Eagle Creek bag (which is awesome by the way) was expensive. And I haven’t forked out $100 for shipping either — which doesn’t take into account your time or mass aggravation.

    1. Darla,

      Well, for the most part if I am buying something, it’s Target, Apple or Amazon. So as a general rule, no…but in this case I ventured out of my comfort zone!

      Sorry about the headache I caused! ;-} But you’re so right. There is a huge gap between a promise and me believing your promise. Gone are the days of I’ll take you at your word. B&R had the perfect opportunity to win me for life. Now don’t get me wrong — I still am very happy with the bag. But, if another bag company started courting me the way B&R should have — I could be wooed.


  8. I’m completely blown away by so many touch points left… well, untouched. If nothing else, I would have seriously expected something inside that bag with a personal touch that would have made up for all the hassles. But then again, this makes me feel good as I grow a small business, that I have so many opportunities to get it “right” and I plan on grabbing every one of those moments of camaraderie.

    1. Cheryl,

      I have to admit, I did open the bag — looking for that little bit of extra pixie dust. As you grow your business if you keep asking yourself how can I surprise and delight my customers — you’ll be just fine!


  9. Jamey Elliott says:

    Your marketing plan for them made me want to buy one! Great ideas!

    Jamey Elliott, WHO-TV LSM

    1. Thanks Jamey — I’m sure there are plenty of other things they could do. But that would be a good start.


  10. KC Anderson says:


    Very well said, a product or service is only as good as what you do before, during and most importantly after the sale. The key point is making sure you continue to come back to this promise and continue to deliver on it.



    1. KC,

      When we work with clients, we map out all their customer touch points and we try very hard to paint each one of those experiences with the spirit of the brand promise. In some cases it is subtle and others quite obvious, but it’s always about making sure that customer knows they are valued and loved.


  11. Mark True says:

    Brilliant, Drew. That’s at least $10,000 worth of advice, that would cost them $10, 000 to implement …and return them hundreds of thosands of dollars over time.

    1. Mark,

      Now why did I know the Brand Warrior would agree with me?! People need to fight for their brand and their customers. When they do that, as we both know, it’s magic.


  12. Awesome information and tips. And you’re right. I have brought a lot of my ‘small town feel’ into my business and it’s made a world of difference!

    1. Peter,

      Tell me how you bring the small town feel to your business. It sounds warm and inviting.


  13. Love your ideas!
    I think you’ve met up with the company that can’t see the forest for trees…

    1. Sandee,

      I truly believe that B&R is committed to serving their customers well. They make a quality product and have a generous guarantee. But…like all of us, as you suggest, they’re so deep into their own process/procedures that it’s tough to see it from an outside perspective. It’s one of the things we tell all our clients — once you are in the bottle, you can no longer accurately describe the outside of the bottle.

      That’s why people hire agencies or advisors to help them get that outside perspective.


  14. Drew,

    Thank you for loving Briggs & Riley and sharing your ideas and opinion.
    We take our commitment to our loyal consumers, our extended family if you will, very seriously.
    Getting feedback and perspective from their / your experience is very important in that effort.
    I personally make a daily habit of reading many consumer emails for this reason.

    Sorry you had a rip in your bag – thankfully it was a Briggs & Riley.

    You make some good suggestions for me to consider in our effort to constantly improve.
    We are proud of our care and concern for our loyal followers and are confident that there is not a company in the industry
    who comes close to our demand for durability and quality, and our warranty coverage, standards, breadth and ease. It all boils down to the basic commitment we have of building
    a lifelong relationship with our customer. I would say with all humility that I know of no other brand that bases their decisions with that as their foundation.
    I appreciate your suggestions and assure you that we are going to review our process and consider appropriate changes

    Thank you again for the feedback and keep up the great work with your site.

    Richard Krulik
    Briggs & Riley

    1. Richard,

      Thanks for taking time to leave a comment. That is clear evidence that your company cares about taking good care of its customers. And you are right — I do love my bag and I bought it because of your no weasel words guarantee –which you honored without question.

      In the end — that’s the point I am trying to make with this blog post. B&R has already done the hard work — you make a high quality product and you stand behind your work. You are SOOO close to creating that emotional/love connection with your customers. My ideas are for the most part, not very expensive or elaborate. But they would seal the deal on you letting your customers know just how committed you are to them and how much you genuinely love creating a bag they can count on.

      Creating brand advocates is a one/two punch. First you deliver the goods (which you’ve done) and then you let them get to know your company’s personality and that you love them. That’s what’s missing. It would take so little to wrap it all up and put a bow on it, if you will.

      If I can be of assistance in exploring how you could put any of these ideas into action — as a B&R customer, I’d be happy to help.

      In the meantime, thanks again for creating such a durable bag and for caring enough to respond to the post.



  15. Michael says:

    Hopefully they catch wind of this article and change their ways. It amazes me how so many companies and their employees act so cold towards the customer. I definitely understand that some customers are entitled and just looking to start problems (ironically, those are the people that get the most help) but for the good of the brand, you think they would try to be as kind as possible.

    1. Michael,

      As you can see in the comments section — the CEO responded personally. And again — it’s not that they were calloused or didn’t honor their promise. My point was/is that with very little additional effort — a good experience could have been turned into a remarkable experience.


  16. carol manoken says:

    After reading your post, I decided to look up the cost of this bag. It is under $500. Yes, a lot for someone who usually buys luggage at Target, but if you shop around at other stores you will find that the price is not so extreme. Certainly not of the level to deserve a hand-written note IMO. I totally agree with a lot of what was said, but some of the disappointment may have been assuaged by more comparison shopping.

    1. Carol,

      First…not sure which bag you looked at but the one I bought was almost $700. Second — I bought a $10 belt buckle and got a hand written note. It’s not about how much the customer spends — it’s about how much the company cares.

      And if you really read my post, you will see that I am not at all disappointed in my purchase. It’s an awesome bag. I am disappointed that the company who went to such incredible effort to make a quality product and to 100% stand behind that product missed so many branding/loyalty opportunities.


  17. Adam says:

    #1 reminds me of Wufoo. On the beginning of their business they were sending personalized postcard to all paid customers. Not sure why they stopped it. This move was giving them enormous exposure through media.
    As of #2 from your article – good idea would be to send annual guidebook – the way to keep your company viral and keep in touch with past customers.

    Great post Drew!

    1. Adam —

      Oh, I like the guidebook idea. That would be something people would look forward to every year.


  18. Mike Bradley says:

    I have a similar story, but different experience from REI. I bought a bag there ten years ago, and it lasted five years before breaking a buckle. I took it to my local REI store trying to get it repaired. They said “we can’t repair it, but we will give you store credit for a new one.” I grabbed a new one, paid the $10 price increase from five years prior, and walked out happy with a new bag. I’m five years into that one now (great bag BTW) and expect to repeat this forever.

    I’m an REI fan for life. (of the bag at least). Talk about delivering on brand promise.

  19. John Carry says:

    Great stuff! Your idea for marketing and branding is realy considerable.

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