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Published on November 29th, 2007 | by Janine Popick


Bloomies Big Brown Bag

A few weeks ago my husband and I were “getting our shop on” and we ventured into Bloomingdale’s here in San Francisco. After dancing a bit in the aisles to some pretty GREAT DJs (a great idea for getting people in a good mood to spend money, by the way) we made our purchase. What did they put our kaboodle in? The same big brown bag they’ve been using for as long as I can remember Bloomingdale’s. Both John and I said to each other: “You’d think they’d update this cheap tired bag by now.”

Then we went into another store and low and behold the security guard looked at our bag and said, “Why don’t they update that old thing?”

We’ll I’ll tell ya, after a bit of snooping around I know why: they’ve done a fantastic branding job.

Last week I got a rather large catalog in the mail from Bloomie’s with that same brown bag as the cover entitled “big brown bag sale – 3 days only”. I knew right away in the scads of catalogs I received who that one was from.

They’ve even made it a collector’s item. That’s right, for $18 you can buy the little brown bag
in vinyl and either use it as a shopping bag to save trees or use it daily to bring your lunch to work.

I went to the site and they cleverly use the big brown bag as the shopping cart icon. Nice.

They also use the sides of the bag to include the store name. Brilliant.

So, they use it on the retail bag so to get their brand out there, they use it in the direct mail they send and they made a product out of it so that their customers can “wear” the brand. They also cleverly use it as on their site for their sales as well as tie it into the purchase strategy and something tells me if I was on their email list they’d have used it in their email marketing campaigns too.

A bit of history: What I found was the Bloomingdale’s pioneered the “art” of the shopping bag in the 20′s. The big brown bags debuted much later in 1973 and were designed by Michael Vollbracht, a designer for Bill Blass at the time. Apparently the linen department needed a big bag for the popular big pillows and blankets they were selling.

There you have it. Sorry for jumping to conclusions, Bloomie’s, keep going with your big brown bag! Readers, do you have something that can be branded on every item you use when you market? I’ll tell you, it sure got me thinking…

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3 Responses to Bloomies Big Brown Bag

  1. Hi, Janine,
    What a positive story that many, it appears, have missed the point.
    Beyond the impact of branding, look how the brown bag positions Bloomie’s as being the leader in “green” thinking.
    The next step would be to tout their forward thinking and how the bags are printed with earth-friendly inks!
    I love the idea and want to see them continue to build on the image.

  2. Kudos to Bloomies…some of the most simple marketing plans end up being the most widely recognized efforts. Elizabeth Joo-Bighorse

  3. Mark says:

    Here’s a marketing idea.
    They should keep the same look with one change:
    Offer the bags in multiple colors, but still call them “brown bags”.
    So you’d have the “little brown bag” thats actually blue and a story behind why its called “brown”.

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