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Branding in the Social Age

Learn the New Luxury Playbook at Luxury Connect | October 18-19 at the Beverly Hills Hotel

Editor’s note: Meet Robert Hahn at the upcoming Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs from Aug. 5-7, 2009. He will be available to meet with conference attendees from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 6, in the Palace Hotel’s Ralston Room. Click here to send Robert a message.

In last week’s column, I wrote about the myths of social media. This week, I’d like to take a look at a success story. But it’sĀ gonna be a weird one as far as social media goes.

Let’s talk about bags. Yep — bags, those things of leather and cloth you put stuff into. Specifically, I’d like to draw your attention to Waterfield, a maker of laptop bags based in San Francisco.

So what makes Waterfield our example of choice for social media? The way that they have gotten me to go to their site then persuaded me to part with a large sum of money for one of their products, sight unseen, is what makes Waterfield a company you might want to study.

The journey begins

I started with a need: a new computer bag for the trip to Inman’s Real Estate Connect event. My current bag, stylish and metrosexual it may be, was starting to feel far too small for all the gadgets I have to carry for long trips.

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What was interesting is that there was already a very strong brand in my head: InCase, the maker of my current neoprene laptop sleeve. The InCase Web site is very strong, and they do have a blog. They’re practicing social media! Plus, InCase makes great products.

So I was going to visit the InCase site and buy a bag and be done with it. Except that, like many a consumer in the age of CNET, I thought, "Let me see what folks have to say about laptop bags." I approached the "Great God Google" and asked this question: "best macbook bags"?

I find myself on the MacLife Web site, perusing an article about laptop bags. The article is your typical magazine review fare: pretty pictures and a review of each bag, with ratings and so on. There’s nothing in the article itself to make me change my mind about picking up a nice InCase bag.

Then a glittery comment about Waterfield caught my eye.

Now, maybe the commenter is affiliated with Waterfield — you just have to take his word for it that he isn’t. And maybe all of the other commenters that follow, who are also singing Waterfield’s praises, are secretly employees and investors in Waterfield. …CONTINUED