Sunday, June 28, 2009

Longaberger from a guy's perspective

I found this post while searching the internet for longaberger stuff, the original can be found here
Longaberger Baskets - A Guy's Perspective

This is a re-publish of a post from May 11, 2006 that I've received requests to make more accessible:

Feel the need to give some preliminary information before my observations to maintain my masculinity. Here are the facts:

-My Mom loves Longaberger Baskets
-Some of my Wife's family lives in Newark, Ohio
-We were traveling to Newark to celebrate my Grandmother-In-Law's 90th birthday
-It was four weeks before Mother's Day, 2006

My sister, who lives in Wisconsin, was aware of the abovementioned facts, and sent me an e-mail asking if I could pick up the "2006 Woven Memories" basket for our Mom. I'd seen enough of my Mom's baskets to know they all had a name that was on a badge of sorts affixed to the basket, so my mission was straightforward.

It is 16 hours round trip from Dardenne Prairie, Missouri to Newark, which didn't leave a lot of time for anything outside of the birthday festivities. I asked my sister if I could buy it online in case we didn't make it, and she told me that you could only get this basket at the Longaberger store located 20 minutes east of Newark. And that's when it hits me; the business model of this company is pure genius! On the surface, it looks like it's all about the fancy baskets. A basket is a basket, right? Not by Longaberger's standards. You've got the intricately woven basket. You've got the interchangeable liners that you can change with the seasons. You've got the plastic liner to protect your investment....err, I mean basket. You've got the lid to top it off. Longaberger has taken a seemingly bland product and made it unique and exciting. But, dig deeper and you see a carefully crafted business that is different than many of the other businesses that rely on house parties like candles, cosmetic products and the like that tend to fizzle out over time.

The Destination
So, my wife, son, sister-in-law and brother-in-law leave a little bit early for a lunch over at a relative's house so we could drive by "The Basket," otherwise known as Longaberger's Headquarters. We saw the basket, which was pretty impressive. But, instead of turning around and getting to lunch on time, which was the plan, we kept on driving. And 20 minutes later we were in Dresden, Ohio, taking the exit off Highway 16 to see the spectacle known as Longaberger Homestead. This place is a little city, complete with store, restaurants (yes, that's plural), welcome center, golf course, a furniture store, a place to make your own basket and more. Longaberger has made this place a destination, a place to share an experience with friends or family. We were only there for 30 minutes, but we created a memory by going there and getting my Mom a memorable Mother's Day gift. That may sound a little sappy, but it is something the five of us will talk about from time to time.

If you've taken an Economics class, you are familiar with the concept of supply and demand. For products that rely on home based sales (Longaberger calls them "Home Consultants"), it's critical to find the balance between the two. If the products are too easy to purchase, you've lost the allure due to market saturation and will most likely have poor sales. If the products are too difficult to purchase, potential customers will get frustrated and could stop buying your product. Also, take a look at the price of a basket...keeping in mind that it isn't gold plated. Oh, and you can't forget to buy a liner a lid and plastic insert, that's crazy talk.

There are essentially two ways to get your paws on a Longaberger Basket, either go through one of these "Home Consultants" or make a pilgrimage to Dresden, Ohio. The fact that you can only buy the Woven Memories baskets in Dresden is a core component of the Longaberger model, because it generates demand. The Homestead has an entire section where that's all they sell...current and past Woven Memories Baskets, complete with liners, lids and trays. Even more astounding, this is the only basket you can buy here. Want another basket? You'll have to talk to a "Home Consultant." Sure, you can find baskets on eBay, but you'll find yourself trying to outbid other people that must have this basket. I must have asked my sister half a dozen times to clarify which specific basket to get Mom, and she always responded with, "it's the only one you can get there." Until I witnessed the spectacle, I didn't understand what she was saying.
Status Symbols and Branding
This is why I mentioned earlier in this article that under the surface it's not about the baskets. Longaberger has created a brand that is a status symbol. You can find a basket at your local Target, Wal-Mart or whatever, but they aren't Longaberger baskets. Most people are aware that it's not easy (or cheap) to get a Longaberger Basket. An amusing side note: 2 miles before the exit for Longaberger Homestead, we saw a basket store (“store” is being generous) with a home made spray-painted sign that said “Baskets” out front. What is this store’s goal? Do they think they will trick people into thinking they are Longaberger Homestead? Do they think people who have traveled hundreds of miles to visit Dresden will stop 2 miles short of the Holy Grail and buy their baskets? We need answers to these questions!

Take another popular brand name, Hummer. St. Louis has a ton of Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Chevy, Ford, etc. dealerships. But, we have only one Hummer dealership. If you drive a Hummer, it isn't necessarily about it being a better ride; it's about owning a status symbol. There, I feel better after writing about something manly (and posting a picture of a manly truck) back to baskets! The badge on each Longaberger basket epitomizes this train of thought as it's something you can only find on a Longaberger basket, which helps for quick identification. There's no one asking, "Is that a Longaberger basket?" They're saying, "That's a Longaberger basket!"

So there you have it: a unique product that is a status symbol, controlled supply, and a destination for your raving fans. Pure genius.

Yes, we were late to lunch, but it was worth it.

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