Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Not a Fan of the Brand - Confessions Aging Enthusiast

A Recent Article Showed Me The Light

I happened upon a slideshow on Rant Gizmo (which your can find HERE) this morning when I was looking for the best graphic practices for mobile themes for some up-and-coming projects at work. In this brief piece, the author, Michael Peckerar, posts thirteen reasons why the iPhone is better than any Android phone, which fit the range of, "You have to pay over $299 for a good one," to, "You can screw it up if you try to customize it." After laughing at the author's decidedly one-sided approach to the argument (for those uninitiated, most new iPhones cost upwards of $500 and you can't really customize them beyond desktop backgrounds), it got me thinking:

What's up with fan-boys these days?

My confession:

Now in my youth (and for some of my adult life) I was an unabashed video game fan-boy. First it was Nintendo over Sega, then Sega over Sony, then Microsoft over everyone, and on, and on... Over the years, I've realized that by choosing one brand's hype over another that I've missed out on some truly amazing products over the years because I was too stubborn to accept the one truth that fan-boys can't seem to fathom:

All brands, regardless of marketing hype, are just companies trying to push a product to market.

Brand loyalty needs to be earned, sure, and once it is it can give that brand an advantage in future purchasing decisions. My love of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System shaded many of my video game purchases, getting me to buy inferior products like Virtual Boy and the N64 out of the hope that my favorite brand wouldn't let me down, despite the fact that Nintendo has been hopelessly out of its depth since the 16-bit era. Maybe it's because I'm older and wiser, or maybe it's the marketing-saturated world that we live in, but I find that I am less enthusiastic about "brands" and more enthusiastic about "products" and actual value.

The undesired result

Far from Michael Peckerar's point, I find that his misguided attack against one brand in favor of another is as much as a turn-off to me as anything. His misleading obfuscated opinions are actually making me LESS enthusiastic about Apple's iPhone and its products in general -- if this is how the brand's adherents feel and act, resorting to lies and half-truths simply to push a product's user base, I don't think that it's an ecosystem that I want to be a part of. I have taken up this view on many brands in recent times, and I avoid purchasing until they produce something with the features and cost that I find desirable.

For example, I no longer buy brand name clothing unless there is a definite cost-to-feature benefit. I like "toe shoes," and the Vibram Five fingers in particular. Are they the only "barefoot" shoes on the market? Absolutely not, but out of the ones I've tried I like the feel of them, and they are within my means, so they are the ones that I purchase for now. As soon as they become scarce, or change in some way that I don't feel is to my benefit, I will shop around again. I won't continue to wear shoes that I don't find comfortable just because it's the brand that I always buy. I own a couple of iPods, but now that I have a phone that can play MP3 music I rarely use them. Nothing's perfect, but there's no shame in recognizing a different brand's achievements.

Fan-boys do the opposite -- they continue to buy products based on a frothing loyalty to a brand regardless of cost or features, and are hurt - HURT, when someone doesn't share their narrow view. It often takes something like the Playstation 3's disastrous launch to shake off all but the most hardcore adherents. Apple is very steadily falling behind in desired features and innovation, but they still make a good product. When Apple finally does release its own "Playstation 3" (which is quickly becoming more likely in it's current rudderless post-Steve Jobs era) a good number of these people will be disillusioned, and when they are I will welcome them to the plateau of meaningful product discussion.

Michael Adams is a technical writer and graphic artist for CJ's Home Decor & Fireplaces, LLC
His current phone of choice is an HTC One Max (Android)
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