Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Brand Loyalty

Millions of man-hours on the internet are lost every day to petty fights about PC vs. Mac, Android vs. iOS, or Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons (not a coffee drinker, but I assume). Most people I talk to in real life just have what products they have, and if asked might lean slightly towards that side. However, on the Internet, everybody is a dog and people's opinions relating to personal choices in brand seem to be a lot more intense.

I was in the Apple Store yesterday, as I often am, looking at the fancy new MacBook trackpad that clicks without actually physically moving. If you haven't tried it, you really should, but be aware your mind will be blown. This got me thinking once again about brand loyalty, and whether it actually works the way companies think it does.

TL;DR This is about technology, but I also talk about meat. If you don't care about tech, scroll to the picture of meat.

I've written a good many years ago about choosing to spend a little more money on things that are really important to me, and technology happens to be one of those things (but it's not the only thing, as I'll get to). I've had my fair share of terrible laptops and computers that were underpowered, cheap, flimsy and overwhelmingly inadequate. I believe it was about the 2nd laptop I bought that was a $400 clunker from Acer that came with a printer. I was young and in university, and I wasn't willing to invest in a more powerful laptop, thinking that it couldn't possibly make that much of a difference.

When that Acer laptop stopped working about a year after I got it (after having been sent in for repairs once already), I decided that I wasn't going to buy cheap laptops any more. Most people, when met with this kind of issue, might think that I would swear off Acer laptops, but the 4th laptop I bought was also an Acer, it just wasn't cheap. What I learned from my experiences with laptops is that quality is what you are paying for. My current laptop, which if you're playing at home is apparently my 5th laptop, is a MacBook Air, and I absolutely love it. It has been my most expensive laptop to date, but it is easily the one that has given me the most value overall, and is absolutely worth it.

Companies often try to buy your love with incentives, rewards programs and the like designed to keep you coming back, and they are very successful, but those programs don't necessarily mean people like your product or service. It could just mean that it works for them right now, and it's not worth it to go somewhere else for your needs right now. It certainly doesn't mean your company has its customers hooked. People are going to do what works for them, all you can do is try not to screw it up.

When it comes to cell phones (and tablets), I'm the guy who always wants to be on the latest technology. I use every part of the phone to almost its maximum potential, and though some portion of my gadget-lust is marketing-driven, I also do see a lot of the benefits in the year-over-year updates provided, and often wish for features and upgrades well before they show up in the real world. I have tried Android phones, but for me personally, their shortcomings are more numerous than those in the current iteration of the iPhone. I have definitely also tried CHEAP Android phones, and that is an experience that I wouldn't wish on anybody. What I value in this space is having a phone that can keep up with me, and one that will keep getting better, even if it means spending a few hundred dollars a year on a cell phone (barring upcoming major life expenses, obviously).

Mmmmmmm...smoked meat.
Brand loyalty, to me, isn't as important as loyalty to myself and to my needs and desires. If I have a bad experience with a given brand, I can't equate that to never wanting to deal with that company again, I will evolve and learn from specific things wrong with the product, and attempt to not make the same mistakes again.

Before I go, here is a more relate-able example of the reverse brand loyalty I'm talking about in action. Picture a delicious smoked meat/Reuben sandwich for a moment. I have had my share of terrible meat sandwiches, but I have had a few that REALLY stand out as unbelievable experiences in my mind. One of my favourite smoked meat sandwiches came from Montreal (which is not a surprise from people who've been there and tried them), but I find that most pubs/bars in Ottawa simply get much lower quality meat than places known for their smoked meat. This has caused me to not trust smoked meat or Reuben sandwiches in Ottawa, even though I LOVE them so so much. Unless I know a restaurant has a good meat sandwich, I will not order one here. The same can be said of steak at a pub (I'm sure you have had a good experience with a pub steak at one point, but don't kid yourself into thinking it is common). I do not recommend steak at a pub, having eaten $30 steak I can assure you it is worth much more than 3 $10 pub steaks.

And now I've written more about meat than I ever thought I would today.