Lets face it, we are all consumers. Knowing, and accepting that fact, I want to discuss brand loyalty verses brand idolatry. Consumer product designers and manufacturers create products that they hope will resonate in the market. They hope these products will be well received by a target audience and serve a purpose. That purpose may be form, taste, touch, smell, function or even simply aesthetic appearance. There are numerous brands that do an incredible job of making products. That is to say, most of what they make has solid function or purpose, but it excels in a particular aspect of its existence.
These brands (hopefully) become a benchmark for others to be compared too. However, that is not to say that each and every product they produce is the next greatest widget. It simply means that they have created a thing that is good enough to draw comparison from other things. It also does not imply that new iterations of their products are always going to be improvements.
This is where we begin our discussion. Let’s say for example that Brand X makes a backpack. To be specific, it is a low volume daily use backpack. It has features and design characteristics that (hopefully) appeal to a targeted market segment. A second brand, seeing the results and success of Brand X makes a similar product to also reach said segment. In some cases, the secondary product may have better features or function and or aesthetic properties that have more appeal to some consumers. This is normal and accepted in our culture and called competition.
Now, here is where the cult comes in. The consumers that purchased products from Brand X in some instances display a level of disapproval for products that are similar. Calls for lack of originality about the secondary brand can be heard around the internet. Here is where the rubber meets the road and loyalty becomes a cult. When presented with the facts (independent editorial, design awards, etc) that the secondary brand has created a better version of a backpack that is similar in design to Brand X, the faithful masses of Brand X revolt.
The cult of Brand X blindly dismisses the secondary product or its improvements. Then, they start to accuse anyone who disagrees with them that Brand X is the best by labeling them as turn coats or worse yet, questioning their intelligence and credibility. These discussions often become heated, with insults and aggressive comments being thrown about like confetti on a parade day. This is where I get lost.
The discussion is about stuff. Simple things or material possessions. The products and items made by others that we may, or may not own, do not define us as a person. A person capable of rational thought should be able to take in critical elements in a discussion about an object and determine their own opinions. The discussion goes back as far as mankind itself. However, it is important to understand the subtext of the conversation. Meaning, if I say that the backpack from the secondary brand is better than the version from Brand X, and provide what I believe to be evidence of that fact, then for me in my context as a consumer it is in fact a better product. I am not wrong in my opinion. I may be flawed in my evaluation, and I should be open to others opinions of the same item. But, in the end, it is my opinion and I am entitled to it just as you are entitled to have your own.
Another area that may define someone’s cult like devotion to a brand may be brand messaging. This my friends is called marketing, pure and simple. That brand has created a message that once again stimulates and resonates with part of your brain whether it be consciously or subconsciously. It can be things like “Made in America”, “Designed in California”, “GORE”, “built using milspec …” or pretty much anything you click with. These things are important to you in your use of the item. They may not be of use to me, or someone else for that matter. To some, buying things that represent the “cutting edge” of design or technological innovation is paramount. To others, time-tested and classic designs may be the thing. Brand loyalty doesn’t have to enter in any of those equations, but being loyal and finding the best doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
We (MOTUS) review things, experiences, gear, events, adventures. We tell stories about our passions and how we perceive our world. However, let me be 100% crystal clear on something – we do not “test” gear. To quote a colleague, “Testing involves controls, samples, scripts, test plans, and dammit, lab coats.” We review gear and give our opinion on it. We are able to provide an educated opinion because we see and used a large variety of gear sample. It is from those experiences that we have built a large knowledge base from which to draw that opinion. It is also incumbent upon us to use the gear in order to fully understand its capabilities and functions. However, it is important to note, that we do so from the filter of our own experiences and situations.
We are not collectors of the things we discuss. We are constantly using and reviewing gear from a multitude of companies on a daily basis. There is nothing wrong with being a collector. As I have observed, the farther one goes down the path of being a collector versus user, the higher the likelihood one has to display blind brand loyalty. This is not a bad thing IF (and I mean if!) you preface your product discussions by defining your context for liking or disliking a particular thing. To be more clear, if you collect knives, you may find that a particular maker is your favorite. His or her style and aesthetic for design stimulates something in your brain. So for you, it makes them the best for your use case. For me, it may not work at all. My hands may not fit the grip the same, I may need a different alloy for the blade as I use my knife for a task that requires something else. These examples could go on forever. Just as each one of us is different, we have different tastes, needs, and requirements.
The reason for this piece of editorial is simple. We at MOTUS strive to provide our opinions and thoughts based on as little bias as humanly possible. We strive to illustrate to our tribe our own personal experiences and impressions with all of the things we discuss. What personally burns me up is the lack of tolerance displayed by some people of others’ opinions like, “This brand sucks because they copied brand X” or “Dude, that’s not Brand X so it’s junk.” Give it a rest,folks. I own items that I personally do not agree with the position of the manufacturer on certain topics. However, in my opinion, that particular item that I own is the best for the function and therefore the best FOR ME. That is, until something new comes out that I find to be better …