Only if They Deliver
By Jeff Salter
One day last week – before I’d even peeked at this week’s 4F1H topic – I was posting on FB about brand loyalty. I won’t repeat the whole thing here, but suffice it to say, I was appalled that certain cigarette manufacturers could price their product at $7.59 per PACK (of 20) while the generic ciggies were going for $4.06. My frame of reference was wondering if ANY product would compel me to pay 87% more just for the BRAND.
And here we are, this week at 4F1H, contemplating that very matter. Cool. [Or should I say “Kool”?]
Anyway, I’ve given this additional thought since I first logged-on Monday (this week). And, yeah, I’m “loyal” to certain BRANDS — but I seriously doubt I’m loyal enough to pay nearly DOUBLE for that same brand, on a daily or weekly basis… from now ‘til doomsday. But since I don’t smoke, I guess that’s a moot point.
Generics & House Brands
Before the rise of generic medicines, I actually believed the TV ads that Bayer aspirin was “better” than Norwich (or whichever brand was the cheapest at that point… circa 1960). But now that nearly EVERY prescription I’ve taken – at least in the past several decades – has been “re-written” by the insurance company by the time I get to the pharmacy…and I end up with a generic. I’m still kicking, medically-speaking, so I guess the typical generic is pretty much within the same ballpark of efficacy as the “name” brand drug.
In much younger days, when I was overseas in the military and took a drink now and then, I could order a Seagrams Seven and Seven-Up for $2, while a Stillbrook and Seven was only $1.50. No, I don’t remember their exact prices, but I’m guessing to make my point: whiskey was whiskey but if you wanted the name brand rather then the house brand, each drink cost you MORE. And, after you’ve had the first one (or two), your taste buds are definitely NOT discriminating enough to appreciate whatever perceived quality that name brand had to begin with.
I remember my first attraction to name brands involved “sneakers” back around the early 1960s. I’d seen TV commercials, so I knew – absolutely, positively – that PF Flyers and KEDS sneakers allowed kids to jump higher and run faster. It had been scientifically proven and advertised for all to see. It broke my heart for Mom to buy me the “no-name” sneakers and I was not satisfied with my footwear until I finally got my KEDS. Did I jump higher and run faster? Of course!
It’s difficult to deal with the topic of brand loyalty without at least touching upon automobiles. Let’s face it, there are lemons in every manufacturing line. True — some models (like the Edsel, as a prominent example) seemed doomed by bad press as well as by styling flaws and lemons on the assembly line. And the Corvair never stood a chance after Ralph Nader deemed it unsafe at any speed. So, we must agree that some brands have engendered a nearly universal DIS-loyalty.
But which automotive makes have I LIKED? Well, I was raised (for a considerable chunk of years) on three different Volkswagens… so it seemed quite natural for me – once married – to acquire three more. Later on, we bought a nice little Mazda Protégé and liked it so well, that our next vehicle was also a Mazda — the B2300 pickup. From there, we moved on to Toyotas, and bought first a Highlander and then a Tacoma. Those are examples of brands which engendered our loyalty after a good experience with the first one.
For examples of vehicle makes/models that generated no loyalty whatsoever, one need look no farther than the Dodge Dynasty and the 1980 Ford T-Bird.
In an era when most appliances and devices are considered UN-repairable – meaning that when they stop working, or stop working well, you just discard and replace them – it may sound strange to talk about buying a set of tools that you expect to keep for the rest of your natural life. When I was 17 and working on a 1947 Plymouth Special Deluxe (that I’d bought from a junk yard for $15), my otherwise manically frugal parents bought me an extensive – and expensive – set of Sears Craftsman tools. The tools Sears sold in the late 1960s were “guaranteed for life and replaced free if they ever broke.” As everybody and their brother began importing cheaply made tools, I continued to pay top dollar for Craftsman items to fill out my inventory. Not any more, however. The last couple of things I’ve seen from that brand (which formerly had my devoted loyalty) don’t look or feel much different than the junk tools you can buy for chump change at places like Harbor Freight. But you get what you pay for — most of those tools don’t function well and don’t hold up.
As my final entry in this essay, I’ll relate my sad experience with Barlow pocket knives. I’d grown up hearing about men and boys who owned the famed Barlow — knives of the reputation and quality that they were handed down from father to son to grandson through generations. Heirlooms. My dad never had one and his dad left him (literally) nothing. I was in my late teens, I guess, when I spotted a display of Barlow knives in an old hardware store. I thought: “Wow, a brand new Barlow and at a terrific price!” I bought one hurriedly, without even examining it. By the time I’d gotten it home, I discovered it was a cheap piece of imported junk, made by some company which had bought the Barlow NAME and slapped it on a crappy, fifty cent knife. Heartbroken. What’s the reward for loyalty to a brand, when that brand’s own loyalty is so paltry that they’ll sell their reputation and name to a concern that they KNOW will run it into the ground?
What about you? Loyal to any particular brand… of anything?
[JLS # 437]