What’s in a name?

When a person becomes ‘brand loyal', he or she will develop an almost blind, unquestionable affinity to products of a certain brand.

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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  May 19, 2008

I've always believed that brand loyalty is the biggest threat to the IT industry, or any other for that matter. When a person becomes ‘brand loyal', he or she will develop an almost blind, unquestionable affinity to products of a certain brand. This is a dangerous thing for a number of reasons.

Slowing progress and innovation sits right at the top of the list. You see, when you become brand loyal and start buying your products more because they're part of a certain brand, instead of what they offer, you're prompting a company to become lazy.

Why should they bother spending billions of dollars on research and development on newer, better products when people are happy giving them their hard-earned money without question - even if the product isn't all that great?

Perhaps the best example of this in recent memory is Intel's Pentium 4 processor. Although there were certain CPUs from the Pentium 4 series that were somewhat reasonable buys (in terms of overclocking at least), I never ever bought one for any one of my home machines.

For me, AMD's Athlon 64 was a much more sensible buy, not because I'm brand loyal to AMD but because benchmarks and tests showed AMD's chip was better and they sold for a fair price too. Hence, AMD got my money whenever I decided to upgrade my CPU during the Pentium 4 era.

Unfortunately, millions of people who believed in ‘Intel' as a brand went out and bought an expensive Pentium 4 CPU or PCs powered by these chips en mass. As a result, Intel stuck with the flawed ‘Netburst' architecture for a lot longer than any learned-techie would have liked, myself included.

If however the masses ignored the Pentium 4 and went with AMD, Intel would have probably killed Netburst a lot sooner and given us its brilliant ‘Core' CPUs a lot earlier than 2006. (Incidentally, I now use Intel's Core CPUs at home because they offer better performance and are more energy efficient than AMD's competing Phenom and Athlon processors.)

When a company realises it has a lot of brand loyal customers, it can also artificially inflate the price of its products. After all, why should it sell products at a lower cost when people are happy enough paying more for the so called ‘perceived prestige' of the brand?

Apple's products are a prime example of this. Its iPod's, notebooks etc are all priced far higher than competing products. Sure, when you buy an Apple product you're treated to a spiffy interface and sharp looks but do you really think that interface or design actually costs the firm a bundle to create? The underlying hardware powering an Apple notebook is almost identical to the kit powering a Dell, Toshiba or any other notebook.

Yet, you'll always find that an Apple notebook is more expensive than a similarly specified Dell for example. I for one am not willing to fork out extra cash for Apple's name, its interface or its design. My lower cost Dell ultra-portable does everything I want it to, which is more than I can say for the Macbook Air, which I considered for about 30 seconds.

Don't misunderstand me however, I'm not saying you should always buy different brand products. All I'm saying is this - think about your purchases in detail before buying something you automatically feel comfortable with.

If you're looking for a notebook and you're last one was a Toshiba for example - which you liked - check out Toshiba's new laptops but also check out models that compete with it in terms of price and positioning. If you genuinely like the new Toshiba because it offers more bang for your buck or offers better battery life or performance, then by all means go ahead and buy it.

For your sake and everyone else's, don't buy something for its brand name because, after all, what's in a name?

3453 days ago
Luqman khan

I agree with you, Jason. I also had a same story (brand loyalty), I became too Loyal to ATi's Graphics Cards that i blindly took a 128MB Model(2 years ago) without looking at the Price & Performance i would Get... In result i got Null Performance, I was not even able to play Need For Speed Underground. Even the Drivers weren't upgrading & kept using Default Windows Drivers. From that Day i Understood that Brand Doesn't matters but performance matters. Keep it up Jason :)

3466 days ago
Hombil

What's in a name? Lots! Why brand loyalty? Many reasons! A brand or a name has a lot to offer - trust in the product, reliability, convenience (an individual gets used to a particular brand's features), standardisation of equipments in an office, which in turn makes it easy and economical on maintenance, etc. The reasons for brand loyalty can go on...

3466 days ago
Magnus

I think, as so many others, miss the point about Apple and their products. You look at the sticker price, and compare feature by feature and yes in such a case Apple often comes up short. That was what so many did with iPhone and yet it's done remarkably well. Apple charges a premium because the experience of using their products is, by and large and for most users, superior to the alternatives. Sure, look at the sticker price of a Mac and compare it to a PC and the Mac is more expensive. Look at overall cost, productivity, reliability, etc. and it's often a very different situation. But that's fine, you won't buy a Mac, I see that as your loss. You miss out on a great experience ;) You say that "Slowing progress and innovation sits right at the top of the list." of things which are bad about brand loyalty. Why is it then that Apple is widely recognized as one of the most innovative tech companies around?

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