The Branding of Fools

What’s up, party people?
As we all know, the iPhone 5 was released just a few weeks ago. Since then, as usual, the social media outlets have been lit up with those saying it’s the worst phone ever, those saying it’s the best phone ever, and those somewhere in-between. That’s the beauty and magic and horror and OMG FML of social media, people are free to blurt out whatever is on their mind, regardless of how [insert adjective here] it is.

All this reminds me of when I was a kid. Back then, before cellphones and the internet, the fight of my day was Nintendo versus Sega. My family didn’t have much money, but my drug-dealing godfather was loaded and nice enough to buy me a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. My life was forever changed. The NES was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen; It gave me something fun to do other than watching my hamster in a ball getting batted around by stray dogs in the parking lot [he eventually escaped his cage and mated with the local rat population; I saw him again months later, wearing a little leather jacket and an earring].

The neighborhood kids all got Sega Master Systems for the holidays, so I made it my mission in life to show them the way. I would take my NES from house to house and for each Sega game they showed me, I’d top it with an even better NES game. They hated me, but it was hard to argue that the NES didn’t have a much better selection of games [Alex Kidd had nothing on Super Mario Brothers, although Sega did manage to release some classics like Shinobi].

That’s the first memory I can think of where I had brand loyalty. I’d be ready to take someone down if they badmouthed my beloved Nintendo. Soon enough I learned that the games were more important than the console. Sure, Nintendo had some exclusive hits, like Zelda, but most of the games I loved [Contra, Castlevania, MegaMan, Bionic Commando, etc] came from third-party developers who weren’t quite as loyal to the consoles as I was. I started focusing on the games, not the systems. It got expensive; but like another Nintendo franchise, I had to catch them all. I ended up buying consoles from Nintendo, Sega, NEC, and even SNK.

Since then, I try to base my allegiances on something other than brand. You might be thinking, “Isn’t this the guy that’s always wearing Marc Ecko shirts?” Absolutely. I love my Marc Ecko shirts, but I’m just as quick to wear a Sean John, Rocawear, or even Woot.com shirts; I just have to like the look and feel, I couldn’t care less who makes it. It’s no lie that I’ll recommend an Intel CPU over an AMD one, but that’s only because I feel Intel makes a better product today; I’m not mindlessly dismissing any other products simply because I have a coffee mug with the Intel logo on it [I don’t, I swear].

Sometimes people try to goad me into brand wars, but usually when that happens, I remember a scene from one of my favorite movies, A Bronx Tale. There’s a scene where the mobster, Sonny, first chats with 8-year-old “C”, who’s upset because the press was beating up on his favorite baseball star, Mickey Mantle. The über-wise Sonny says,

Mickey Mantle, is that what you’re upset about? Mickey Mantle makes $100,000 a year, How much does your father make? …If your father can’t pay the rent, go ask Mickey Mantle, see what he tells you. Mickey Mantle don’t care about you, so why should you care about him?

That helps remind me.. I’m the one spending money, they’re not paying me to advertise for them. You love your iPhone? That’s great, I own stock in Apple. I own lots of Apple products, I’m using one right now, but I also use the heck out my Nexus tablet [but yea, I own Google stock too]. I don’t care who made what as long as “what” is [insert positive adjective here]. Do I think Apple products are better than Google’s? A year ago, yes. Today, they’re pretty much the same. A year from now, who the hell knows. But I’ll tell you this, if I spend my hard-earned cash on a product, and it doesn’t meet my expectations, you’re gonna hear about it. On the plus side, if it exceeds my expectations you’ll hear about it too [the nest is awesome!]! That’s what’s so great about social media, we keep companies in check. They can’t get away with sloppiness because the negativity won’t be confined to some snooty reviewer or maybe a nasty letter in the mail, it’s going to be everyone telling everyone. The end result is better products for everybody, and that’s a good thing.

In closing [for the TL;DR crowd], don’t be a fangirl. Like a product because it’s good and fills an actual need in your world, not just because you were dumb enough to get a logo tattooed on your forehead and feel obligated to like everything they make. Let people brag/complain when they get something they do/don’t like; it’s their money, not yours.

Oh, and watch A Bronx Tale because it’s better than any movie you like. [I rewatched it while writing this post; I’ve never realized how much that movie has influenced me]
Peace out.