September 7, 2011

Brand Loyalty

Today I have been shopping around for a couple computer related items.  I decided that I'd like to get a new external hard drive that we can use to backup our main home computer.    I also am almost out of DVD blank discs so I need to buy some more of those.  While shopping for these I realized that my own brand loyalty was greatly influencing my shopping and purchase decision.

External Hard drive shopping

Western Digital WD Elements 500 GB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard DriveFirst I shopped around for the hard drives.   On Newegg there are a ton of different brands for external hard drives.  Some of those brands are pretty cheap but I've never heard of the brand name before.   I quickly decided that I didn't want to risk buying a harddrive from a company I've never heard of just to save a few bucks.   If our back harddrive dies on us then we could potentially lose a lot of important stuff.   The two brands that I quickly focused on where Seagate and Western Digital.   Both are well known hard drive makers.   In the past I have bought Western Digital drives and been happy with them and I know they've also had a good reputation for many years.    The 500GB Seagate drive is $49 on Newegg and the 500GB Western Digital is $70.   I also shopped around and found a 500GB Western Digital drive for $60 + $7 shipping at Amazon.    So I'm looking at $49 for Seagate or $67 for Western Digital.   The Seagate drive is 26% cheaper than the Western Digital.   I'm still inclined to buy the Western Digital since I know the brand and I've been generally happy with it in the past.

DVD media shopping

AmazonBasics 4.7 GB 16x DVD+R (100-Pack Spindle)Amazon has some products they sell under their own brand of 'Amazon Basics'.   The DVD-R's they sell are $18 for a spindle of 100.    Thats 18¢ each.    The other common name brand DVD blanks start around $20 for 100 or 20¢ each.   

TDK 4.7GB 16x DVD-R (100-Pack Spindle) $19.99
AmazonBasics 4.7 GB 16x DVD+R (100-Pack Spindle) $17.99

The reviews are roughly similar with either getting around 4 stars with lots of reviews.   The AmazonBasic product is 10% cheaper.   Yet I'm still thinking I'd prefer to get the brand that I bought last time cause I know it works and I was happy with it.   The brand I have now worked fine for me and I don't know how well the Amazon brand discs will actually work.  DVD players and recorders can sometimes be finicky about recordable DVDs and its not uncommon to get some bad discs in a spindle from some vendors.

For these two purchases I am willing to spend 10-25% more for the more expensive brand out of brand loyalty.

Smart or a Waste of Money?

I think that brand loyalty makes a lot of sense in many ways.   If you know a company makes products that work well and fit your needs then why not buy from them again?   If you buy a product from a company you're unfamiliar with then you're taking a risk that their product is not as good.   If you are happy with the company and the product all around then its a safe bet to buy from them again.

On the other hand just because the last product you bought from a company worked OK that doesn't mean their products are necessarily higher quality or more reliable than a cheaper alternative.  I think brand loyalty can make more sense if its not based on your individual perception and/or your experiences with just one or two previous purchases.

The status quo can be a strong motivator.    This is good and bad.    If you stick to what you know then you don't have the as much risk of being disappointed in general.   You were happy the last time you bought the brand so why not buy it again?   It may keep me buying a more expensive brand that isn't really that much better and  keep me from ever trying a cheaper brand that is just as good.  

Sometimes Just a Matter of Tastes

For some things brand loyalty is just a matter of personal taste.  Consider food items.   Whether or not you buy Coke or Pepsi or another brand of soda is really up to your own personal tastes.  If you like Coke then you like Coke and it makes perfect sense to keep buying the soda that you enjoy the taste of.   Other peoples opinions about Pepsi shouldn't matter much.   Other things fit into the same category like perfume, clothing, movies, video games, etc.

So what?

OK so I feel like I rambled a little bit in this article.    Sorry.   So whats the point?   The lesson here for myself is that I should be aware of my brand loyalties and question them.   Did I really have a good reason to pay 10% more for Western Digital over Seagate?   Not especially.   Both are great brands that have good reviews.  But Western Digital is the status quo choice.     When looking at the DVD purchases I had another good reason to stick to the brand I know which is that some DVD brands can have problems.  In that case there is more risk and I can't rely entirely on 3rd party opinions there either.   In this case it may make sense to stick to the option that I know works since there is more real risk of failure with unknown brands. 

Bottom Line :   Brand loyalty can be a good thing or can cause us to waste money while we cling to the status quo.   If you're shopping then I'd question how much brand loyalty really matters and how much it may be worth spending on.

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