When Should Loyalty Be Set Aside? (or, Has My Lifetime of Brand Loyalty Been a Terrible Mistake?)

In February, I talked about getting a multi-track recorder to mess around with. I really wanted that Portastudio to be excellent, but it was kind of a piece of junk. It had a problem, so they sent me a second one, which had the same problem.

That disappointed me because I had an old TEAC Portastudio that used cassette tapes, and that thing was built like a high-quality piece of electronic equipment should be built. People still use them today, and they’re 40 years old. This flimsy new thing was a letdown.

I replaced it with a Zoom multitrack recorder which is about 100 times better for about 100 dollars more. I love it, and I’ve already made a multitrack test recording with it. In about five minutes, that’s how intuitive this thing is (if you’ve used a mixer in the past).

Zoom L-8

But this isn’t really about multitrack recorders. It’s about brand loyalty. I have it in a significant way, and sometimes I wonder why?

When I was 17, I started working full time and moved into my own apartment. After I flopped my mattress in the corner and set up my card table and cinder-block shelf, I went across the street to the major St. Paul department store at the time, looking for a clock radio.

That was a long time ago, so the choices were, to put it mildly, limited. I liked the way the Panasonic radio looked, so that’s the one I bought. It turned out to be a fine clock radio, so next time I had to choose an electronic appliance like that and Panasonic was one of the options, I chose it. Without ever really considering other brands.

Most of my cars have been Hondas, most of my guitars have been Gibsons. And I’ll still buy Panasonic when I can. Because Panasonic, Honda, and Gibson have never let me down.

I’ve had half a dozen really great TEAC products, top-shelf stuff. I held them in very high esteem. But the bad experience with a single TEAC product has really soured me on the brand.

That’s a business lesson, isn’t it? Your customers can love you and love you and love you — until they don’t.

And it doesn’t take much to lose a customer. So even when you’re doing or making something that may not be up to the same level as your other really awesome stuff, it still has to live up to your reputation, or – may I speak freely? – you’re fucking yourself.

But I sometimes wonder why we have brand loyalty? Often in the face of evidence that it isn’t warranted.

In the case of Panasonic, I know I’ve just always favored their industrial design style. It speaks to me. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve never had a bad Panasonic product.

I guess it’s also a design thing when it comes to Gibson guitars. But with musical instruments, I think many of us get locked into the first quality brand we ever got our hands on.

Really though, I don’t completely understand why we make these connections with things. Not instruments, they’re more than just things, they’re magic, but radios? Cars? Those things don’t matter, really. A radio is a radio, and a car is a car.

I know many would disagree when it comes to cars because they think of them the way I think of guitars. I get that. But for me, a car is a car is a car.

So then why have I owned half a dozen Hondas?

If you have the answer, please attach it to a Gibson Les Paul Standard and mail it to PO box 639, Joshua Tree, CA, 92252. Thank you.

day 97


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