Consumers bonding with providers

Many years ago I was a tattoo artist.  During that time, while building up my clientele and networking with other tattooists, I observed that customers were very eager to stick with one artist and say that he or she was “their” tattoo artist.  Often this was the first tattooist that had worked on that customer, or at least the first decent one.  There is a bonding experience that occurs when somebody marks you for life.

Strangely, I later saw the exact same thing occur with the significantly more trivial relationship between a consumer and the products they buy.  A person buys Brand ABC speaker cabinets, for example, and suddenly Brand ABC is the best choice possible and can do no wrong.  If someone else comes along and says “actually, Brand ABC cabs are fairly inefficient and the specs they published are misleading”, the loyal customer is infuriated!  They must defend their brand!  They will say the other person doesn’t know what they are talking about; they will say the cabs sound awesome and that’s all that matters; and if they have exchanged even one email with the person in charge of Brand ABC, they will say he is the most honest and trustworthy person they have ever met.

I’m not saying this happens to every consumer every time, but it happens often enough that I observe people on forums acting this way every day.  It’s amazing the lengths they will go to in defense of their brand.  I suspect very often people feel that any criticism of the products they chose (and paid good money for) is a criticism of them as people.  Saying “Brand ABC published misleading specs” translates, in the mind of the Brand ABC user, into “you are an idiot for buying something bogus”.  Another common mental translation is “Brand ABC cabs sound bad”.  The specs critic never actually said that, but that’s what the loyal user figured they meant.  Then the user will say “they sound fantastic to me, and that’s all that matters, and you must have bad hearing, or never actually play any gigs”, even if the critic was just trying to comment on unrealistic claims made by the manufacturer.

News flash: your equipment choices do not define you, and criticism of the equipment you chose is not a criticism of you.  Speaking for myself, you can point out flaws in the make or marketing of the equipment I use all day long, I don’t care!  Like anyone else, I made my choices based on what sounded, felt, and looked good to me, and what I could afford.  I have plenty of criticisms of my own gear–nothing is perfect–and that’s OK.  I can acknowledge the shortcomings of any item without feeling bad about it, because it doesn’t reflect on me personally, and it doesn’t detract from the good qualities of those items.  Presumably the good qualities outweigh the bad, or I’d sell off the item in question.

Of course it’s perfectly OK to trumpet about those good qualities!  Just don’t do so as a way of trying to shut up people who have something disagreeable to say about your brand.  And for goodness sake, try to read criticisms at face value–if someone says your guy made a bad decision, don’t counter by saying your guy is awesome.  Awesome people make bad decisions all the time.  That’s life!  Roll with it.

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