Friday, July 9, 2010

Brand Loyalty...

I buy stuff. I buy a lot of stuff sometimes. But I am not frivolous and rarely do I make impulse buying decisions. I do my research and I am more than happy to wait and let a product mature before I jump in. Case in point, I waited til the fourth generation before I purchased an iPhone. In fairness I did buy the very first Android phone but I've discussed how that turned out. For me the research threshold and therefore the  time from interest to purchase increases with each $100 increment. Up to $100 I'm probably not going to do more than check the Amazon reviews and then find the lowest price. This is how I cam to own an $88 Aiptek digital camera/ camcorder a few years ago. It was perfectly serviceable and my expectations were low because of the sub $100 price.
Point being because of my diligence at being an informed consumer, I get asked to make purchasing recommendations a lot. To wit I have compiled a list of brands who's products I have bought for years and to whom I am very loyal because of the performance of those products.

Computers:Apple, Inc.
This will come as a shock to no one who knows me. I have always been an Apple user and unless they switch their business model to all iPhones all the time I plan on always being an Apple user. I have only ever bought two non Apple computers. Both were cheap ($300 or less) netbooks and one of them I bought exclusively to install Mac OS X on. Apple makes the best hardware out there. They select the best components and use the highest quality materials and because they design the computers as well as the operating system the user gets a completely seamless experience that no PC manufacturer can claim.
No matter how good Windows gets you'll still have to run it on an ugly clunky Dell and hope that your system's specs will be enough for future upgrades. I would rather pay more up front for a beautiful machine that will be consistently upgraded by the manufacturer and therefore last me longer.

Music Player: Apple, Inc.
Yep it's a twofer for the folks from Cupertino. Honestly if you're not going to buy an iPod what are you going to buy? Sure the iPod was not the first Mp3 player but it was and is the best. In addition to the player you also have iTunes which revolutionized the way all of us listen to, store and eventually purchased music. Apple created a market for digital downloads and showed you could make money doing it. It's no coincidence that they control 70% of that market. No the iPod won't play a bunch of bizarre audio and video codecs or DivX but if you have a lot of those files you probably downloaded that content illegally any way and you can go to hell.

Peripherals: Logitech
As much as I love Apple's computer hardware I hate their peripherals (mice and keyboards). Every mouse Apple comes out with seems to have been designed by some shadowy pro Carpal Tunnel Syndrome cabal. My current iMac came with one of their Godawful Mighty Mouse mice and I've never even taken it out of the box. Same with the keyboard. I don't care for Apple's new ultra thin aluminum boards. I still like big chunky plastic keys. I had used the same Logitech mouse for years until I recently switched to a Kensington Expert Mouse (love it) but I carry a Logitech VX Nano in my bag for working away from home and when the Swine Flu was at it's worst I even brought my own Logitech keyboard into client's suites. Logitech is one of the Mac friendliest companies out there as well which goes a heck of a long way with me. In addition to mice and keyboards Logitech makes one hell of an universal remote which I highly recommend.

External Hard Drives: Lacie
While I have dabbled with other peripheral manufacturers (Macally, Kensington, etc) I have only and will only buy Lacie external hard drives. Specifically their d2 Quadra line which I have been buying for years. When you're an editor on the go like myself you find that having the ability to bring storage with you or having a place to store a client's finished project off your system drive is critical. Right now I have one 1.5TB d2 on my desk and three older models stored away in my closet. I also have a 500GB Rugged that I take with me on location. I have never had a problem with a drive manufactured by Lacie (knocks on wood) which to me makes them worth the money.

Cameras (still): Canon
This represents a change of heart for me. Back when I had my one and only retail job selling cameras I was a Nikon man all the way. This was in the 35mm film days and I think few could argue that point by point Nikon was the dominant manufacturer. The best 35mm camera money could buy back then was the Nikon F5. That camera still gives me chills. But up and down the product line Canon didn't have anything that could compete. Canon was busy getting Andre Agassi to endorse the then new Rebel line:

But what a difference a decade and a half makes. Partisans can argue all they want but for my money Canon is the digital camera manufacturer to patronize. I have been exceedingly happy with my G10 so much so that I have put off purchasing a planned DSLR since I bought it. When I do buy a DSLR though you can bet it will be a Canon and probably a Rebel T2i. Why? Because Canon has been at the forefront of pushing the envelope of what digital cameras can be. Consistently they have beat Nikon to market with new features and new products. Nikon has even admitted that they have nothing in their product line that competes with the Canon G series. Nikon still makes great DSLRs and still has great optics but my experience with Canon has won me over. While you're at it, a Manfrotto tripod will never let you down.

Cameras (Video): Panasonic
Honestly the only video camera that I own is my Kodak Zi8 (love it). When I shoot it's mostly for professional purposes and as such I rent the gear because it's too expensive and innovations happen way too fast to justify buying gear. But I do have folks who ask me for professional recommendations so here it is, get a Panasonic. I have been shooting on Panasonic cameras for over five years now and I have consistently been impressed with their ease of use, build quality, image quality and wealth of features. My favorites are the VariCam which I have used two iterations of now (tape and P2), the AG-HPX500 and the little workhorse I use most often the AG-HVX200.

I also have an Epson photo scanner I've been happy with, a Fujitsu document scanner that's given me mixed results and a HP printer that's worked fine for the extremely rare print job. I'm still on my first HDTV which I haven't even had for a year yet so I don't really have any particular loyalty but it is a Panasonic so I have stuck with that brand's HD products.

No one asks me for fashion advice and I am OK with that. In fact I wouldn't have it any other way but I would be remiss if I didn't mention a couple of brands who's products I use almost every day.

Jeans: Levis
I'm pissed they don't really make them in America any more but I still think they're tough to beat. I wear jeans probably 300 out of 365 days a year and nine times out of ten those jeans are Levis. They last forever and I think they look good. Plus they're an icon and I dig that.

Eyewear: Ray-Ban
I've worn Ray-Ban sunglasses for years and when I recently had to start wearing eyeglasses I stuck with them. Well made, fashionable and again, iconic. Well worth the money.

Footwear (Casual): Adidas
Specifically classic Sambas. They look cool, they last forever and they're a bargain to boot.

Footwear (Sport): New Balance
NB makes a high quality shoe with a great fit that will last the mileage. I like Nike also but the toe box is often too narrow for my feet. New Balance comes in a variety of widths. I have been buying their 400 series for years now and I have always been happy with them.

The balance of my apparel is made up of white tees (2xist lately) and then some form of shirt often supplied by Banana Republic. Then depending on what I'm doing (camping, hiking, working out, etc) or the time of year I round things out with Patagonia (outerwear, layers, tees), The North Face (outerwear, layers, gear) and Nike dri Fit.

I tease my wife on occasion for her handbag obsession but I'd be a liar if I didn't own up to my own bag problem. As a production and post-production freelancer I have to be prepared for almost anything and as a result I have to have a variety of things with me. I've long since stopped bringing an editing laptop with me as I have a desktop at home and all of my clients have suites for me to use that are well equipped. So I sold the laptop bag with the laptop three years ago. But I still carry my G10, my Zi8 (which has come in handy professionally a few times now), my OS X netbook, a paper calendar/ planner, my wallet, my bus pass, my iPhone, water bottle, coffee cup, a book/ magazine and hopefully my lunch. The necessity for some of those items is brought on by being a mass transit using urbanite. As this leads to a lot of downtime to fill. But the bulk of it is stuff I use for work. So whenever I venture out of the house to go earn a living I have to have some way to lug this stuff around. And if I'm biking to work I have to add in a change of clothes, shoes, toiletries, plus bike gear. So over the years I have accumulated a collection of bags to help me out.
REI Whitney Backpack (discontinued): This was my first attempt at the perfect every day bag. A great backpack but too bulky for the bus and terrible to bike with. 
Jack Spade Field Bag: I've had this bag for years. It can't carry everything I've listed but if I'm going on a directing or producing gig or meeting new clients, this is the bag I take. I think it's handsome and unlike most my other stuff it doesn't look like a piece of technical gear. It holds my netbook, planner, and phone with aplomb and some room to spare.
Patagonia Critical Mass Messenger Bag: This is my no screwing around bike commuting bag. It holds EVERYTHING and then some. Plus once you engage the t-strap and cinch it all down it's actually pretty comfortable to ride with.
The North Face Day Hiker: This guy is my utility infielder. It carries all my every day stuff but is small enough to not be too bulky. Empty it out and it functions great as a camera bag you can shoot from. Pull out the waist straps and it's great for light hiking or as a video production bag. If I'm going out of town this is my default carry on bag as well. It's not the most fashionable thing in the world but it works.

I've mostly owned German cars (Mercedes, Volkswagen, and Audi) and two Volvos. The fact that I now drive a Nissan should tell you something. It's no coincidence that the Japanese have succeeded while other countries have struggled or failed. Toyota's wildly overblown recent problems aside, the Japanese manufacturers simply build better day to day cars than everyone else. Hell they even build specialty cars that are as good or better than the competition. This is one category where I am often asked for advice and then completely disregarded so buy what you want but you will not be left stranded by a Japanese car.

A genuine Swiss Army Knife will never let you down. Likewise a Sharpie. I'm a fan of Moleskine products despite their hipness. They last for at least as long as it will take you to fill them and their paper quality is superb. A Seiko watch may not be a Rolex or a Tag but you won't feel bad if you drop it anywhere near as often as I seem to drop mine. Plus it performs the same operation (timekeeping) for a fraction of the cost. 

Have your own opinions? Let me know in the comments.


Anonymous said...

I admit to being biased towards Apple mainly because they ARE a hardware manufacturer who makes an OS to RUN on their hardware. no debate there. Totally agree on Winblows, too. The only other OS running on servers at my place is Debian.

I must correct you, however. You did not buy a 4th generation iPhone. You bought a first generation (hardware) iPhone running 4th generation software, which is why I will wait and let the fish who took the bait flop around on the dock this go-round ; )

All that aside, I likewise agree on Canon and my own choice of HDDSLR. I bought a 5DM2 last winter and have been shooting on it almost exclusively since. There is simply no comparison. I've shot with it in cold, wet, and even in the desert environment of Africa. I am convinced the movement to full-frame cameras that shoot gorgeous still and motion pictures is no fad. I also stand behind Manfrotto, Kessler's Crane and Pocket Dolly systems, Sennheiser mics, and Rode products. Tested, reliable and friendly, though, not yet affordable for the average bear. Always room for improvement there but surely as our kind becomes more educated about what's available and demand goes up, prices will adjust accordingly.

As for shoes, clothes, etc. I admit I'm less than interested. Having grown up with a father who was an executive in the women's retail industry, I know too well what clothes are actually worth to pay retail prices from the typical channels. I buy what fits best on each individual day, both in the hips and in the wallet, so no strong loyalties there.

I appreciated what you wrote about freelancing and commuting, too. I work out of my own studio and don't have the luxury of using someone else's hardware, however, there are pros and cons to that, too.

Regarding MISC items, I still have the same Patagonia messenger bag I bought 13 years ago. I still use it almost every day. Patagonia, or Pata-Gucci as Alaskans call it, is worth the relatively high price tag. The stuff is tuff.

In the realm of cars, I paid $7k cash for a '97 Subaru Legacy L Wagon while living in Juneau, Alaska. I lived in Juneau for 5 years where it served my wife and I well. It's just about to roll 126,000 miles. When it dies I'll buy another replace it with another Sooby.

As for watches, I still haven't found one i like ; )

Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I don't believe I've ever taken stock of brands I trust. Certainly not long enough to write anything down about them.

Clearly, what you wrote inspired me to think about it. Cheers.

Paul said...

Do you own stock in any of the companies you have mentioned?

*mara* said...

You convinced me. I am looking for a T2i as we speak. My comments on the other aspect of your post to come later. Wait with bated breath.