A month ago my phone decided that its sure and steady trek to oblivion was getting tiresome and decided to quicken the pace. I had the phone for a year. It was a refurb – that’s refurbished for those who still take pleasure in avoiding the need to shorten or acronymise every word. I knew it wouldn’t last forever but I was still shocked that it gave up the ghost so willingly and assuredly. I spent a lot of time cursing it and the company that made it.
I don’t think you need to be a conspiracy theorist to realise that the concept of built-in obsolescence is more than just a fanciful notion – it’s one of the guiding principles of modern technology. Sure, nothing lasts forever but it would last a little longer if it wasn’t doomed to fail from the get go. So, after too many hours moaning and swearing I decided it was time to fork out and buy a new phone, a brand new one, not a stale reconditioned one. That decision then created a whole raft of musings and feelings about brand loyalty – mainly because the brand of the new phone I purchased was the exact same one as every other phone I’ve ever owned, that always, without fail, perishes too soon.
Brand loyalty. Purchasing goods based on an affiliation to a brand. It’s the thing those in the advertising ‘industry’ hype and manipulate to ensure steady sales and life-long customers. Cool. Why not. I like Levi’s more than Wrangler. Pepsi? Are you kidding? It’s Coke every day of the week. I spent hours at high school listen to self proclaimed auto experts verbally spar with each other, to the point of actual fighting, about the supremacy of Holden or Ford. Cigarette companies made billions of dollars luring and then holding on to customers/victims with fanciful brand signifiers such as coolness, elegance, and freedom. Why smoke the stale, tired, brand’s cigarettes when you can travel the plains on your trusty steed just like the Marlboro Man?
This stuff fills academic journals – the meaty questions of why do human beings do what human beings do? Why do we choose that but not that? What does us choosing that say about ourselves? Consumer behaviour is an immensely interesting field, as it should be. Surely we are for more than “I buy it cos I like it?’
To return to the beginning of this piece, the question that occupied my time was, “why do I continue to exercise my loyalty to a brand that actually annoys me?’ Bearing in mind that I’m talking about a mobile phone here, it’s not just that I have grown accustomed to the functionality of the device, though that does have some merit – my laptop is of the same brand, after all. It’s not that I distrust the other mobile phone brands – not that there are actually that many. It’s not that I think my brand is ‘cool’, even though it did spend too many decades promoting itself as ultra-hip and uber desirable.
What I actually realised about my connection to this brand is far more pathetic, far more doe eyed and naive. i actually want this new phone to prove me wrong, to do what it’s meant to for a period of time that satisfies my expectations, even if they may be unrealistic. At this stage I would settle for a few months beyond two years. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. This time i have set another proviso. If it craps out on me and destroys my faith, then I’m giving it a Viking funeral and switching brands. That seems about right to me.