Brand loyalty?

As much as brand loyalty is often misplaced, sometimes it has its place. While I try to avoid too many personal tales, in which I fail at far too often, I do have a feeling that in this case a small personal story is in place.

After spending a morning chopping wood and petting dogs, I noticed that a pair of shoes I wear everywhere, any time, any weather, had finally given in a basically just broke down. Thus, a need to buy new shoes.

However, just like everyone who have slightly out of ordinary shoes, finding the perfect pair can take some time, and some brands simply do not my feet. I enjoy slightly wider last than what the standard is with a nice, slightly thicker soles and longer life. The last one I had lasted about six years, God bless ’em.

The thing is, not many companies design and produce shoes that fit these tootsies. It took me three purchases to realize that I’ve been buying Merrel shoes just because they fulfil what I’m looking for, and that’s just me.

Brand loyalty with clothes is very much a different thing than brand loyalty with e.g. game console brands. Human body is dynamic and changes so much from person to person and year to year, and some people just have the hardest time to find the right clothes that fit their frame. Women have hard time finding decent bras if their bust size on the larger side, and more often than not you can forget finding them in nice colour or with laces.

Is it a necessary brand loyalty? No, it’s just easy. Only at the extremes you may not find but one or two options to go with, but consumer rarely wants to change from a provider that they’ve already either invested in emotionally or feel they have no reason to change the provider. For example, one may want to keep from buying H&M due to their shit practices in production, but despite that one can’t ignore that sometimes they just have pretty good stuff in stock.

Informed consumer can make the best purchase decisions based on their wants and morals. It’s all about what the consumer wants and what sort of attachment they have. Agendas, intentions and so on affect our purchasing habits to a large degree, and those who could be called world savers are more than aware of each and every single thing the clothes companies do wrong. You can bet that each and every piece of clothing and brand they’re under in the stores rip off somebody elsewhere in the world. The only way to assure that doesn’t happen is to employ your local tailor, and even then you’d need to question where the fabrics, threads, buttons and zippers come from. The common consumer doesn’t really a give a damn about that. It’s easier and more accessible to walk into a store and purchase what fits you in there rather than sit down, do research, measure yourself and find whatever may fit you from a seller that’s not killing employees in a factory fire because they didn’t install emergency exits.

Much like with the local pizza industry, most people are not willing to dish out large amounts of money for their clothes, despite the quality does go hand in hand with price in most cases. Companies are required to get the cheapest possible at the best possible quality, and often that requires one end to suffer somehow. Third world manufacturing plants and their employees tend to be the one who get shafted in these cases. There is no perfect solution how to make all three parties equal in this dilemma, and I’m not even going to amuse possible solutions. Consumers want quality for cheap, companies are required to find the most profitable way to do it, and most people around the world are just happy to get some kind of place to work, whatever it is. There is always someone else willing to take your spot in the workforce.

But, one person among million of consumers does not affect any. The power is in the numbers. If your decisions what you purchase and from who have basically no effect on anything, why do it? Because it your feeling on the matter. My refusal on using Valve’s services or purchasing anything from Gamestop weight absolutely nil in the larger scheme, but it has impact on the feeling and idea that I can stand next to whatever I believe in to be right. That applies to everyone, and everybody has their own subjective view on any issue. We weight these purchases often too lightly, and with brand loyalty in there, we tend to ignore what could affect our decisions in favour for our own comfort, and there’s really nothing wrong in that.

So, me purchasing a new pair of shoes from the same manufacturer for the third time without knowing one thing about the company itself shows my willingness to basically ignore to know one thing about them. It never occurred to me, it didn’t matter. The information is out there, in my fingertips through the keyboard. Better fix that, so I can make a more educated purchase next time when it comes to clothing. After all, even a guy who mostly posts about games and giant robots needs to wear clothes when going out there.

On GAMR

Damion Schubert has blogged a post, which called for GamerGate supporters to form a consumer organisation. He claims that #GamerGate has come from Anonymous and 4chan’s culture of mob movement without any organization, which is not entirely true. GamerGate’s origins are far more convoluted and 4chan was only a place of discussion and GamerGate itself began as a multi-faceted movement tied to the consumers’ own motions, not to any certain website’s culture.

I’ll be straight from the get go; GamerGate has been as successful as it is because it is not organised in the fashion Schubert proposes. GamerGate, from where I as an individual see it, is a consumer movement without any common ideology or banner. There is only a goal, on which various people agree upon. Of course, there are variations how many goals people have, but one all GamerGate supporters agree on is the removal of corruption, nepotism, journalism driven by agenda, threats among other negative aspects within the video game press. All supporters are behind the ideas of journalistic integrity, open and honest debate, transparency and inclusive approach.

Organisations are for political battles. While to some GamerGate is a political battle, at its core its customer voicing their distaste on the current state of the video game press. If there would be a GamerGate organisation, it would be easy to make it into a sock puppet to play with and ultimately knock down, but it would also be something the opposition could actually stand against. To keep GamerGate as a consumer level movement requires two things; discussions on the matters on open forums, spreading the information and voting with your wallet. The Customer is god, and the customer can show some divine wrath

As GameGate is a customer driven movement, there’s no rifle that could take it down. You’d need one helluva shotgun to even try to take part of it down. Because it consists of individuals working on their own for a common goal, these individuals are completely on their own. If there exists criticism on how someone acts, that act never reflects on the rest of the people behind the movement. Engaging conversation with the customers is easy, because it’s sort of no-words communication to a large extent. The customers have voiced their distaste and want for change, and all the industry needs to do is either press yes or no. There is no middle ground here, there is no negotiating like it would be between two organisations or similar. There is no one true voice and that is strength, but it does have its detrimental qualities as well. Lack of cohesion would be one as would be the individuals Schubert calls as crackpots. However, that would be one thing GamerGate is against; exclusion. Not to mention these crackpots get things done at times, even if their behaviour might reflect negatively from time to time. All that said, you’d think a person working in game industry would know how to do customer research at this point.

Hell, I’d even argue that then industry should not have a discussion with its customers, all it needs to do is to listen and believe.

Schubert seems to regard that only an organisation could do things like vet rumours to attend conferences. The customer can do all these and then some. Being unorganised does not mean things will go unnoticed as long as there’s change. Worldwide there are movements that go unnoticed and unreported but they change things just as much. GamerGate supporters are like a hive of ants; all working towards one goal with their individual strength. The difference is how there is no queen and work is done through wallet voting and e-mail campaign, both of which have given positive results.

However Schubert is right, there is no reasonable criteria for success. Consumer movements rarely do have one, and the movement will die out when certain change is achieved that brings the wanted change, or interest is dropped. Nevertheless, this also demands the service provider to think for themselves what to do in order to fix the situation and restore the faith of the consumer. There is a clear direction, no matter how anyone will tell you otherwise. It may not be terribly cohesive, but it’s equally driving force.

Schubert has sixteen points in his post, all more or less singing the same gospel. I won’t touch all the points because of redundancy, but first of all, GAMR already exists and using pre-existing name is a humongous mistake. If an organisation wants to be taken seriously, it would need a proper name, not this hipster level garbage. While the whole organisation idea is awful, Schubert essentially suggest in creating a force that would police the movement with officer elections and leaders. While there may be need for some leading voices from time to time, it would be absolutely detrimental to the movement. Then he would suggest putting up a damn Patreon or Kickstarter for funding the movement, but this is a movement that doesn’t need one. Actually, it’s the very opposite; GamerGate is a movement that does not need funding because it’s done by not funding the opposition while voicing consumer wants.

I’m sounding like a broken record already.

The thing with GamerGate is that the industry has no idea how to handle the movement’s population, it has never had to do it before. It’s natural that they feel threatened by it and that someone would suggest in creating an entity they could handle, something they could reason and fight with. Perhaps change their modus operandi and aims, if needed.

I remind you that the video games crash of late 70’s and mid 80’s happened because the consumers did not see products worth purchasing. There was no organisation voicing the consumer distaste against the low quality of games. It didn’t help that the companies didn’t listen to the consumer voice, that is often silent and spoken in numbers and returns. Then things came crashing down. Twice. Times have changed now, and the consumers have the Internet to discuss things on message boards and in chats. Because of this, there’s no geographical limitations, there are no country borders keeping one from voicing their distaste as a customer.

I will out myself once more on GamerGate; I support it. I personally see it as a movement against all that is wrong in the industry from corruption and nepotism to breaking journalistic integrity and customer service ideals. I am making a stance with my wallet and e-mails, meaning I’ve stopped browsing sites that encourage anti-consumer ideals and enforce censorship, as in case of 4chan. While all this seems to small, like a droplet in ocean, I can assure you that the ocean is storming and all individual droplets are making a difference.

Music of the Month returns on Sunday.