When iPod devices first arrived on the market virtually everyone I knew owned one. Being a consumer that tends to avoid trends, I was skeptical about jumping into any purchase of the device. I love music, and have always been tech savvy to a great extent. But I’ve also been a cautious person when it comes to jumping on the trend bandwagon, not wanting to commit to something just to keep up with the Jones family so to speak. Maurice Levy, Chairman of Publicis Groupe, Paris stated, “Consumers who make decisions based purely on facts represent a very small minority…” I think that Levy might place me in that category, as a consumer that puts emotion aside in making buying decisions. I’ve traditionally looked beyond brands as a way to define quality.
I suspected that iPods were nothing more than Apple’s way of branding and marketing their multimedia product as something different, unique and better than competitors. Apple’s iPod commercials were hip, happy, emotionally charged and actually at times made me want to put aside my logic and make the impulse purchase based on my feelings. At this time, around 2004, I wasn’t aware of the superior hardware and mechanics of the iPod versus the competition. I instead purchased a Panasonic iRiver, the iPods less expensive competitor. The iRiver, which shortly after I purchased went out of manufacturing, making replacement parts impossible to obtain, was clunky and inept as a product. I used logic when I purchased it thinking that all MP3 players were the same, just with different brand names. This was not the case in the end. I used iRiver because of the brand, and Panasonic’s good reputation as an electronics manufacturer based on prior purchases of their televisions and radios. I tried the iRiver out in the store, and the salesperson was eager to get it off the shelf, so of course he supported my logic-based purchase. I was disappointed to say the least by the iRiver’s functionality. Not only was it almost as large as a 1980s tape recorder, it had several technical and mechanical malfunctions as well.
After a short 6 months my iRiver stopped working. By then it was 2005 and the iPod’s popularity had grown by not only a brilliant advertising campaign, but by time tested reliability and superior functionality. I researched the effectiveness of the product by talking to coworkers who owned one. I also consulted with friends, salespeople at my local Best Buy, and came to a few decisions. I saw the high cost of the iPod as being a worthy investment in the long term. I initially didn’t want to purchase one because of the brand, Apple. I felt the advertisements were merely a way of a big corporation manipulating youth into buying something that was overpriced and surely built to break within a year. This perception of Apple and its iPod was an indirect experience with the product itself. It was based on my cynicism against advertising, and general mistrust of trendy must have products.
I suppose the second brand experience in which I purchased an iPod after careful research, could have been different for me if Apple approached advertising and marketing from a more logical fact based perspective. Since the age demographic of their target market is undoubtedly young people, they use emotional ad campaigns, hip terminology, and modern music to reach their audience. Being a little older and more mature, I wish Apple had targeted my audience in addition to the younger consumers. If Apple had marketed the iPod with Consumer Reports data, test market research on long-term reliability of the product, and testimonials from happy users of the product, I would have purchased an iPod long ago. In conclusion I suppose both my purchasing decisions were based on logical thinking and research. I bought product # 1 thinking I had done my homework and was saving money. I bought product # 2 after doing thorough research and came to the decision that the high price was worth the investment, because the product was superior in it’s class. If Apple had targeted research based, logical consumers with the first iPod commercials, my ill fated Panasonic iRiver purchase could have been avoided. The difference in quality between the iPod and short lived iRiver was dramatic. To this day I still own and use that iPod I bought, and the iRiver is collecting dust, not functioning at all. Through direct experience with the iRiver, I learned that it was an inferior product, perhaps less expensive for a good reason. Through researching through friends and coworkers I made the informed decision to invest in the iPod. In the end, my purchasing habits today, are somewhat a mix of logical decisions, and emotional as well. I hate to admit it, but sometimes the fact that everyone is buying something, is testimony to the fact that a product is not only marketed well, but superior to it’s competitors.
Roberts, Kevin, and Levy Maurice. The Future Beyond Brands Lovemarks. New York: Powerhouse Books, 2009.