Confessions of a Brand Loyalist
Once burnt, forever shy.
Once upon a time, many moons ago, when ATI was still ATI (and not AMD), I was burnt by them. Literally. A GPU whose model I can’t recall decided to spectacularly give up the ghost. As in, it actually started with ghosting. Then artifacting. When I popped open my tower to see what was happening, I made the mistake of eventually touching the GPU.
Oh, the burn. I was burnt. The GPU was fried. Never again, I swore. Multiple major computer builds and several upgrades later, I still throw money at Team Green for my GPU needs. These days, it feels really, really stupid. That’s not a diss at Nvidia, because I love its wares; it’s simply highlighting the fact that my once-burnt, forever-shy attitude doesn’t really fly under closer scrutiny.
This kind of brand loyalty isn’t exclusive to GPUs, either. That same overheating desktop happened to have an AMD processor. Unfortunately for it, I threw out the CPU with the burning bathwater, and have been an Intel guy ever since. I can rationalise that the extra cost of the Intel/Nvidia combo has never led to any major hardware dramas, even if the absence of a negative feels like an erroneous positive correlation. But AMD isn’t some sort of budget option where you only get what you pay for. I know that AMD is quite the opposite these days, and kicking serious arse.
That said, the gaming desktop I’m writing this article on is close to seven years old in terms of its core components, which includes a first-gen Intel i7 CPU. By upgrading my GPU every other year or so, I’ve managed to keep the same core components. It still runs most new releases on High or Very High settings at 60fps or above (some even on Ultra). Hell, the only reason I just bought a new desktop is because my Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro have hammered home the beauty of the 4K light which, as a PC gamer, I cannot abide.
That, and the tax write-off. Oh, and the faint hope I can pull a consistent 60fps in PUBG. But I digress.
The other main component I was forced to replace in my six-anda-half-year-old desktop was an OCZ PCIe drive. Anyone who owned one of those will likely know how that turned out. It was blisteringly quick, but died an untimely death, like the company, which went bankrupt in 2013 (before being bought out by Toshiba). Because of the OCZ failure, though, Samsung has been my never-look-back goto for storage.
You can see the cognitive bias creeping in. Because these brands haven’t literally burnt me, they apparently have my undying loyalty. A closer look at the psychology of brand loyalty suggests I’m not alone. We are, according to best-selling author Harry Beckwith, creatures of habit, not creatures of loyalty, which means brands that are familiar make us feel comfortable.
Even as a control freak, this idea is, at least, partially comforting in that it’s less about my undying love of a brand and more that this kind of familiarity breeds subconscious loyalty. So the theory goes, after years of buying the same brand, we’re unlikely to consider alternatives, which makes it more habitual than fervent. There’s even an argument that suggests we get anxious at the idea of switching brands.
This is something I can relate to when I was weighing up the parts of my new PC. That brand-spanking new PC I’ve just ordered doesn’t include AMD parts. It’s packing an Intel CPU and Nvidia GPU. A respected peer recently rescinded his premium Intel membership for the more affordable AMD offering, and has been singing Ryzen’s praises. It clearly wasn’t enough to sway me.
Despite tracking and being genuinely impressed by AMD’s GPU performance in recent years, I didn’t look beyond an Nvidia 1080 Ti GPU or a Coffee Lake-S CPU. The reality is I could have easily saved myself hundreds of dollars by opting for an RX Vega 64 and Ryzen 7 1800X combo and still had a 4K-capable machine. But because I’d budgeted for an Intel/Nvidia-powered 4K machine, the thought of cutting costs never crossed my mind.
Maybe it’s more habit than loyalty. Maybe I’m one burnt limb away from pledging my undying loyalty to Team Red. Really, though, I’d like to say I’m open to having my mind changed down the track, but the science behind brand loyalty, and my consistent buying pattern, suggests otherwise.
there’s even an argument that suggests we get anxious at the idea of switching brands