|(Photo credit: rob.knight)|
Brand loyalty is one common manifestation of Drinking the Kool-Aid. This occurs when people mindlessly commit themselves to buying products only from their favorite companies, year after year, whether or not these products represent the best available options in the marketplace.
Question- what is perhaps the most well-known brand in existence today?
I’ve never owned an Apple product before. This is partly because each time I’ve evaluated them against the alternatives I’ve never been able to justify the added costs. But this is also partially because I’ve always been turned off by the culture of unadulterated love and devotion for this company that Apple users embrace. I’ve always preferred to purchase computer and cell phone products where the software is not inextricably tied up with the hardware. For example, I might buy a Dell or Hewlett-Packard laptop computer, with an operating system made by Microsoft, and use Skype for videoconferencing and Google for emailing. I prefer to select my ingredients from a broad menu rather than having a plate brought to me already prepared, no matter how inviting the cuisine.
At least that was the case until Friday.
It all began on October 23rd when Apple announced their new iPad Mini. There were two problems though. First, the so-called experts had predicted that the price would be about $250, but it turned out to be $330. Ouch. As a comparison, about six weeks earlier I had paid $199 for a Kindle Fire HD, a competitive product. Second, I didn’t like the idea of ending my lifetime boycott of Apple. But it was time to be a big boy. If the Apple product was the best option for the money, then I couldn’t allow brand disdain (the opposite of brand loyalty) to cloud my decision-making.
The iPad Mini was due to be released on Friday, November 2. Kim dropped me off on her way to school that morning. I was in the mall by 6:45. There were 13 people in line at the Apple Store in front of me. Not bad. This being my first Apple launch experience, I hadn’t known whether to expect 3 people or 100 people. There were also 5 or 6 blue-shirted Apple employees outside the store, and a horde of employees inside the store.
For the next 70 minutes I chit-chatted a little with other customers and the Apple employees. But mostly, I tried to play it cool and keep to myself. I didn’t want these Apple lovers to think I was one of them. I was just buying from Apple because I thought it was the product best suited for me, not because I was drinking any Kool-Aid.
I was in balance mode in my iBot the entire time, so I was happy to draw some of the “Oh my God, isn’t technology amazing” attention my way. I had one of the employees take my picture for this blog post. He told me he would also take a shot of me with my new iPad when I came out of the store.
At about five minutes of eight, the Apple employees went into full launch mode, which means they insisted on making this a festive occasion, much to my dismay. They got the crowd of customers, which was about 25 people by this time, whipped into a frenzy as if we were about to have gifts of riches bestowed upon us.
At precisely 8:00 the doors opened, and all the employees ran laps around us, giving and receiving high-fives. I allowed myself to leak a polite smile, but that was all. Then they started matching up customers with employees, and by 8:07 I was in the store with Chris. A couple of minutes later I had my iPad Mini. One aspect of the purchase experience that I absolutely loved was this question from Chris: “Would you like the receipt emailed to you, printed out for you, or both?” I took the first option.
I spent a few minutes with one of the technicians having him set up the unit for me. During that time, employees kept walking by and congratulating me, again, as if I had won some prize or accomplished a remarkable feat.
When I emerged from the store the employees who were stationed outside gave me a big ovation, and the gentleman who took my picture earlier insisted that he take another one, this time with the iPad Mini in my hands. It was all too cult-like for me. I had to get out! I brusquely told them “no thanks” and zipped down the hallway to catch my bus home.
What became of my Amazon Kindle Fire HD that I purchased six weeks earlier? I returned it for a refund. That hurt a little, as I’ve been a rather enthusiastic, and even loyal, Kindle user for years now. But I’ll still keep my original Kindle, because it works better in direct sunlight then any of the higher end e-readers. And I’ll keep purchasing my books through Amazon using the Kindle reader app on my iPad.
So how is the iPad Mini working out for me? I absolutely love it. It has an extensive array of accessibility features for different types of disabilities. And bottom line – it is an e-reader, but also a powerful and well-connected computer that fits in the pouch of my wheelchair. Well done Apple. Now please don’t roll out the iPad Mini II for at least a year.
My cell phone contract is up in March of 2013. Time for an iPhone?
Pass the Kool-Aid, please.