Thursday, 31 December 2015

Is it worth being brand-loyal?

In our present world of endless material consumption, there are thousands of manufacturers who pitch their products to us in all manner imaginable. We end up buying, owning and utilizing the product after being influenced by advertisements. When we are buying a particular brand for the first time, we would sometimes seek the opinions of our friends or relatives who have possessed that brand before.

After that first purchase, our experience of the product's reliability, usefulness and suitability would influence our decision on the next time we buy a similar product. After going through a number of such experiences, we become convinced that the maker of the said product is top-quality and would have no qualms of buying anything else of the same name. This is part of the process of brand loyalty.

That would be the normal process for me although I cannot deny that some people do buy on impulse. Especially when an item is on offer so cheap. Such is the persuasive strength of commercials.

I am generally a brand-loyal person. I would normally stick to a particular make when the time comes for me to upgrade, replace or simply get new. When I do want to try a different brand, I would normally read up a bit to get more information.

Let's take the example of home electrical appliances. My old television set (the original bulky cathode ray tube type) was Philips. When I wanted to buy a VCD player, I went for the same brand. That TV set gave me great pictures and nice sound. It served me well for many years, undergoing two repairs along the way. I finally had to make the change when the third time it blacked out, the repairman said the parts needed are no longer available. Time therefore, to switch to the newer flat-screen TVs whose prices had fallen to within reasonable reach.

However, the new television set which I bought was not a Philips. I read a few consumer review websites and decided on a Hitachi. Not a very popular brand (Samsung and Sony are tops for flat-screens) and certainly not many outlets selling it. But I did manage to find a store in JB that sells it. This Hitachi has been in use for more than 5 years. It had a fault once while still under warranty. A call was made to the dealer who contacted the local service agent. The service guys came to my house the next day, diagnosed the problem, replaced the faulty component and the set was up and running in no time. I have not regretted making the switch to this different brand and when the time comes for an upgrade or replacement, I would probably go for a Hitachi again.

But it is the only Hitachi in the house. The other appliances are from different manufacturers. The refrigerator is a Samsung, running well. The washing machine was also a Samsung until being replaced recently by a Panasonic. The DVD player is a Sony. By the way, the Philips VCD player still works and is also hooked up to the Hitachi TV although I can't remember when the last time it was used.

The other Sony gadget that I have is a smartphone. I have been a loyal Sony mobile phone user for a long time, back from the days when they started off as Sony-Ericsson. My first SE mobile was a Walkman W660i (as seen in this Blogger profile pic). Sony was a bit slow in getting on the smartphone business. Samsung was leading by miles when Sony came up with their first model. But I still stuck to Sony when I made the switch to Android operating system. It was the small-screen entry-level Xperia X8. I later upgraded to Xperia V, which had a great camera. It hanged up on me once but a quick software fix at the local dealer solved the problem. Other than that, I was perfectly happy with the phone.

In September this year I resumed work at a friend's construction firm. He gave me a mobile phone plus line for business use. Rather than carry two phones, I decided to upgrade to a dual-sim handset. Naturally I opted for another Sony model. The new Xperia M5 Dual was launched just the month before and was attractively priced at mid-range with features approaching the top end. I made the purchase.

Just after over a month of use, the handset started to give me problems. It would suddenly switch off on its own and could not be turned back on unless attached to an external power source or a power bank. I returned the phone to the dealer who mentioned it as an `auto-off' problem. After a week, I called the dealer who told me that my phone is still with Sony Service Centre in Kuala Lumpur. No idea when it was coming back.

I logged on to the Sony Support website and sent an email. The reply came back, saying that it was a battery problem and my phone is expected to be repaired in one-month's time. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. How can a brand-new phone have such a problem? I then checked a few forum websites and found out that other M5 Dual owners worldwide also face the same situation. It is obvious that the M5 has a manufacturing defect.

I continued to send emails to follow-up on my case and even posted a message to their Facebook page. While the Sony personnel did reply to my emails and respond to my message, I felt that they were not doing enough to address the issue. At one stage, I even thought of cutting my ties with Sony, swallow my losses and buy a new phone from somebody else (perhaps an Asus Zenfone or, god forbid, an I-phone).

After the long wait, I now have my M5 back. It has been almost 2 weeks and so far it has been holding up pretty well. We shall see...

Beautiful phone. Bad first experience.

Happy new year to my dear friends and readers. May you all be in good health for the whole year to come.