There was once a time that you (I would say ‘I’, but alas, I’m not old enough) could go to a store and purchase a pair of Wharfedale speakers and know that you were getting a quality piece of audio equipment. This was the same day that you could also purchase a Sony television and know that it would contain a well-engineered tube and a NAD amp safe in the knowledge that, well, it would actually work (personal experience).
While most of those above statements may be true some of the time and some of the above statements true most of the time; all of the above statements are never true all of the time (I think Abraham Lincoln said that…).
We’ve now entered an age that due to a system of supply and demand, all brands have found it more profitable to produce products to compete in all areas of the market. This isn’t an inherently bad thing; I agree that competition in all areas is a good thing, that a large player entering a lower-key market will most likely serve to raise the quality bar in that market and that a company exists to make money; so of course they should take whatever course of action leads to the best return. The very fact that they’re producing the product for any ‘class’ of the market makes it dramatically cheaper to compete in lower or higher priced electronics in the same area.
This is all fine, however, it almost makes redundant something that the general public have come to hold so dear; the idea of brand integrity. Casual consumers will often stick to well known brand electronics, sometimes for warranty / after-sale reasons, but also to ensure that they are purchasing a quality product, or at least they think they are. Most companies now produce a range of quality-varying products and so this may not be true. Do they deserve to know?
So what does a brand mean now? Should products be sold under a brand, or should each individual product be sold under the merits of that particular model? Banded as opposed to branded, if you will.
From a manufacturer’s point of view that must seem ridiculous, many brands are a license to print money when printed on electronics otherwise the same as a product sat beside it on the shelf for half the price. But, from a consumer’s point of view this is a positive step and if there’s one thing the Internet and the Web 2.0 revolution serves to achieve, it is to educate the general population, so, while many of the actual questions posed here are redundant the real thing I would like to know is ‘will the Internet revolution empower the people enough to change this, and other things?’.
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