Originally published in the September 22nd issue of the Berkeley Beacon
Starbucks or Dunkin’? Lady Gaga or Ke$ha? iPhone or Android? Brands have a powerful ability to put us into ideological camps. We often don’t realize this until we take a step back. With technology deeply coded into society, our phones, computers, and gaming consoles become more than tools — they’re fashion statements, status symbols, and an expression of ourselves. There’s a word for brand loyal consumers: Fanboys.
The loyalty Apple has captured is often compared to a cult. In the BBC documentary Secrets of Superbrands, MRI brain scans of Apple fans and those who identify as “very religious” showed the same areas of the brain were activated when exposed to brand or religious artifacts.
Archetypes that fuel the narrative in storytelling and brands are no different. In Apple’s case, this archetype is “The Creator,” explaining its popularity in creative communities like Emerson College. The Apple logo is as much a status symbol as Gucci’s, but a brat with daddy’s credit card can be just as obnoxious with either label. It’s important to realize that sometimes products aren’t better, just better catered to you.
The one-size-fits-all approach with iOS (the operating system in iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) doesn’t, in fact, fit all. Some want hardware keyboards, customizable skins and settings, expandable memory, or simply love green robots. These people swing Android. Rather than trusting Steve Jobs’ walled garden, they trust the freedom in open platforms — one could argue that “freedom” is Google’s archetype. A fashionista would advise you to explore the world of fashion, so here’s my nerd plea: stay inquisitive.
Consider Windows Phone 7 — a complete overhaul of Microsoft’s mobile efforts that aim to and succeed in elegantly “bringing you in and out and back to life” — as their tagline proclaims. Microsoft Office and Xbox Live portals are unique to the phones, as well as notably deep Facebook integration. WP7 uses an original and beautiful interface different from iOS by design, and the new “Mango” update boasts over 100 new features including multitasking and Twitter and LinkedIn integration. Microsoft may be the Snorlax of the tech world, but the sleeping giant has awakened and is ready to compete.
Fanboyism in the technology realm is regarded in a bad light; the easiest way to diss a fellow nerd would be to call them a [insert brand name] fanboy. Elitist nerds throw this word around to demonstrate superiority and downplay others’ brand choices: hardcore gamers believe the more consoles you own, the more opportunities to play great games. In reality, most can’t afford that luxury and only support brands they trust.
There’s nothing wrong with being a fanboy. In our consumerist culture, we cling to brands we connect with. I’m a proud Halo fanboy because that story and community was a great part of my childhood. And Master Chief is a badass hunk. If someone calls you a fanboy, don’t sweat it — keep an open mind. Never feel guilty about things you love.