Note: I am wary of putting this up, but I think it is something that needs to be said. I am prepared for a vicious attack, but before anger propels your fingers across the keyboard, sit back and think about this--forcing companies to focus on products instead of hype and marketing will only make things better for each of us.
For whatever reason my hobby as a kid and my hobby as an adult seem to have the most notorious, most entrenched fanboys out there. As a kid I loved video games (still do, but with much less time). There were few battles as noisy and partisan as the Nintendo v. Sega war. It makes Democrats v. Republicans look tame. Even the Sega catchphrase at the time was a punch in the face: Sega does what Nintendon't. Twenty years later, the battle between knife company fanboys is equally intense. And the reality is simple--this is all bullshit.
The thing that got me thinking about this was Nutnfancy's interview with Ernie Emerson from SHOT 2012. Here is the interview in case you haven't seen it:
Ernie is an amazing person. Listening to him talk made me want to buy an Emerson right then and there. He seems like he is a straightforward guy that has information based on real experience. He is an excellent spokesperson and a good salesman. He is also a personality and in the knife world that counts, small as the industry is. But in the end, this is a business and personality, even if it is true to the bone, is still a sales tactic. Ernie seems like the most genuine guy in the world but putting that front and center is part of an overall strategy of creating a brand, generating customer loyalty, and in the end selling products. It worked on me. The Micro Commander is on my "Want list" hovering near the top after this interview.
It comes down to this--in a day and age of information overload and the savvy consumer, fanboyism has no place. Liking a product or disliking a product because of its brand is insane. Brand is yet another way that companies part us with our money. It is a tactic, no less blatant than the silly Sega marketing campaigns of the 90s.
It should not be Spyderco v. Benchmade. It should be consumers v. producers. You want my money? Fine, sell me a good product. I don't care if it comes from Buck, Boker, or Chris Reeve. I have no brand loyalty. I like some brands better than others, but not because of who the owner of the company is or how cool their logo is or how many of their products I own. Spyderco makes my favorite knives. But they are not my favorite brand. I am brand agnostic. I try to come at things from this perspective when doing reviews. It is about the product, not the company.
I could care less if Mick Strider has a checkered past, so long as it doesn't impact his products. I could care less if Lynn Thompson is an obnoxious jerk, so long as it doesn't impact his products. Ernie's genuineness does count for me, but not so much as to make or break a purchasing decision. Absent something really horrible--like serious criminality (who would want to buy a product from a war criminal for example?), who the owner of the company is, who the designer of the product is, who the spokesperson for the company is (Gerber!), or what the company "stands for" have no impact on my purchasing decisions. Companies stand for one thing and one thing only--profits, regardless of how much lip service they pay
to "customer care" or "craftsmanship". Customer care and craftsmanship are all in service to profit.
Now their is clearly a class of makers that are small enough to not give a shit about profits. It seems bonkers to think that McGizmo is focus solely on profit. If that was the case he would have sold his designs to a big flashlight company and made a tidy sum without the headaches and heartaches of manufacturing his own lights. But for the majority of gear makers this is a business and a business runs on profit.
The discussion of gear is generally better than the discussion of video games in the 1990s, but it is still there--fanboyism--right under the surface. In the end though the fanboys have bought into the marketing hype, the bullshit, and not the product. They have become the witting or unwitting pawns of a successful PR program. Be an informed consumer, have favorites, but forget the hype and the marketing.
Whew! I said it. Roast me.