Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fanboy Futility

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.   

12 comments:

  1. I agree 100% - Great blog BTW.

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  2. Also agree to some extent, with, as you mention, the exception of some smaller makers/hobbyists...

    Personally, I find the feverish fanboy attitude so many people have for Strider to be the pinnacle of this problem within then Knife industry... just try and mention a bad experience on the USN with strider products/service and watch any sensible discussion swept aside... With this in mind, I was hoping for a more in-depth review in your recent Strider post, hence the comments I made. I just don't see how anyone can stand behind a $450+ knife that has no longevity due to poor design and poor fit/finish. I realise that this has turned into a bit of a Strider bashing, but my subsequent research suggests that its become almost an acceptable feature of the knife... to me its akin to paying for a designer label on a sub-standard product...

    Back to the main topic here - I would state that whilst the end product I am buying should be the main concern and drive behind any purchase - I, like many people I assume, do care where my money is ultimately going... I do not want to support someone/some company I dont like - for whatever reason (advertising, attitude of owner/maker, country of origin, warranty policy, colour of hair, etc etc) - precisely because it is about profits... I don't want my money ultimately profiting something I don't like/agree with regardless of the quality of their product - because to me - the end product IS still flawed.
    For example, Striders chequered past and treatment of companies like Neptune Knives is most definitely a reason to reconsider their product. Or if Sal/Spyderco decided that collecting Snow Leopard pelts was his new hobby - that would be a reason for me to not by their product.. :)

    So, yeah, its definitely a good idea to look past the lip service, publicity stunts, fanboy rantings, trends etc etc and focus on the end product and its fit for your purpose, but not, in my mind, at the cost of not understanding where your money is ultimately going and they type of person/company that profit is actually profiting... I guess the point being (finally!) is that these things DO impact the final product in some way...

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    1. I feel like I have to comment to this because I was the author of the Strider review. What would you have liked to be more in-depth about my review? Were you hoping that my experience would be similar to yours and my review would reflect that? I wrote that review based on MY OWN experience with the knife. I wrote what I felt like MY KNIFE was like.

      In my experience, I don't find that the knife is of a poor design. I also feel that, although the finish was not perfect, the fit of it was. I can place a good chunk of my money in my SnG because in my use, I know that it can work.

      I agree that fanboyism is bullshit. A group of people who like a product does not make it a good product, but at the same time, to be so adverse to a company because a bunch of people don't like it is the same thing. You had a bad experience with your knife. Did you give Strider a chance to make it right? I feel that the warranty is part of the price when you buy a knife. If you fail to utilize this offer from the company, then that is on you. I read your post. I know for a fact that they will fix the knife for you.

      I will say the praise for Strider that I saw on USN is what drove me to pick it up, but in all fairness, before I was on USN, I was on bladeforums, where people seem to HATE Strider Knives. The attitude that members on BF had for Striders is what kept me from picking one up sooner. It goes both ways.

      Regarding Neptune Knives, from Mick Strider's mouth, he was never a Strider Dealer. He was just a guy who cruised knife shows, buying Striders, and claiming that he was a dealer. He also advocated voiding Strider's warranty by performing modifications to your knives to "improve" your knife, from using gum as an alternative to locktite to grinding your lockface.

      Just remember, every company has knives that slip through QC that should not pass. That's just the way things are. I support Strider Knives because they make a great product, have an excellent warranty, and support the armed forces.

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    2. Appreciate the response - hopefully without getting into a debate on Striders in general, I would genuinely have liked to see a bit more depth to the review; particularly in regards to blade play - if any, and any details on the lock, some cutting tests maybe - how do you honestly find cutting large plastic sheeting, or rope lengths, for example? Does the 2nd choil catch at all? How have you found sharpening - any tips or things you've noticed to take into consideration... Couple of in hand pics etc would be good... I say this because - as I mentioned in my comments - I do appreciate the ergonomics of the SNG, and with the different variations of the knife I'm interested in peoples experiences with them...
      My main issue with the knife has been based on my firsthand experiences, but I've also seen the issue raised so many times, and seen other examples, that its more than a QC issue - all I'm doing is raising a hand to say somethings not right - especially when the company push these tools as things you can depend on.
      The warranty is a moot point - I will send it back, and it will cost me in shipping/customs no doubt with postage from/to the UK - but to be honest, pretty much any knife maker I know - including production knives will fix problems with their kit under warranty - and to me this is a problem.

      I'm not a lover or hater of Strider really, the opinions I've had are really based on my experiences of the products - RCC and SNG. One reason I still read reviews is to see if they've fixed some of these issues..

      Re: Neptune Knives - I'm no fan of the guy really, BUT - I saw the USN threads and Strider comments, read their side and did the same for his side of the story, incl. this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zL36GRE2O1s&feature=plcp
      out of interest.

      Great blog though - and good to have some discussion on the posts to get some different opinions, thoughts and feedback.

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    3. I'll post a reply in the review post addressing some of the things you would like to know. Thanks for the response. I do appreciate it. It aids to the improvements of my reviews.

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  3. I mostly agree, but the personality of a maker or company can be a tie-breaker. I own knives by both Busse and Strider. If I were in the market for a knife and narrowed it down to one of those two (improbable I know, they make very different knives) and all other factors were equal, I'd buy the Busse. Why? Jerry Busse is an incredibly nice guy.

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  4. My first "decent" knife was a Boker Subcom, which I like for its compactness, and it really impressed me till I got my Kershaw Skyline. I added a Kershaw Centofante for dress. Since then, I've added two Bucks, one for rough utility and one for "nice" that are both good for my light-duty purposes. My HK and my OsoSweet are nice, but a little large for carrying, so they don't get much mileage. SAK goes everywhere. My first Spyderco, a Dragonfly2 in green with zdp189 steel is ordered on your recommendation.

    I have already realized that the knife world is like the Ford vs. Chevy debates of my youth: pointless prejudice. I will never know anything about the Strider/Benchmade/Reeve business, since I'll never put that many dollars into one knife. It really is a false choice to select one brand only. These companies survive because they make products that please their customers. Some customers are discerning, while others like the unthinking comfort of settling on one brand to which they can declare loyalty. I really like the look of Blind Horse Knives products, and I'll probably end up with one of their large models for hiking. But it won't be a frequently used knife, even though I plan to enjoy it hugely at appropriate times. On the other hand, if I find something comparable that opens my wallet and pleases me, I'll end up with something unexpected. It is like buying a car. Don't go in married to a certain car unless you are prepared to pay whatever that car costs. Go in looking for a good price on a good car.

    I don't think you're going to get roasted, Tony, based on the comments over the life of this blog. Your readers seem more considered in their selections, and your rating system encourages judicious examination rather than fanboy extremism. But I'll buy you a beer if the opportunity arises.

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  5. Amen Tony! Good for you!
    The Idaho Gunslinger

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  6. regardless of opinions, you shouldn't be wary of commenting, it's what we all should do as fans...& yeah this stuff totally needs to be said...well said re: Cold Steel, LMAO, LC still does lots of cool stuff & has never made a knife that failed on me performance wise, which is more than I can say for Benchmade. -Aa

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  7. I find it (fanboy-ism) extremely irritating. I'm simply looking for a great EDC knife to upgrade my current carry, and am prepared to spend a reasonable amount of coin to do so, and I simply want the review of the knife, and not some long soliloquy on the manufacturer.

    I think I've settled on a spyderco sage 2. Just need to find a US vendor that will ship knives internationally at reasonable rates.

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  8. I found your article after I typed in "fanboys have ruined my hobbies". Its not just YOUR hobby, its just about ANY hobby. If you like doing something, but you don't buy the right product from the right company, well, you aren't allowed to enjoy your hobby. If you do a particular activity, but aren't perfect at it, as deemed by the fanboys, you aren't allowed to do it. And if you don't know all the information about any given subject, well, you will get slammed unmercifully. Used to play video games myself, as an example, but have just about given up because the fanboys have pushed the market to a place that I can't stand with games like Call of Duty XXXXX and Medal of Honor XXXXX...and in reality, they are the same great graphics button mashers. Tried to play guitar, but realized I would never be able to play the Star Spangled Banner metal-style in 16th notes with my tongue and I should have been able to do that in a week or two because ALL the fanboys can...ride a motorcycle? Must be able to wheelie in a week and ride at 200mph in the rain through any given stretch of the twisties, otherwise, don't get on a bike. Its ad infinitum...

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