I’ve been doing marketing for many years now and I’ve learned to appreciate the importance of a brand to a business. As a consumer I never really appreciated “brand” as a business strategy at least until I started to equate quality with brand. Quality is not only about the physical aspects of a product. It also reflects upon the soft-side of a product… things like pre-sales and post-sales support. Are you lost with what I am trying to get at? Let me use a real example.

My birthday was coming and my wife asked me what I wanted for a gift. Looking around the only thing I needed was a portable USB DVD drive (reader-writer). So I went to my favorite computer mall and shopped around for what I thought were brands worth looking into. I didn’t pay attention to what I thought were OEM brands and instead opted for those with familiar brand name like Samsung, Lacie, LG, Sony, and Buffalo. There was very little to differentiate the drives – in fact if you didn’t look at the packaging and brand you’d swear they were all from the same manufacturer suggesting not much effort was put in the creative aspect of design. Anyway, I chose the Samsung Ultra Slim External DVD Writer “Super-writemaster” (US-632/633). The retailer said it came with a one-year warranty, “just make sure you got the invoice.”

My wife bought the thing, gift-wrapped it and presented it to me on my birthday. I was very happy. That same evening I unwrapped it, plugged it into my computer, and off it went to work. I burned one DVD containing my archive of photos and stowed the device away. I used it a few more times over the course of the next two months. At the beginning of the third month, the drive stopped working. The light would turn green for a few seconds as you hear the drive motor quietly whirling about. But when the light died, the drive died. I tested it on three laptops – all different brands, each with a different version of Microsoft Windows, nothing.

I tried calling the number on the box. The line was engaged for the five times I attempted to call – different days of the week, different times of the day. Knowing the PR agency for Samsung, I contacted them for help. After several emails I was told that Samsung Hong Kong did not sell this particular drive model in the Territory. So I am stuck with a US$90 brick.

Its not really the money that I care so much about (well, I can be stingy at times so yes money is still important) but its also about the trust you build with the brand. How can Samsung (or your favorite brand) betray your trust and expect you to be loyal to that brand? The excuse that the product you bought is a parallel import is nothing more than an excuse. Yes, its aimed at protecting the local distribution channel I understand that. But what protection does the customer/consumer have when the product was bought from what appears to be a legitimate store?

We are in an increasingly global world where you can buy just about anything from the Internet. Vendors like Samsung are selling on the web as well. But what does it tell you when your favorite supplier renegs on the promise of the brand citing “not bought locally” as the excuse?

I have a 5 year old Iomega external DVD writer. If not for its humongous size, I wouldn’t have asked my wife to buy me the Samsung drive. But old as it is, it still works perfectly each time I plug a blank disc to backup some of my work.

I say boycott brands that don’t honor the promise of their brand regardless of where their product was sold or bought. The obligation (not duty) is on the brand to honor their promise.

One final note about Samsung and the quality of its products. In case you think this is just me ranting my heart out, try Googling “complaints about samsung products” and you’ll be surprise at the results. Go ahead!

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