Post with 2 notes
Given my profession and professorial responsibilities, I get one question more often than all others: “So, what’s your favorite brand?”
I’m fairly lascivious with my brand consumption, so I rarely have a single answer. I have long term favorites as well as sporadic contemporary additions - so I intend to evolve this list as I see fit.
I consistently seek the following product attributes though and thus do not imply that my preferences are universally desirable:
- Industrial design
- Limited availability / accessibility / market interest
Nikon | http://nikonusa.com
A relatively new addition, as I’ve been a Canon customer for almost 15 years. Canon remains exceptional and I suggest their cameras to nearly every generalist that asks me what they should buy. What I’ve come to love about the Nikon brand though is the focus - unequivocally about capturing data through glass (my interpretation). They don’t sell copy machines to Kinkos/FedEx Office or make printers that come free with the purchase of a computer at the Apple Store. The SLR cameras are meaty and durable, with a recognizable red accent on the hand grip so those in-the-know know you’re rolling Nikon.
The clinchers though are Nikon’s lenses. Heavy, industrial strength… and the sexiest pieces of metal and glass I’ve ever fondled. They’re technically under the sub-brand Nikkor, but they’re clearly Nikon and are so functionally beautiful that I often tote them along just for the excuse to switch ‘um around. If you’re ready for the wallet ding, you’ll only ever need three of their lenses to snag any picture that matters. (14-24mm f/2.8G, 24-70mm f/2.8G, 70-200mm f/2.8G)
I’ve also come to adore Nikon’s photo editing software Nikon Capture NX2. It’s more powerful and easier to use than anything I’ve gotten with a camera or paid dearly for. Free 30 day demo here: http://www.capturenx.com
Oakley | http://www.oakley.com/
To be fair, I own a significant amount of Oakley product, of which 80% performs beyond expectation. The 20% that warrants the hit are the two pieces of Oakley luggage I’ve inexcusably managed to retain. Their backpacks completely make up for the loss though, so let’s call it even on baggage. But the two products that I just cannot find a qualified match for are Oakley sunglasses (as expected), and, get this, Oakley shoes. Yeah, shoes. Oakley makes shoes. They’re nearly impossible to come by, but I own hiking boots and walking shoes - and I won’t travel without them. In fact, if I only get to bring one pair of shoes on a trip (oh how I love to torture myself), it’s my Oakley Nail Lows (http://www.oakley.com/catalog/products/nail-low).
Their boots were recently featured in the latest Terminator movie - and despite such affiliations with grandeur, I’m telling you as a lifetime ‘Boy Scout’ / boot buyer, I’ve yet to meet their equal.
I’ll conclude my rambles on Oakley with this: I know that wrap around sunglasses are synonymous with your extracurricular activities of the late 1980’s and aren’t the best looking pieces of facial equipment on the planet… but I promise you, buy a pair and wear them for a weekend. The only reason you’ll go back to the store is to buy a second set. They fit “like a glove” (channeling Ace Ventura), actually block the sun from every angle, and they never, ever, not even once, fall off your face.
LONG TERM BRANDS
Lego | http://www.lego.com
My social media followers of yester-year will recall the diatribe I authored moons ago about what I believe to be the most important toy brand in history. Kids today play with the same size and color plastic blocks that their parents did. Not that attribution for “the way things were” is a reason to prefer a brand, but so few products in any category have such longevity. And not only longevity, but insatiable relevance - globally. I tend to frequent bread shops, car dealers and toy stores when I’m in a new country (don’t judge me) and I’ve yet to find a nation of youth going Lego-less.
The key here is two things about their business: 1) It’s been privately owned and operated by the same family since block one. 2) They retain a singular focus on toys that enable customers to creatively express through building. Doesn’t matter if they’re building a yellow brick house or the Death Star (awesomeness), it’s all about teaching the mind to make what it desires. I attribute my career success to my childhood adventures with Legos. If I wanted a toy, I built it from the ground up - much like my specialty in brand building and the business I’ve built to supply it.
Lego remains a permanently favored brand in the Book of Sasha Strauss though because they’re exceptional at two very hard to execute brand tactics: co-branding and brand extension. Whether it’s with Star Wars for themed build kits (co-branding) or extending their brand with the launch of the build-your-own-robot kits (Lego Mindstorms - http://mindstorms.lego.com), they consistently deliver their unstated brand promise of ‘tools for the creative mind’ (again, my interpretation).
I’d be a major shareholder since that first Bar Mitzvah check if they’d just let me in.
Land Rover | http://www.LandRover.com
I’ve lost a lot of battles in my time - but I’ve lost more in the defense of Land Rover than all other political, musical, educational and social preferences combined. I’d go as far as to say that I don’t think I know another Land Rover enthusiast who isn’t either clueless about what their vehicle is capable of (Beverly Hills Range Rover drivers) or is so white trash that they’ve got a deer permanently affixed to their front bumper.
As a Land Rover owner four times over - and an outdoor enthusiast stuck in a suit five days a week, I can tell you that this is truly about the ‘brand’ (the intangible feeling you get). Everything that they tell you a Land Rover can do, it can do. I know because I’ve tried it. I’ve 4x4ed over mountains, crossed streams, snowplowed, road-tripped… heck, I’ve put chains on all four wheels, thrown my wife in the driver’s seat, tied a rope to the back of the car and “wake-boarded” with a snowboard through the middle of a snowfield without the vehicle missing a beat. And sure, they’re expensive to service - but so am I. They’re worth the extra dollar to buy and minutes at the dealer to service to have what is truly the most capable passenger vehicle in history - if that’s what your little brand consuming heart desires.
My favorite Land Rover ad was a billboard that simply had tire tracks through sand, the Land Rover logo and the words “To help people, you have to get to them first.” I screamed positive profanities out the window and raised my fist like a soldier the first time I saw that billboard. This is what great brands do - they make you believe (rationally or not) that you’re not alone in your desires and that having them in your life just makes things better. They do. And Land Rover does.
And because I know one of you is going to reply with a “Have fun in your TaTa” (Land Rover was acquired by one of the largest car companies on the planet, who happens to be from India) - just consider that hundreds of car brands have graced this planet - and most have died. Despite oil leaks, gas prices and world wars, Land Rover has not only survived, it’s been coveted by history’s largest car manufacturers (BMW, Ford, TaTa, etc.), sold on nearly every continent and admired by the rich and the poor for generations.