Whether Netflix should wither

With all of the Superbowl ads and general media saturation, the Blockbuster dvd by mail service has been in the air recently.  The law school has always seemed to have a high adoption rate for netflix, and a cheaper service will obviously appeal to a lot of “poor” Emory Law Students always looking to save a buck.
Despite being demonstrably cheaper I have no interest in switching.  The 470+ movies in my queue, and the 1000+ ratings i have invested would be a rational reason not to switch, but in all honesty id does not even get to that.
I feel an emotional attachment to Netflix and a repulsion to Blockbuster.  The question is, why?

Possible reasons:
Intrinsic values of the companies.
I have a great deal of evidence about customer service, having used both companies for many years.  Netflix has been really good about living up to their promises, checking to see if I am satisfied or have suggestions, and trying to find ways to improve.  Blockbuster insults me.

But honestly this is just the latest example of a wider trend.  I resent Microsoft for taking good ideas and distributing them on the cheap.  I happily pay more somewhere else so that I do not have to shop at wal mart.  I keep trying to use MARTA despite knowing it is useless and overpriced, much worse then my awsome car.  I am a walking, talking, affront to what the economists call the rational maximizer. Value is not my primary concern.  So what makes me choose a product instead of the price/feature value ratio?

1. I am a brand-whore
I am an “soft” IP student/lawyer/advocate/reformer.  I am fascinated by ? and by branding. It is no surprise, then that I assign certain personal values to brands.  I see them as a communicative badge that someone wears.  I take personal pride in having brands which I think represent my personality.
•Brands which have an extraordinarily high amount of IP (patents and copyright) attached to them. (Apple computers all over the place, my Oakley glasses have 3 design patents and 8 technical patents for them).
•I like Brands which feel like a secret find.  The brands which are better than the popular leaders, yet under the radar.
– Someone with a Rolex is ostentatious and paying for a status symbol; when I have a Tag HeŸüer, I benefit from years of technical innovation, auto racing history, and all of this is obscure. (Of course, that means I use this as a status symbol, but when I am doing it it is ok because I approve of the status is symbolizes)
– BMW drivers are assholes. Every one of them.  Could be your grandmother, I don’t care.  This is the closest I will come to knowing what it is like to be a bigot.  Even though I grudgingly admit BMW makes good cars (though overpriced and based on a different philosophy of driving than I hold) i could never own one lest i felt like a “BMW driver.” (the bikes are entirely avoided by this principle.)
– The misguided buy Benz, Audi is less known but has a really interesting story of branding and a relentless dedication to making their product beautiful and technically advanced.  They are the Apples of the road (with the downside of that analogy holding true).  Plus, you have to love any company who has the motto Vorsprung durch Technik (Leadership through technology)
(this has an odd parallel: the increase in visibility for Audi in recent years bugs me. Despite the fact I want them to do well, and spend more money making products I want, I want the secret more.  I am selfish with my brands.)
– cole haan over other expensive shoe makers, Eddie Bauer over Abercrombe and Fitch (ok, so a lot of this is they sell tall sizes, but A and F has a nearly identical company beginning, but EB remained truer), Delongi over Black and Decker, Ericsson over Motorola, very limited edition t-shirts from Threadless, etc.

2. Hight Man’s Burden
I have never thought of myself as rich.  I have far more than I deserve, to be sure, but that is a result of my mother being a really good provider with a huge unselfish heart and having only one person on which to spend money.  Still, I have a certain unease with my wealth and comfort.  Nearly all of my friends are constantly penniless, and it makes me feel feel like a jerk.  Part of why I only have these friends I blame on the fact that rich people, despite being more able to do the things with me I want to do, annoy the living hell out of me.  The rest of it I blame on Tampa Prep.
Tampa Preparatory School was the school I attended for 5 of my middle school and high school years.  The motto of the school is “A preparation for life with a higher purpose than the self.”  The school consciously tried to instill a sort of social morality and succeeded with surprising uniformity.  The most immediate result was useless displays of wealth-discomfort like buying clothes at salvation army (while driving a brand new car).
I didn’t do that foolishness, but I do still feel affected in my spending by the spirit.  If I have this money, i feel like I need to spend it on things that are worthy.  For everyone who can’t afford to know about some britcom, I will buy the DVD out of a show of solidarity.  I buy shareware I know I will barely use because I like to think I am allowing someone to make a living at what they do.  The donation model of the internet is a dangerously attractive concept for me.  I am not quite at the point that I will spend money on nothing just to support them, but I will buy tshirts I would never wear outside to fund the website.
It’s sounds paternalistic, I know; it is not.  A girl who “got me” in a way nobody ever has once said that the most defining aspect of my personality is that in any social situation I try to become the mother.  Last (superbowl) weekend I was more excited to make chili for others than I was about the game.  I gain more pleasure from vicarious success then personal success.  I really like caring for people.  As usual, she was right.  I am maternal, or as the feminist streak in me corrects, I have that mammalian maternalism.  It makes me want to nurture the companies I adopt.

3. Belonging
Somewhat similar to the brand identity theory, I get a certain sense of association with others of the brand.  as a pathetic example:  There is a woman in the law school who owns a 15’Powerbook and an A4 cab.  about a week ago she started showing up with a vaio, and it ticked me off.  I started coming up with excuses that would mean I was not mad at her for downgrading.  Her computer broke and this was a temporary replacement, her husband forced her to switch.  She is nearly a complete stranger.  Her computer choice really should not be the basis of her worth, even just to me.  But it is.  It felt like a defection.  (In fact, I had just conflated two separate people.)

So, who wants to be my netflix friend?

Leave a Comment