As long-time readers may know, I love the video games made by Obsidian Entertainment.  They are exceptionally well-written, and feature very deep, thought-provoking stories.  Their works are what have convinced me that games are just as legitimate an art form as movies, books etc.

Their latest project is an isometric fantasy RPG, tentatively called “Project Eternity“.  I was quite disappointed when I heard that, simply because I usually hate isometric fantasy RPGs.  The faux-medieval fantasy settings bore me; I prefer a modern or futuristic setting.  The isometric view annoys me to no end. It feels more like I’m playing a board game.

Of course, that won’t stop me from playing it.  Chris Avellone and J.E. Sawyer are making it; and such is my faith in their abilities that I’ll still have to play the thing.  Avellone’s Planescape: Torment was an isometric fantasy RPG, and one of my favorite games. So, naturally, I have high hopes for “Project Eternity”.

I guess you could call this “brand loyalty“, but in my mind it’s not the same.  I’m loyal to the Obsidian “brand”, I guess, but only as long as they still employ the same guys who made the games I enjoyed in the past.  “Brand loyalty” is a term I always take literally, as meaning “loyalty to the symbol”. I’m not loyal to symbols per se, I’m loyal to the people who make what I consider high-quality products.

I think that for the most part, the idea of cultivating brand loyalty is companies fooling themselves and putting the cart before the horse.  They advertise to try to persuade people to like their products for various nebulous reasons.  In my opinion, the only way to get loyalty is by making good products.

A lot of this goes back to my belief that most advertising is a waste of money.  I don’t think celebrity endorsements or clever marketing or whatever will do anything to help out a lousy product.  The recently-concluded Presidential election is an example of this; all the Romney-supporting Super-PACs and their multi-million dollar ad purchases couldn’t make up for a rotten candidate.  And as for the loyal Republicans who voted for Romney, they probably didn’t care about the ads; they just voted for him because in their minds anyone who wasn’t Obama was automatically the better candidate.  Their loyalty, I suspect, is based in their own beliefs and ideas and prejudices, not in anything some ad told them.

P.M. Prescott’s comment on this post reminded me of an issue I’ve wanted to write about on here for a while: TV commercials.  Are they worth it?

I almost always mute commercials when they come on, unless they’re for something I am already interested in.  I can’t think of any time in my life when I’ve decided to buy something just because I saw a commercial for it.  I generally research any major purchases first.

And then there are the commercials for small things, like soft drinks.  Maybe other people are different, but I don’t see those commercials and go “well, I’ve just got to go buy a [X soft drink] right now.”  My soft drink purchase decisions are made purely on the basis of what’s most convenient; I don’t care about brands enough to spend extra time hunting down a particular drink.

Some say that commercials work subliminally.  Well, maybe.  But how effective can the ads be when they produce no noticeable change in my behavior?  Even if it’s subliminal, I would notice that I suddenly had a desire to go out and buy particular things.

Especially interesting to me are political ads. (With which we are about to be deluged, incidentally)  Is anybody really going to vote based on what a TV ad said?  I just assume that all political ads are telling half-truths at best, and so I tune them out automatically.

Given all that, I have to think that companies are overpaying for ads.  The return on it can’t be that much, can it?   I think a company gets more benefit from announcing at the beginning of a program that they are sponsoring the whole thing without commercial interruption than they do from advertising during it.  Because, in general, commercials annoy the viewer who is just trying to watch something.