109. A Brand I Like. And Why.
Jul 12, 2007 at 01:51PM
jj in Features

snapper.jpgHaving recently purchased a home (nothing fancy - think lots of renovation required,) I was in need of a lawnmower. I remember reading an article in Fast Company last year concerning Snapper's refusal to supply Wal-Mart with their brand name lawn equipment - to compete with the Lowe's/John Deere and the Home Depot/Cub Cadet partnerships. That alone is impressive given the realities in the marketplace and Wal-Mart's influence on distribution, pricing, sales, and other marketing principles. Most company's goal is get into Wal-Mart whatever the cost, and Snapper declined after being courted by Wal-Mart. I was intrigued then and especially now that I was going to purchase either theirs or a rivals product. So, I did a little research.

Jim Weir is Snapper's CEO, or actually the CEO of the company that owns Snapper, Simplicity Manufacturing. Weir's rationale for such a decision can be summed up in three parts:

1. Wal-Mart's pricing demands would have forced the company to either off-shore the manufacturing, drastically lower the quality of their products, or both in order to sell Snapper lawn mowers at an 'everyday low price.' Every snapper sold worldwide is built in a plant in McDonough, Georgia (just outside Altanta), and the company is known for it's high-quality products.

2. Selling their lawnmowers at Wal-Mart would inevitably eat away at the independent retailers' sales of the equipment, if not push them to extinction. Snapper wanted to maintain their loyalty to their independent dealers because they felt the smaller retailers provide far better customer service to the customer (us) as well as providing actual service to the machines - something Wal-Mart does not.

3. Snapper was not willing to produce a separate and lesser-quality line of products bearing the Snapper brand.

All of these things appealed to me. I would choose high-quality over our increasingly disposable options anyday. I would also prefer that the products I buy be made in the US or at least by those countries that are not fear societies - like China. Or Iran. And I especially like supporting the small, local businesses where you get great customer service as opposed to a big-box retailer that hires college kids only to fire them before they get too expensive in terms of health care and benefits.

What does this have to do with design? Well, design-wise Snappers are crafted and made to a high-standard, something any designer (graphic or industrial) can appreciate. The actual identity marks on the machines are amateur at best - cheap looking at worst. And the little snapping turtle mascot is just odd - especially now that he is all beefed up on steroids. But it's more about what type of company you choose to support, what type of world you want to live in, and what form of capitalism do you want to hand off to your children. I have come to realize that one votes as much with their money as they do with a ballot, even when purchasing small things like a lawnmower. Or a light fixture. Or a candy bar.

So, I voted. I paid $432 and some odd cents for a great lawnmower. That's about three (or four) times as much as I needed to spend for a toss-to-the-curb-next-time-I-move lawnmower at Wal-Mart. I hope to have this machine for twenty more years at least, which is a very 'green' decision as it beats throwing three machines away in that time. Am I setting up Snapper as a perfect example of a good corporate citizen? No, not really. But I am suggesting that they are trying and I'm glad that I noticed. I also hope more people will consider such things and remember that they are casting a vote when they hand a company their hard-earned money.

Sometimes I see a future filled with mediocre plastic quality, planned obsolescence, automaton workers, greedy corporate pillaging, un-empathetic customer service, and shoddy short-sighted product design. Profiling a company such as Snapper, makes it seem at least a day or two further away. Vote your conscience.

Update on Jul 12, 2007 at 04:44PM by Registered Commenterjj

A follow-up link about Wal-Mart's growing influence in consumer electronics. Now, this post hasn't been anti-Wal-Mart, so much as it is pro-Snapper. But, i think it's becoming apparent that 'everday low prices' is increasinlgy translating into disposable goods. Goods that are manufactured not for quality but for cheapness only. Some people (a lot of people?) are ok with this, but it's not good for the environment, and I submit not good for the consumer in the long run. You just end up having to buy another tv set/alarm clock/whatever when it breaks in two months and throwing the original one in a landfill somewhere.

Article originally appeared on Graphicology (http://www.graphicology.com/).
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