There are a couple factors that we take into consideration before we pull out our wallets and swipe our favorite piece of plastic. The degree which we take into consideration each factor depends on what kind of item it is. For instance, when we’re buying a pair of shoes, we might weigh comfort more than cost, but for, say, a car, we’ll probably pay more attention to safety ratings than the color it’s available in. When it comes to household products, what’s the bottom line in decision making? Is there something we should pay more attention to when considering whether or not we want to purchase it?

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From appliances big (like a washing machine) to small (like a toaster), it’s important to get an item that lasts. That makes sense, right? If you’re buying something for your home, you want to be able to rely on it daily because a) it becomes a part of your routine, and b) quite frankly, no one has the time- or sanity- to keep replacing it. So when you’re standing in an aisle in front of seven different brands of the same thing, how do you know which one to pick?

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Let’s do a quick case study on a common household appliance: rice cookers. Two brand giants in this area are Zojirushi and Tiger. Both have a similar line of digital rice cookers that function closely to one another. Their prices are also about the same, ranging from around $60 – $450. Both are Japanese companies that began in the early 1900s. So why do people seem to prefer Zojirushi over Tiger?

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Based on internet forums, product reviews and my own observations from my household and my friends’, it appears that Zojirushi emerges as the overriding popular choice in rice cookers. A portion of its success can be credited to Googling “best rice cooke” and having multiple websites rate Zojirushi, endearingly called “Zo” or “Zoji” by its fans, as the number one name. But the secret to its success may have more to do with brand loyalty than with anything else. In the process of deciding what to purchase, most people turn to product reviews written by other customers. In reviews of Zojirushi, most consumers who bought a Zo cooker loved it so much that they never went back– establishing a consumer-producer relationship. Others who have owned multiple brands, among them Zo, Tiger and National, have voted Zo to be the best on the market.

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Of course, there are additional factors to be considered: among the top reasons people have listed for being pro-Zo are fuzzy logic technology, durable workmanship and versatility of rice settings. But the relationship that Zojirushi has built with its customers has merited one of loyalty. As one reviewer on Amazon sums it up, “While there will always be fans of almost any product, we researched well before we bought either appliance, and Zojirushi had the highest user-ratings and comments at the time – it doesn’t look like that’s changed much over the years. They’ve given us many years of great service, and that’s the brand we’ll replace with – no question. They’ve earned our business.”

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So which one would you pick? Or is there another underdog brand that could turn the tables on these two giants?

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