Toshiba - and on how brand loyalty is driven by personal experience

In May 1979 we bought our first colour television. Kath had just recouped her meagre pension payments, Jose was six months old, and Wimbledon was about to start. The box was a Toshiba 14 inch 'portable', but it was all we could afford, was small enough not to dominate our tiny living room, and had fantastic definition and colour. The Toshiba was our only television for over 12 years, and when we eventually had enough to justify a larger box I would happily have bought another Toshiba were it not for the availability of an ex-demonstration Sony (which we are still using) at a great price. Nevertheless, the Toshiba loyalty lives on: I bought a Toshiba portable CD player in 1997 which still works well (but only from the mains), and I am now eyeing up a Toshiba LCD television...

On the other hand, Lance Knobel's experience with Toshiba has been less endearing and serves as a salutory reminder of the irrationality of 'brand loyalty', how lingering memories can illogically modulate choice, how appearances may not be what they seem, and—more than anything—caveat emptor.

Restoring one's faith

For many years now we have bought coffee beans in bulk from H.R. Higgins (Coffee-man) Ltd, following a recommendation from the late Sheila Callender. Higgins has a wide range of excellent coffees and their service is impeccable. We buy our coffee in 250 gram vacuum-packed foil bags whose extra cost is more than offset by bulk purchase. We then keep the bags in the freezer until needed. Higgins reckons that coffe beans keep fresh in their foil bags for six months without freezing. A bulk purchase lasts us three months and tastes absolutely fresh throughout.

As an example of one of the advantages of dealing with a long-established family business (and I don't mean the likes of Sainsbury's), added to the bottom of the invoice for our most recent purchase was the following:

We are very sorry to find that we omitted the 10% discount on your invoice for 19th January. We have deducted it from this order and assure you of more careful attention in the future.


Apple vs. Apple

It was a relief to learn (from Daring Fireball) that Apple Corps (aka The Beatles) has lost its High Court action against Apple Computer for trademark infringement. This is also a victory for common sense. The only thing their trademarks have in common is their derivation from the humble apple—unsurprising in view of the companies' respective names. That Apple Corps was successful in brokering an out of court settlement in their favour in 1991 is now largely rendered irrelevant by recent events: Apple Computer has become immensely successful in the electronic music gadget and distribution business, whilst Apple Corps' impact in the music creation business has been negligible of late. Perhaps its action was a reflection of the colour of its apple.

The only unsatisfactory rider to the story is that Apple Corps intends to appeal. Why not just move on and earn some extra (r|l)oyalty by allowing us to obtain your music legally, via the iTunes store?

The Sack of the NHS

That Blair did not sack Ms Hewitt in his panic reshuffle on Friday simply confirms that what he really intends is the sack of the NHS.

Shortly after his election in 1997, he exhorted his drooling NHS acolytes that they had no more than 10 years to 'save the NHS'. He embarked on an ambitious programme of reform (or modernization as he would prefer it known). Few would argue with the need for reform and not many with its direction. The problem has been with the manner of its execution.

The irony is that those of us NHS professionals who have dedicated our working lives to the NHS would have gladly 'saved' it for him, given half a chance. For some reason Blair resents professionals and professionalism, and has done a good job of carrying the media with him. He sees doctors and nurses not as much as caring as heavily unionized and self-interested. The reception afforded Ms Hewitt at a nursing conference last week will have simply reinforced that view.

The reality is that most of us are exceptionally hard-working and dedicated to doing the best we can for our patients, and for the NHS generally. The new consultant contract was predicated on the belief that we are all lazy sods and that management needed new levers to bring us into line. In truth, the necessary levers were always there but few had the leadership qualities to use them effectively.

Just last week a good friend of ours had an elective surgical procedure at our hospital. All went well and after her discharge she called me to say just how amazingly well it had all worked. She also noted just how hard the nursing staff were working and the long hours the consultants were putting in. (Thanks to the European Working Time Directive, this degree of commitment is now rarely apparent in the junior medical staff.)

As the media has been quick to spot, the new consultant contract proved more expensive than anticipated and it is now being 'blamed' in part for the NHS overspend, when all that has happened is that a bit of transparency and accountability has been brought to play which highlights how hard the majority of consultants have actually been working. More than they reckoned— and now we have the extraordinary spectacle of a consultant workforce that is now financially substantially better off but more demoralized than ever. Thank goodness Andrew Foster has decided to move on.

So what happens next? Well, having heavily overspent on salaries and disastrous PFI contracts, the NHS will have to claw back as much as it can by wielding an indiscriminate axe here and there. It is going to be very painful and the worse is yet to come. Nor would Gordon Brown have it any other way: the Treasury has long been convinced that the NHS is a lost cause financially and he really must be smarting at how his generosity has been rewarded.

And that's before we even consider Connecting for Health...

Blair is a conviction politician. No harm in that except that he also believes (more strongly than anything else) that the end justifies the means. I'm not certain it ever does but, to be sure, the two don't mix well.

Comments? Be damned!

A while back I had to start moderating comments before publication as the vast majority were specious, opportunistic and irrelevant (in other words, spam). I have been busy of late and haven't checked the pending list for a while. Today I discovered that 1650 comments had been received and were awaiting my 'approval'. Fat chance: even though most of them feigned flattery ("Nice site", etc), they were all trash, so that is where they went. The same fate befell the 733 or so accumulated trackbacks.

For now, and until I can upgrade to weblog software that can handle these intrusions more appropriately, its goodbye comments, and goodbye trackbacks. Anyone who has anything sensible to say can email chris at this domain. If it passes my substantially more rigorous mail spam filters, and I like what you say, I'll publish it.