I honestly believed that I would stick with PC based computing.  After twenty years using PCs they’re more familiar than my wife and kids!

Despite all the positive things friends have said about Macs, and even though I have owned an iPhone for the last couple of years, there were good reasons not to change.  PCs have always worked well for me and, on the occasions when I have used Macs, I’ve always found them uncomfortably unfamiliar.

If nothing else, we humans are creatures of habit: it takes quite a shove to push us out of our comfort zone and into unchartered territory.  For me and PCs that shove was Dell.

I enjoy observing my own consumer decision-making and, although I know that much of the action takes place outside of my conscious awareness, my work on the consumer unconscious mind gives me a dual perspective for my own consumer behaviour.

I’ve owned several Dells, you could have called me brand loyal.

When my Dell XPS 420 greeted me with news of a critical drive failure (Windows Recovery did nothing of the sort) my immediate reaction on being told to replace it was to go to Dell.

Within half an hour I had found a specification that worked for me and ordered a laptop.

So, despite the trauma of a crashed computer, I still went back to the company I knew and that had worked for me in the past: call it the “better the devil you know” heuristic.

However, I discovered, after a fairly painful on-line ordering process, that somehow my billing address had been entered into my account, but that my old address – one that I haven’t lived at for four years – was still recorded as the delivery address.

Unperturbed, I immediately called Dell to ask them to correct the address.  To my astonishment this was not possible.

My bank had verified the payment, but Dell’s own systems had held the order up because the delivery address didn’t match the card address (the whole reason for my call and a helpful safeguard against fraud).

However, apparently this couldn’t be corrected with a few key strokes and would take 3-5 days.  This despite the fact that the address I wanted the item sent to was the only one that would have passed their internal fraud checks – the one that matched the card I’d paid with.

Staggered that a computing company could have such cumbersome systems I asked to speak to the department concerned.  I was told that communication with them was only by email.

Frustrated, I asked them to cancel the order.  Rightly or wrongly, my intention at this point was still to order another computer from Dell after updating my address details.

I was told that I couldn’t get confirmation of my order being cancelled for 24 hours – it might not be possible to cancel it. Both the operator and I knew that the order hadn’t been despatched, it was just sitting there because of the erroneous address.  And yet, it couldn’t be cancelled!  (I should add that this wasn’t for a ‘made-to-order’ machine.)

This was the final straw.  I decided that to continue a consumer relationship with a company whose systems were so fundamentally consumer unfriendly was asking for trouble: heaven help me if I had a problem with the new computer.

A visit to the local stores involved the anticipated issue of computer staff who knew less about the products than me (and I don’t know much).  Enquiring about Sony’s power-save feature, which offered the potential of squeezing out more than the pathetic two hours of battery life from their top of the line machine, resulted the ‘revelation’ that it used less power and meant that the laptop battery would last a lot longer if you weren’t using it.

I wandered over to the Apple display, to consider if I could make the switch.  There was a lot to consider: running Microsoft products on a Mac, transferring my old PC files, even running software not designed for Macs.

When I heard a voice ask if I needed help I was ready to say “No thanks” until I glanced up and saw that the person was dressed differently from the rest of the salespeople I’d encountered.  He was wearing a black t-shirt with a white Apple logo.

My heart leapt.

Or rather my unconscious mind fired off a set of associations; all the brand values and social proof about Apple that have permeated through to my unconscious were fired up, along with the creative values that have been shown to be stimulated by (unconscious) exposure to the Apple brand.

“Yes,” I found myself saying, “you probably can help.”

Half an hour later every question I’d had had been answered.

The contrast between the Apple staff and the Dell phone experience could not have been more marked.  Similarly, the contrast between the useless store staff and the ‘branded’ Apple employee was enormous.

Apple was already delivering a nicer life (and I hadn’t bought the MacBook yet).

Being a great brand isn’t (conceptually) hard.  It requires just two things.  An attractive concept and congruent delivery.  Apple get top marks for delivering both.

I don’t intend to become an Apple evangelist: I think my brother is doing enough of that for the UK population, but I can’t hide my admiration for their products and services.

Philip Graves


  1. Blog Reader

    Windows is constantly telling you when things succeed — like it wants to be congratulated on doing what it’s supposed to do. “New hardware detected! You’ve attached a camera! I found a driver! Do you want me to open the pictures or copy them or sing a song? The camera is now connected and working!” There are balloon tips popping up in the taskbar and notification area periodically, letting you know that whatever you’re doing is not important, because Windows just found a new wireless network! Hey, Windows just updated your time thanks to daylight Savings! Thought you should know! hey, you have unused icons on your desktop!! Do you want me to help you clean them up? Icons are hard! Stop what you’re doing and pay attention to me!

    The assumption in the Windows OS interface is that things are going to fail — that at any moment the computer could simply explode and kill everyone in the room, and if things go well it should get a pizza party like the winner of the Special Olympics.

    On the Mac, it is assumed things will succeed. If you plug in a new piece of hardware, it just shows up ready to use.

    1. Philip Graves

      I’d never thought of it like that, but you’re quite right.

      The other thing that Apple has somehow managed is an integrity of experience from the shop floor to the desktop. With Microsoft, the PC manufacturer and the retailer you have two or three hands involved that frequently seem to get out of sync with one another.

      I have had a couple of problems with the Mac and hardware: I spoke to my friend about it who pointed out that he always buys Mac products for the Mac (mine were third party) and he never has an issue. I’ll be following his approach from now on.

  2. Blog Reader

    Pleased to read you concur, Phillip. I’ll throw in resist the possible temptation to use Entourage for email. Ostensibly it claims to be a CRM/PIM app but really it’s a mess. As the database size increases it becomes increasing failure/corruption prone. My one complaint with OSX is the lack of really great CRM/PIM app, there are many that aim to be but I’m not terribly happy with any of them. In the pre OSX era there was one called Now Contact, nothing since has come close. Apple Address book winds up being mostly repository of contacts you email and some one might want for an iPhone sync… but it’s not intended as a heavy lifting dbase app, imo. It is true though Apple creates an integrated system between the desktop and mobile if used as intended. iCal is okay for appointments, but imo is primitive dealing with task lists.

    Some smallish 3rd party apps worth knowing about;
    http://www.ecamm.com/mac/phoneview/ (if you opt for iphone)

    1. Philip Graves

      Thanks for the information: it’s a big leap moving from the PCs that I’ve spent twenty years with to the Mac environment. The apss you provided the links to look interesting, especially Overflow: I’m old enough to still remember that keystrokes are often a much faster way of working than mouse clicks!

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