SVP and CMO, Dell
"Listening to our customers and putting them at the heart of everything we do is really the essence of our brand. It’s a key distinction for us, and it’s at the core of why Michael Dell started the company in 1984."
Empowerment is the essence of the Dell brand. In what ways is Dell empowering their consumers?
It’s so inspiring to see “The power to do more” come to life in so many ways. One example particularly close to my heart is our work to empower female entrepreneurs through the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN). Through this initiative, Dell leaders, team members and I are able to directly help female entrepreneurs continue to expand their influence, grow their businesses and make a tremendous impact in the communities where we live and work.
Our annual event is held once a year, in emerging markets like China, Brazil and India, where we talk about the challenges these women are facing—like accessing funding to grow their business, keeping up with marketing trends and best practices and raising venture capital. However, one of the most interesting things about these events is that, without us really initiating it, the members have asked us to focus more on the ways that technology and innovation from Dell can help their businesses differentiate and excel. So, we not only help support the success of female entrepreneurs around the world, but also gain brand advocates and invaluable feedback on how to evolve the products and solutions that drive our customers’ business results.
To provide an illustrating success story, someone like DWEN member Lauren Flanagan comes to mind. Lauren, the Co-founder and Managing Director of Belle Capital, turned to Dell for end-to-end solutions that allowed her to get Current Motor’s electric scooter to market six months faster—helping to meet a growing need for affordable, high-performance electric vehicles. By acting as her CIO, Dell powers all her back-end infrastructure to grow faster and smarter. Additionally, through connections made at DWEN, her team is currently expanding into Brazil. That’s what “The power to do more” is all about.
Dell recognizes the importance of delivering the best technology for their customers. But as technologies become more and more advanced, isn't there a risk that Dell could become a tech-centric business rather than a customer centric one? How does Dell avoid this trap?
Listening to our customers and putting them at the heart of everything we do is really the essence of our brand. It’s a key distinction for us, and it’s at the core of why Michael Dell started the company in 1984. Our brand is really about how technology can help customers and companies do and achieve more. It’s not about technology for technology’s sake, but rather the outcomes that can be achieved. Instead of just emphasizing Dell technology products and services, we focus on the solutions that are meaningful for our customers.
Excellent technology products and services are important, but it’s the ability to keep the customer at the core of what you do that drives a great tech company. From reducing the time it takes doctors to develop personalized treatment plans for children with cancer, to helping entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground faster or to helping expand a child’s imagination and interest in technology, Dell works to empower people and equip them for success. Underscoring this idea, we have a new campaign focused on learning which tells the story of “Annie,” a little girl who dreams she can fly. The spot essentially shows how technology enables Annie to pursue her dreams. At Dell we consider people’s dreams and listen to their challenges, then work to deliver solutions that help them achieve their goals.
Digital experience gives a brand owner an immediate opportunity when it comes to evolving and furthering brand relevance. How do you view "digital" and the role it plays in furthering Dell's relevance? Which brands are doing it well, and what sort of best practices have you been able to leverage at Dell?
Digital is an instrumental piece of our 360º marketing approach, and critical to growing Dell’s business as well as building the Dell brand. Digital also plays a leading role in bringing our brand story to life. It acts as the connective tissue that enables an ongoing dialogue with our customers through social, mobile, blogs, and dell.com.
We find that brands that are strong in the digital space stay true to their overall brand strategy. For us, this means focusing on customer outcomes and how technology can enable people to do more. You can see this idea in action on our brand site which features customer stories, articles, case studies and forums that allow customers to share ideas and solve challenging problems.
We’ve seen great traction with our social media listening command center, which allows us to listen to more than 25,000 customer conversations about Dell each day and engage directly to help solve problems and be a better technology partner. It’s important for brands to stay connected to customers. The insights gained are invaluable in shaping the future of our business, from products, services and solutions to our operations. We also share our own best practices in social media and listening. Recently, we’ve worked with the American Red Cross to launch the first digital operations center devoted to humanitarian relief efforts—which will allow the Red Cross to better address and manage crisis events via social media.
As we consider how to build the Dell business and Dell brand, we look at thought leaders in this industry. Some best in class brands that come to mind are GE for brand integration across segments, American Express for social thought leadership, Zappos for customer experience and Coke and Starbucks for Facebook/social media engagement.
For Dell, listening to our customers—who are, increasingly, moving toward digital as their source of learning, shopping and sharing—will remain central to our approach. Since digital is clearly the direction of the future, this will continue to be a top priority for us. In fact, we are more focused than ever on innovating in our online business, digital media and social communities to maximize customer experience.
Moving into 2013 and beyond, how do you think you can make the greatest impact with respect to the Dell brand? How does your strategy in North America differ from your approach to the rest of the world?
We believe our brand is integral in supporting the business, and both global consistency and differentiation are extremely important. When we did our initial brand research (over 9,000 global interviews), we learned we could successfully operate as one global brand. Instead of separating one region from another, we are consistent with our message everywhere, but also make sure our programs are culturally relevant for the greatest impact. When it comes to managing our global brand, we devote tremendous effort to the following:
- Internal activation - We maintain a global network of employees who volunteer as “brand champions” to roll out key initiatives in real time. We empower each and every Dell employee to own our brand, reminding them that our brand lives in conversations with family, friends and customers.
- Innovation and differentiation - Dell employees are encouraged to take risks and be innovative in order to meet customer needs. For example, as part of an internal innovation pilot at Dell, a small group of employees looked at better ways to understand and serve the specific needs of developers in web companies. As a result of listening and engaging with this community, we were able to develop and recently launched Sputnik, a laptop that is not only highly mobile and stylish, but specifically designed to make the developer experience as powerful and simple as possible. It’s currently receiving rave reviews and is truly one of a kind.
- Our global brand campaign - It was first launched in Germany, then in the US, and now it is reaching China. While we often feature local customer stories, the core message of the campaign, “The power to do more,” is the same everywhere.
As we move into the fifth year since the start of the financial crisis, businesses have gone to great lengths to optimize their supply chains and reduce their cost structures. In this new efficiency economy, do you see a shift in the way brands approach the notion of how they deliver value?
Increasing our discipline and ROI around spending has been a focus for us over the last few years, but there is an upside to this. The emphasis on ROI has pushed us to think differently, and more strategically, about marketing. As a result, we’ve invested in much more sophisticated marketing analytics to help us better understand the impact of our decisions. The analytics have also have also helped us see the efficiencies in thinking about the brand holistically versus by product or by audience.
We’ve also increased our use of social, both in marketing and as an effective way to understand our customers. We now think more holistically about customer research and use an integrated approach involving traditional primary research, social data mining and analytics to help us better understand our customers and the market overall. Efficiency was certainly the driver of this push, and we have benefitted in that regard, but the deeper change was gaining a more holistic understanding of the market.
And, finally, we’ve invested significantly in marketing operations to drive consistency around messaging, process and best practices. This allowed us to eliminate redundant and inefficient marketing, which made it possible for us to reinvest in our core strategic priorities.
Dell has been ranked as a Best Global Brand since Interbrand first published the list in 2001. As Chief Marketing Officer, how has this helped you do your job better? Does this ranking inspire the company to invest more in marketing efforts and/or do you use it as a benchmark each year?
Dell is honored to be among Interbrand’s distinguished list again this year. External benchmarks, like Best Global Brands, help us gauge how we are doing and help us keep an outside-in perspective. I think it’s a constant challenge for large companies not to get wrapped up in how they have done things in the past and to continue to look to competitors and leaders in other industries to consistently challenge the model. We use Best Global Brands as a benchmark and look to others on the list as a source of inspiration and creativity. They motivate us to continually improve.