“Employees have the drive and energy to be your company’s most vocal brand ambassadors and champions for change. Every day, they are the face and voice of your brand, whether they’re at work, home, or anywhere in their community.”
How does Dell foster a creative culture of innovation and collaboration inside and outside of the company to differentiate from competitors?
For Dell, innovation and collaboration are inextricably tied. I believe our view of innovation and collaboration is fundamentally different than other companies in our industry. We’re not out to make the latest, greatest bright shiny object just because it’s cool or trendy. Rather, we are the practical voice of innovation and collaboration. We look at bringing to market real solutions that will help our customers solve their most challenging, game-changing business problems.
Inside of Dell, we have several programs that encourage innovation and collaboration beyond our day-to-day focus. We have “innovation idol” competitions where our marketing teams submit ideas that both have customer and business value. Our leadership team reviews these ideas and awards resources to the winning innovations. The ideas that rise to the top are those that are collaborative and impact multiple areas within Dell.
Additionally, we’ve found that there is so much innovative spirit alive in the companies that we acquire. The ideas that these newer Dell team members can share with our broader teams motivate us all to push the envelope.
Outside of Dell, we’re active in supporting innovation that can make a lasting, positive impact on our world. A perfect example of this is the Dell Social Innovation Competition, which encourages university students around the world to develop innovative ideas that will solve a social or environmental problem. This year’s winning team, TakaTaka Solutions, is a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste in impoverished areas such as the slums in Africa.
Social media also continues to be one our strongest areas of innovation both inside and outside of Dell. Last December, we launched our Social Media Listening Center that helps us filter through and respond to the conversations taking place on the social web. We collect this feedback along with the insights we get from thousands of salespeople and partners in the field to make sure we know what’s top of mind for customers. And, we’re increasingly sharing what we do in social media with our customers so they can determine how to integrate social media into their own businesses.
It’s evident to see that Dell understands the importance of CSR in business practice. To what extent do you feel that your commitment to corporate citizenship impacts your brand?
Corporate responsibility doesn’t just impact our brand—it’s part of the fabric of our brand. In fact, last month we published our annual corporate responsibility report that talks about our progress against the goals we’ve set and the opportunities we have to do more.
We absolutely believe that selling products and services to our customers is simply not enough. Customers want to know that the companies they trust care about the world they live in and use their influence to make a positive difference for our communities and planet. This extends not only to the outside world (our customers), but also to inside of Dell. For example, we run our own business based on the sustainability and environmental practices that we help our customers follow. Our team members are actively involved in the giving programs we have around education and social innovation.
Just a few examples that underscore our CSR focus and impact include:
- Our YouthConnect program has positively affected two million children globally with expansion to nine countries.
- We expanded the Dell Social Innovation competition to promote social change in growing communities and committed US $5 million over five years to this program to help college students make their ideas a reality.
- Our customers have saved nearly US $6 billion through Energy Smart since 2005, avoiding more than 55 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
- In our most recent fiscal year, laptops and desktops were designed to use 25 percent less energy than they did in 2008.
With recent acquisitions in the networking market and shared plans for expansion in your servers and storage business, Dell has demonstrated a commitment to further expansion in the B2B sector. That said, can you provide us with insights into how to best balance a diverse portfolio of brands while ensuring equity remains strong within the master brand?
It’s essential to start with a consistent, unified brand strategy that serves as a foundation for integrating new brands, whether those are from acquired companies or ones that we develop internally. For Dell, this brand strategy is 100 percent customer-centric. We’re focused on delivering technology solutions that give customers “The power to do more.”
We have three design tenets that serve as a guidepost for bringing to market solutions that help our customers do and achieve more—those tenets are “open, capable and affordable.” So, you’ll only see us acquire a company or develop a new product or service if we believe it delivers on these tenets and meets our brand promise.
It’s absolutely a delicate balance, though, especially when you have an acquired brand that customers trust and respect. We’ve found in these cases that it’s the combination of our brands (Dell + new company) that instills even more confidence in our customers.
From a process standpoint, we have a dedicated team in place to integrate the brands we acquire into Dell. We conduct research to evaluate the strength and health of acquired brands. We have a formal exec sponsor/integration program and a marketing playbook. We visit with new team members in-person and immerse them virtually in the brand. In fact, one of the most effective ways to do this is pretty grassroots—we have 100,000 team members that are all advocates for our brand. We’ve made a concerted effort over the past few years to get our team members to see their connection to the brand, their role—and help others find that connection as well.
What advice do you have for marketers at other companies who are facing similar challenges that you face in keeping ahead of such a fast moving business sector?
First, I’d tell marketers to absolutely stay true to your company’s DNA. Whether it’s a new market, a new technology, a new competitor or anything that disrupts your business, I believe companies should move forward without losing sight of the past. Dell built our heritage on listening to customers because Michael Dell believes that technology can empower people to reach their full potential. That was true 27 years ago, and we stay true to that principle today. You’ve got to have a belief that grounds you so you’ll be able to meet new challenges in a way that’s true to who you are.
Second, I’d advise them to do everything they can to be relevant and credible to customers. Sometimes it’s easy for marketers to get caught up in the day-to-day activities that define our profession. Turning out ads, pushing the envelope on creativity, making your presence known in each and every social media channel—these and all of the other tactics that define marketing jobs are absolutely important. But we need to ask ourselves: Is what we’re putting out helping our sales teams open the door to see a new customer? Does what we’re saying actually reflect what our customers need and the realities of the market? At the end of the each day, did what I do at work support the brand promise and make a difference to our customers?
And third, remember the power of your own employees and make sure you activate their passion. Employees have the drive and energy to be your company’s most vocal brand ambassadors and champions for change. Every day, they are the face and voice of your brand, whether they’re at work, home, or anywhere in their community. Spend the time to educate them on whatever new challenges and opportunities your company faces; help them understand the positive impact they can make on the brand.
What other brand(s) do you admire and why?
Certainly P&G—Jim Stengel is a good friend and trusted advisor to Dell. The journey that he led P&G on to redefine their brand and galvanize employees around a common purpose has certainly served as inspiration for our teams and me.
More recently, I’ve spent a bit of time with executives from British Airways and Ford. These are brands that, at their core, never lose sight of the needs of their customers beyond the products that they sell. BA has this amazing program for entrepreneurs to help them expand their businesses globally. Ford has an approach where they make their dealers part of the family, part of the strategy, and empower them to be directly involved in the brand.
ABOUT KAREN QUINTOS
Karen Quintos is SVP and CMO for Dell, where she is responsible for bringing the company’s brand to life for Dell customers, team members, and stakeholders around the world. She leads brand strategy, global communications, social media, corporate responsibility, global research, marketing talent development and agency management. Karen is also the executive sponsor of the largest networking group at Dell, Women in Search of Excellence.