It’s not hard to see the entire PC market is in a terrifying slump. It’s no wonder DELL actually did produce the sub-$300 laptop computer ad a few weeks ago. And what is killing DELL, is probably part of what is hurting the entire PC industry. I have a few insights into DELL’s trouble having worked inside for two years (the Javis years) back in 2007 – 2009. The symptoms of such a huge organization are slow to change. And the soul-kill culture that had been hinted at by everyone I knew, came true for me over the course of those two years. Of course, a lot changed for me AND Dell during those years.
Today DELL stands on the brink of either reinventing itself and it’s revenue model, or collapsing under the weight of it’s own bad decisions. Imagine if DELL could find that visionary to lead them into the next technological age. What’s beyond the phone and tablet? What is BIG business going to care about in 5 years?
Unfortunately, Mr. Dell, while a very savvy business man, is also very low on the charisma scale. The “visionary” speeches I attended during Dell’s push for rebirth in 2007 were excruciatingly painful when Mr. Dell actually made an appearance. And I have nothing against the man. He’s done wonders for my city, state, and career. But when you lead a rally cry to the troops, and talk about “Shareholder Value” you’ve got your vision all mixed up about what matters to your audience.
It was a dark and stormy morning in 2007 as Mr. Dell and company were rolling out the NEXT GENERATION DELL at an all-hands meeting. Leading the charge were several uber-high-paid new VPs and executives who were going to get this party started up again. Big music, big pomp, big show. All to highlight and ramp up the plans for where Dell was going.
First up, the new pitch man, CMO, Mark Jarvis. In his black on black suit and British accent he proceeded to show us how the BRAND would be reinvented via innovative design and innovative and interactive marketing. At least he had a conviction that his vision could take us out of the doldrums of Dell 2007.
Next up was Mr. Jarvis’s hatchet man, Casey Jones, who was going to lead the charge to consolidate all of DELL’s 2,000 advertising and marketing agencies world-wide under ONE DELL Marketing agency, and the competition was already underway between the two biggest firms in the world: XXX and XXX. And from the energy of this consolidation we, the DELL team, were going to see great things. Efficiency. Globally-coherent creative and messaging. Dell was going to finally enter the modern age of innovative advertising and marketing.
Then came Mr. Dell, looking happy and spiffy in his dark suit and blue tie. But his joy was about the investor value and not US, the people he was speaking to. I’m guessing he either went without a prepared speech, or the speech was accidentally switched with his shareholder meeting presentation… but he bombed. His energy was small to begin with, and no amount of intro music or flashing lights could lift his message inspire us.
Finally, the ECO team hit the stage. Here was DELL, really ready to make the push into becoming the Greenest Company On Earth. And the new platform, a wonderful concept called ReGeneration.org. DELL was going to reinvent eco-activism even for computers, by enlisting US, the workers, in generating innovative ideas, powering “green initiatives” within DELL, and basically taking the message to the masses that DELL LOVED THE EARTH just like we did. They even gave us some contact information for the team, should we want to “GET INVOLVED.”
It was a big meeting. It was simulcast world-wide to all of DELL’s global partners. If you weren’t able to attend you could dial into a Global Conference call and video feed of the event. I was in the room. And I’m guessing the confused looks on everyone’s face as we tumbled out an hour and a half later with the rockstar music still pumping off the glittery stage, meant that the message had been boldly broadcast but not received with much clarity.
The biggest word at DELL, that you learn early on, is AMBIGUITY.
Either you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing, or you don’t. The level of “don’t know what the fk to do” was called ambiguity. And it wasn’t necessarily al YOUR fault nor the fault of your manager or even Dell. You see the ambiguity passed up-stream to the top. On up until even the cause of the ambiguity was ambiguous. How convenient. How dysfunctional.
If we jump cut that transformational meeting to today, we would probably be pretty close to the types of “rallies” DELL must be having internally to shore up the troops in the light of the new PC downturn AND the pending sale of DELL back into a private company. A radical shift has got to take place. The message is, status quo ain’t working. We’re going to retool and reorg and rebuild our brand and company and leadership in the marketplace.
Unfortunately that’s what DELL always does.
- Rebuild the Brand
The same old ambiguity is still in place. Maybe this time, outside of the publicly-traded-eye-of-accountability they would be able to really affect change and growth. But lest we forget, let’s look back at a few of the lingering problems that DELL does not seem to be able to address. BIG problems that will hinder their recovery, even as much as we (I) want them to recover.
1. MATRIX & SILO
2. BIG BUSINESS NIRVANA
3. POST-PC CONSUMERS
4. BRAND DEATH
5. SALE & COUPON ADDICTION
6. THE WALMART OF PCs
Over the next few weeks I will bring out each of the updated chapters of this story, as we try to decipher what went wrong before and what COULD go right, but probably won’t in the near and longterm future for DELL.
NOTE: to my friends still “inside DELL, “I wish you well.”
Reference: Who’s Killing the PC – ZDNet
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