Nov 09

Decrypting Dell

dell_confusion6I received an interesting comment on my recent post about the “overbranding” of Dell. In fact, I thought it made such good points that it deserved to be elevated to a full-blown post.

A warm welcome, if you will, for the Observatory’s first-ever “guest blogger,” Eugene — from I-haven’t-a-clue-where.


Ken, you’re actually being too kind to the Boys from Round Rock. Dell’s branding dysfunction goes much deeper than the fact that their latest computer actually has a name larger than the computer itself.

Setting aside the sheer quantity of sub-brand names and modifiers in their arsenal, the quality of all them, from a pure naming perspective, is terrible. Not to mention the fact that as a family of sub-brands, they bear no familial resemblance to one another. It’s obvious they were all picked out of thin air, to satisfy a particular need at a particular moment in time, without any sense of overall brand cohesion.

Perhaps Dell’s worst branding offense is what they’ve done recently with their netbook line and soon-to-be-launched smartphone. Instead of opting for one of their wacko made-up names, they’ve dubbed them both “mini.” These are defining products for the mobile internet era we’re in, and they’ve given these products the distinct disadvantage of a completely generic name. Worse yet, a completely generic name already being used by six other products in this category. Let’s see, do I want to buy an Inspiron Mini, a Mini 3 or an Inspiron Zino, which is actually a mini-Inspiron. The choices are endless. And endlessly confusing.

Speaking of choices, I went to dell.com to check out a Zino. It only took me about five minutes to find it, which made me think of the Dell tagline, “Yours is Here.” Yeah, somewhere.

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  • Scott

    I find this discussion very interesting and couldn’t agree more. Love the road sign graphic.

  • Cory

    Ok… let me wrap my head around Dell’s thinking here for a moment:

    They purchase Alienware for their high-brand status (I presume anyhow)… a good move if you ask me, to combat their shrinking margins. They then roll up Alienware’s hardware and website, the whole “high brand” experience into the Dell (value brand) experience. So I’m left asking… what did they buy? Why not just design new machines and brand them Dell if that’s what you were planning to do all along? I’m sure the good folks at Dell could of come up with some unique brand that would appeal to gamers without copying the Alien shaped boxes… basically just take any old Dell PC and add some lights effects – that would do the trick, and that’s what they purchased in the end.

    A website frontend is nothing… why not leave that in place (the home screen is still there – but it goes into the dell site as soon as you click to buy). Also… leave the “special” customer service – people are buying an experience as much as a computer.

    That is what Dell doesn’t get…. being a value brand… it’s not always about the price, sometimes it’s about the overall experience you get… that’s why Alienware customers and Apple customers were/are willing to pay more.

    One thing Microsoft is finally copying from Apple with their Microsoft stores and something Dell should have thought of years ago…. create a high end machine WITHOUT crapware… remove the crapware… remove things and save money and charge more…. sounds like something Dell is looking for. Instead they buy Alienware… they strip out all the things that Alienware was doing right (customer experience), and then they add the things Dell thinks are good (crapware) and they wonder why they must reduce the price to sell these computers – it must be the economy, that’s all they can come up with.

  • Paul

    I have to admit that while I thought you were too harsh on HP you’re right about Dell. It really is a mess. Just looking at their “Home Laptops” page give me a headache – http://www.dell.com/home/laptops

  • slightly off-topic ken, but aren’t there other doings in technology and marketing besides Apple, Dell, and Microsoft?

    Droid, Google Chrome OS, 3D laptop screens, Firefox possibly being the first browser headed to a gaming platform (PS3) and all that that implies…

    i’m just saying…

  • ken segall

    Ah, quit your belly-aching :) I do agree that I need to expand on topics a bit. Just trying to get the more timely stories out before they’re not timely anymore. But I will also point out that of my last ten posts, only four were about Apple, Dell or Microsoft (plus one was about the whole gang of computer makers) — so let’s just call me 50% obsessed.

  • Jung might have something to say about being ONLY 50% obsessed, while Dali would argue a different take on a meager 50% obsession… just kidding although there are some really interesting things happening out there, particularly the Google OS and Droid…

    also, in regards to marketing, Victors and Spoils, a break away agency from CPB, started up and is operating solely on a ‘crowd-sourcing’ platform (not real crowd-sourcing, but sort of like a freelance cloud group) for creative and strategic… and (imho) failing badly at it but pointing to the internet being more than Amazon or Zappos and Netflix…

    don’t get me wrong, i enjoy your insights into whatever topics you bring to your table, and i agree: it’s your table. just a more varied menu might be refreshing from time to time… only my opinion

  • ken segall

    Actually, the Victors & Spoils thing is one I’ve been playing with. I’m always amazed how the industry snaps from one direction to the next, when it’s obvious that crowd-sourcing is just another tool we can use among many. I remain 50% thankful for your suggestions…

  • interestingly, Victors and Spoils just shut down the ability to post comments about whatever they write about… i guess the crowd wasn’t too warm and fuzzy on their idea of a new business model…

    last week they posted an assignment open to all where you could download the brief, a pdf form of NDA and corporate artwork. the client was Dish TV and the assignment was to redesign their vans. they were awarding 5 top prizes of $2500 each to the ‘winners’… everyone else? thanks for the files…

    i wonder how Dish TV felt about their assets being distributed to anyone with access to the site and that begs the control and process questions regarding this agencies approach…

  • eugene

    Can you two get a room or something?