Dec 09

Serial proliferator strikes again

You just might find your ideal laptop at Dell

You just might find your ideal laptop at Dell

Just when I was ready to give Dell a rest, comes another irresistible press release. Hey, I’m only human.

This week Dell announced the new, “ultra-portable” Vostro V13 laptop. It will fit well alongside the ultra-portable Adamo, the ultra-portable Latitude Z, the ultra-portable XPS M1330 and a few other ultras that no doubt lurk below the surface at Dell.com.

Again, nothing wrong with choice. There’s something terribly wrong with a product lineup so confusing that customers spend their time pondering instead of buying.

Is this more of an industry thing than a Dell thing? Nope. See how many models pop up on the first results page when you Google “[brand] thin laptop”: Dell 5, HP 2, Acer and Apple 1 each. (Note that HP and Acer both outsell Dell.)

Imagine if you’re a customer going to Dell.com with money burning a hole in your pocket. Enter “thin computer” into the home page search field. You get 26 models spread over six pages of results. Including two models from Wyse, whoever that is.

For personal attention, I started a live chat with a Dell rep. I said I wanted a thin laptop but was a little confused by the models. “Let me solve your confusion,” the rep confidently replied. With very little info about my needs, he recommended Inspiron. When I asked about Latitude, he explained, “Latitude is for business, Inspiron is for home.” Hmm, I’d use it for both. So what’s XPS, I asked. “That’s for higher performance.” Oh. I wanted that too. Somehow, the final recommendation was Adamo. If they can’t create a coherent product line, you’d hope they could at least create a coherent story.

Okay, I’m finished now. Until Dell taunts me with another of their provocative news releases.

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  • i don’t about you, but i want the Ultra Extreme Premium… nothing says “today” like a netbook.

    it’s now, it’s happening, it’s today, Unger!!!!

  • Hahaha… great post. Let’s not forget about the printer lineup from HP (and other printer manufacturers). Completely undecipherable jargon of numbers and names.

  • Liebman

    Bravo. This is investigative journalism at its finest. I love that you engaged the sales rep, which demonstrates that even internally Dell is confused.

  • David

    I agree with you, but I think you are spending too much mental energy fretting about something you have no control over. If Dell wants to be dumb, let them.

  • ken segall

    I’m with ya. I actually just set up my new HP printer today. It took me the better part of two days to sort through all the model numbers. Incredible.

    I’ve been having difficulty locating things I do have control over. Suggestions welcome!

  • Hey Ken,

    Sorry if this is off topic for this post but thought you might want to take a look at this. I just saw the European Motorola Droid/Milestone ad and thought maybe you might enjoy the comparison to the US Droid ads.
    Anyway, here’s the European ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtNisSeihPE
    And the US ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9fXYQjwR0w

    I found the US ad way to boy racer for my taste and the European ad uninspiring and bland.

  • Cory


    Again, marketing confusion, by using two names for one product. We are in a global market now… no need to name a product differently in two English speaking regions – Apple has the iPhone…. one product… one name… and one consistent product image … and no confusion, the consumer just picks the memory size (and amount to spend) and they know what they’re getting.

  • David


    I’m a big fan of the Nike brand. I used to spend a lot of time getting riled about over how poor the design and quality of Adidas and Reebok’s athletic gear was. If you look at any replica NBA or NFL jersey these days, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The cut is awful and the quality of the fabric is pitiful. Back when Nike made pro jerseys, you could tell that they put a lot of effort into making the best product for the consumer.

    But then one day, I realized it was dumb to get mad at adidas and reebok. If they want to continue to emphasize profit over product and brand quality, so be it. I can just ignore them and not give them a single penny.

    Sometimes, it’s just not in a person’s blood to take pride in building something spectacular that they’re going to slap their name on (ex. DELL). But he’s a billionaire and you and I are not, so he can do what he wants.

    You, I and the rest of America will continue to flock to Apple and then MAYBE, Dell will finally change his tune on the kind of brand he wants to build.

  • ken segall

    Clearly it is not in Dell’s DNA to do what many of us think they’d be better off doing. I don’t expect them to change, nor do I care if they change. In fact, I kind of like them just the way they are. They illuminate a lot of interesting topics for those of us who make a living in marketing — and the whole idea of this blog is to talk about such things. It not only provides some amusement (hopefully), but just might help us guide our clients toward a simpler, more lovable and more profitable direction.