Mar 12

Dell’s underpowered “power to do more”

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Guide provided a wealth of information about the cultures of countless planets. Yet Earth merited only a one-word entry: “Harmless.” (After further study, it was revised to be “Mostly harmless.”)

I’ve often borrowed this description in discussions of corporate theme lines. I believe that there are two kinds of theme lines: inspired and harmless.

Inspired lines capture the spirit of a company. They strike a chord with customers, forming a solid foundation for every ad to come. Like Nike’s old Just do it, or BMW’s The ultimate driving machine.

Harmless lines just sort of sit there. They don’t necessarily offend, but they certainly don’t inspire. They feel like they’ve been homogenized by a dozen committees, or echo thoughts you’ve heard a thousand times before. Like Dell’s The power to do more.

I itemized the many crimes of this theme line in an article back in June 2011, so I won’t repeat myself here.

Today, I’d just like to point out the real danger of harmless theme lines: they have a nasty habit of leading to harmless ads. Exhibit A: the video above, which Dell apparently believes will inspire its customers.

It begins innocently enough: “At Dell, we believe the power of technology is the power to do more. And we wanted to find out exactly what people want to do more of.”

(Might have been a good idea to find out before they picked that line.)

Following a series of stock-quality clips, we get a series of people telling us what they would do if they had the power to do more. These people aim high, with ideas like “make education available to everyone.” Some hold signs upon which they’ve scratched their ideas, like “save the pandas,” “feed the world” and “find an universal language.”

Say what? Find an universal language?

Hopefully her language will come with simpler rules

That’s right. Hoping to inspire us by capturing people’s dreams in two different cities, Dell ends up featuring someone who can’t even get the grammar right. Stunning.

Bad quality control aside, what does this video say about Dell? Absolutely nothing. It’s about as empty — and  as harmless — as the theme line it references.

If Dell is hoping to create a viral hit, it might start tempering expectations. This morning, 11 days after the video was uploaded, it’s now accumulated all of 369 views.

A video like this doesn’t enhance Dell’s image. However, it does an excellent job of reinforcing the image Dell already has: a company that could use a healthy shot of imagination.

Follow me on Twitter @ksegall. Visit my Facebook page for the latest on my book, Insanely Simple.

Tags: , ,

  • Dmitri

    Great post as usual Ken!

    Here’s a good explanation of “a vs an” and the exceptions (she is wrong, that’s for sure…)


  • Is it stuck at 369 views?

    DateEventViewsA03/13/12First referral from related video – Dell Precision T7500 Workstation4B03/10/12First referral from – kensegall.com3C03/09/12First referral from – facebook.com12D03/09/12First embedded on – facebook.com10E03/09/12First referral from – twitter.com5F03/08/12First embedded on – dell.com106G03/08/12First referral from a subscriber module55H03/08/12First view from a mobile device47I03/08/12First referral from related video6J03/08/12First referral from YouTube – /playlist?p=LL6EHtXp7WVLYJ1YU28VbXgA2

  • ksegall

    YouTube doesn’t update in real time. It was 200+ a few days earlier. I see a definite upward trajectory!

  • Wow! Dell is ending wars and world hunger, and finding a cure for cancer!

    How can anyone not love Dell for doing so much….

    … Oh, wait. They’re not actually doing those things in their advertising?

    Never mind. ;-)

  • nsw

    What you see in that ad are people who are excited because they get to see themselves up on the big screen.  The connection to anything Dell-related is, or course, non-existent.  This is made worse by the overly self-important voice over.

    Other than the sheer irrelevancy of the whole thing, I’m left mainly with two questions:
    1) Why “Find an universal language”?  Did they have so few pieces of footage that they had to use that?  Even at normal speed, it’s easy to see that and facepalm.
    2) “I would help people discover the true value of their data”?  That item stood in stark contrast to the other warm and fuzzy save-the-world ideas.  And he sounded like he was reading.  And seriously, who the hell talks like that?

  • Stephen Sonnenfeld

    Dell should exercise their power to do less.

  • ksegall

    Thanks for your item #2. Agree completely! That sounds either like a line requested by someone inside Dell, or the contribution of one very boring human being. (Or both!)

  • robroberts2009

    … And now Dell thinks it is going to release an “iPad Killer” … Good luck with that, Dell.