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?
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.