Nov 12

Creating buzz, Dell-style

John Gruber’s description of the new Dell XPS 12 was pretty darn good:

“It looks like a broken chair.”

Truth is, it also looks like a broken ad campaign. Not quite sure where to start with this one.

The headline of this poster is a tweet from one Christopher P. Boyd: “The Dell XPS 12 looks like a MacBook Air merged with an iPad.” This is funny in two ways.

First, that’s more like a product brief than a great quote. Second, who the hell is Christopher P. Boyd?

Turns out he’s a college kid with a blog containing one lone post and an About Page filled with WordPress placeholder text.

Apparently those credentials are good enough for Dell, who leaped at the opportunity to snag this important endorsement.

No, I didn’t make that up. And if you think Christopher is a little light in the credibility department, consider his more recent tweet:

That’s right. As recently as yesterday, Christopher has yet to even touch one of these things.

One would think it would be easy enough for Dell to get a colorful, gushing quote from a major technology site. But I guess not — because another airport poster has been showing up these days:

Says Seth Barton: “It remains one of the best transforming designs we’ve seen.”

Over at Expert Reviews, I read Mr. Barton’s full article. Unlike Christopher, he saw more than a photo of the computer. But not a whole lot more. His was a “brief hands-on” with a “pre-production model” at a computer show in Berlin.

Again I ask: how hard is it to get a rousing quote from a reputable site that’s actually spent some quality time with the machine? Certainly Dell has a few relationships in the business.

But that’s all marketing stuff. What about the device itself?

This hybrid idea is one that several PC makers are pursuing. Generally speaking, history shows that “two-in-one” concepts end up being somewhere between a novelty and a niche. Anyone remember the PowerBook Duo?

A convertible laptop/tablet does indeed combine two worlds. The problem is, it isn’t the best of either. According to Seth Barton, it’s a “fairly light” laptop and a tablet “with extra heft.”

Which is probably why better quotes were hard to come by.

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  • Scott

    Wow Ken, it amazes me how you find this stuff. Love it!

  • Dmitri

    Ken, I have a theory about how stuff like this sometimes happens, and I’d love your take.

    When I see something this WRONG happen, I find myself thinking, “this was probably the decision of one powerful person, surrounded by less-powerful people wishing they could change his/her mind.”

    Does that seem likely to you? Or is it really possible a whole org of people thought this was a great idea? or had they all just given up on quality?

  • ksegall

    It’s hard to say. Every organization is different. Unfortunately, it is indeed possible for a number of people to nod their heads in agreement as a bad idea moves through the approval chain. Quite often, the most powerful person only sees it at the end of the process. In those cases, that person is the last hope for good sense to prevail.

  • Robroberts

    As usual, Dell manages to fnd the bottom of the marketing barrel. Those quotes are abusive, and have about as much credibility as Mitt Romney’s out of context pandering with the “You didn’t build that” line. I guess its no surprise that a vendor of subpar products also features subpar marketing.

  • Dmitri

    Thank you for your reply, Ken. I appreciate it.

    I guess this is part of why it’s so hard for a large organization to do anything well.

  • nuthinking

    Poor me that I thought mentioning competitor’s products as good reference, as Gruber pointed out, was enough of a blow. I would also argue how many average people know what a MacBook Air is, ’cause I don’t think the savvy crowd would go for such monster.

  • nuthinking

    Next time I see a new car I like I will tweet it looks like a Ferrari merged with a Ducati. Maybe I’ll get a discount! ;)

  • Too cool Ken. You’re like an investigative reporter of advertising. Totally awesome findings. Dell is very disappointing.

  • Greg

    This has Michael Dell written all over it. Just another piece of his turnaround plan.

  • TomCross

    It was a cheap shot to get to use 2 apple product names legally, dell was able to reach the misinformed (how tiny is that niche?) and CB got 15 minutes of fame that haven’t aired yet. LOL.

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