Dell the value brand

Dell in danger?  Dell going to hell?  Well, not quite the second one, but the once darling of the industry that grew into a giant is struggling whilst Apple continue to rise like a designer phoenix from the flames.  The jack-of-all-printers company: HP, is now the number 1 seller of PCs and the likes of Acer and Asus chomp away at the global market like a fat kid with a hot apple pie.

There’s always the issue of service, but remember that as a direct company not having the luxury of face to face contact with its’ customers is a major disadvantage.  Traditionally, the product designs have been very “utilitarian” but this is being addressed with their new range of lifestyle products.  Marketing and advertising has it’s limitations as cynics keep pointing out, but product design and service is not where marketing and advertising can make the biggest impacts.  Sure, market research has helped Dell to design better laptops, and telling people about the added services that Dell can provide on top of PCs does help the cause.  But for something with a bit more real impact immediately …

Firstly, Dell’s not dead, it stopped evolving for a while (especially in the looks department) and is now trying to play catch-up.  Good value PCs that were reliable with good specifications used to be good enough for people.  This is where Dell excelled, offering pretty good prices on PCs that you could spec yourself and build the perfect PC.

For the geek in us, configurating a PC on Dell’s website was actually quite fun.  Dude you got a Dell!  The speed of a processor and size of the hard drive became bragging rights for rich kids with Dells speced up to the max.  Yet poor kid could also get a Dell in it’s more basic configuration.  So value for money and the ability to build your “perfect PC” were two winning factors, supported by the cost-effective direct model.  (Or maybe those two factors are actually linked and underline what value was all about in the earlier days of the PC industry).

So Dell are good value and do good deals, but no need to tell people everyday in the newspaper, every week by email and every month via a printed catalogue.  Maybe there is a need (??!) but I find that the 6th consecutive chocolate bar never tastes as good as the first, sickening in fact.  Some basics to stop getting even fatter and maybe a little fitter too:

1.  Have the courtesy to not speak to people as if its the first time everytime

What was the last piece of communication received?  This is should affect: (i) the earliest another direct communication should be sent and received (ii) what the next communication should contain.  Continuously asking a girl at a bar “will you go out with me” is not likely to get you progressively better responses, most likely the opposite.  Save your energy for another time or another girl.  However if the girl starts talking back and keeps “accidentally” brushing your arm isn’t it time to turn it up a level?

2.  Stop being so desperate and create a sense of desire.

As well as reducing the amount of repetitive communications, stop promoting the cheapest products in the adverts.  Make Dell cool again and desirable with showcase products like the XPS and Precision.  Being pulled is often much more pleasurable than doing the pulling.  Make them come and they can always buy an Inspiron if they don’t quite have enough cash at the checkout.  Getting people in the mood is often the hardest part.

3.  Just make it clear for us all

Those different “special deals” advertised every week fool nobody, and get less special with each viewing.  Just make it the standard price and standardize pricing across all communications to be the TOTAL TOTAL price (exc. vat for businesses).  Automatically find the best deal for that model, don’t treat people like a schmuck and make them search 5 pages of the site for the best deal!  Finally, sort out the configurator on the website and let non-geeks have as much fun speccing up a Dell as geeks.

4.  Re-do the maths on an online/PDF catalogue versus a monthly printed catalogue.

How many months/years would it really take to recoup the cost of implementing this?  Even so, where does Dell want to be in 10 years time when the issue of recycling and environmentalism is even bigger?  I’m not usually one for PR but what a great green activity if Dell saved tonnes of trees by not physically printing even one tenth of what it currently does.  Actually the real reason is to collect data!  Knowing what products browsers clicked on; how long browsers spent on each page – all excellent stuff for a big corporate machine.

Did Dell stop listening to its customers and the environment?  Whilst IT geek culture and mainstream culture met and mingled in the late 1990s Dell weren’t there with R&D or design, but with the product launches in the past few years Dell seem to be hearing again.  They just need to listen a bit more carefully to the peope they are shouting at and not scare them off just as it starts to get more desirable again.

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