Dude, What Happened to Dell?



I was on a tech news sight recently and stumbled upon a review of a Dell laptop. It struck me how long it had been since I’ve heard or read anything related to Dell. Four or five years ago, Dell seemed to be everywhere. I would stumble upon many reviews in a week about Dell products. Today, it seems they’re giving us the silent treatment. Gone are the “dude, you’re getting a Dell” days. Back then it seemed Dell was doing well at combining PR successes with advertising support. They had a good ratio of product review editor’s choices and smart advertising. Perhaps they are still in the media as much. Perhaps they are doing plenty of TV spots too. But, I don’t notice it and I don’t think others are either.

Much of this is the iPhone / iPad effect – Apple has the ear of the media. Google does too. Dell is positioned as a PC business and it appears they are trying to change this. To argue whether we are really in a post-PC era or not is not for this post. But, certainly Dell needs to do something.

Practically Invisible
First, Dell should have enough resources – financial and staff – to not be so invisible. Many companies, particularly startups, believe PR is like a light switch. They believe they can turn it on and off at will. But, there is a problem with this practice. When you do PR you are indeed in the light of the media. When you’re not doing it, you’re in the dark. It is during this time that additional perceptions about you are being developed. Your silence breeds forgetfulness about your brand. When you are quiet, someone else is taking your mindshare. Consumers only have so many brands that can stay top of their mind. If you’re silent, your competition is given the opportunity to take some mind share. Yes, even in just a couple of months. Your silence allows competition to reposition you. As you turn off the PR light switch, the media focuses elsewhere. Stories develop the agenda of the tech world. And, your brand is not being included. Or, it is being included behind the scenes by your competition. They are positioning you in the market as unfavorable.

This is what Apple and Google have done to companies like Dell, HP and Microsoft.

Dude, Where’s Your ‘Surface’ Been?
Apple changed the industry with their iPod, then iPhone, and then iPad. Google stepped in and claimed the alternative choice to Apple with Android everywhere. Meanwhile, companies like Dell, HP and Microsoft let it happen. They were out-innovated. The results of Apple’s combination of continuous innovation with continuous PR are clear. The results of Google’s combination of continuous innovation and continuous PR are clear. Microsoft has finally decided to be bold with its innovations – Windows 8 and Surface. Its next step – in process – is to marry that innovation with powerful PR. The results of this marriage are pending and will start to unfold soon. Where is Dell’s ‘Surface’ – its innovation? There were attempts here and there, but nothing truly innovative. They were considered more like me-too products.

Dell needs way more than an upgrade to a Latitude or Inspiron laptop. It needs bold innovation. There was a time that its distribution channel was the darling of the industry. Its computers were among the best rated. Its PR was strong. It needs to find new innovation that can garner new breeds of editor’s choices for the company. Then, it needs to do the same – marry it with great PR.

Innovation waits for no one. Neither does market silence.