Dell's transformation

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This month Steve Felice, Dell's former president of consumer, small and medium business, will take over as president and chief commercial officer. In his new role he will be responsible for all four customer business segments and will be charged with unifying the sales and marketing organizations. Quintos, who oversees more than 4,000 marketers, will also add the four divisions to her various responsibilities and she will join Felice's leadership team to oversee all go-to-market activities for the segments.

“Marketing has to be an integrated function, not just within marketing but also within sales,” Quintos said. “So we spend a lot of time developing capabilities, on working through process with our internal teams … so that marketing is seen to be an integrated function across the company.”

The push for integration extends to Dell's advertising agencies. Sixteen months after Dell signed a three-year, $4.5 billion contract with holding company WPP in Dec. 2007 to create Enfatico — a standalone agency dedicated to Dell — it was folded into WPP agency Y&R. Four months later, Dell splintered its agency work, hiring three shops to support global brand agency of record Y&R. Dell tapped Arnold Worldwide's Boston office for SMB and Sid Lee for consumer.

Shelley Diamond, Y&R's worldwide managing partner for the Dell account, told Direct Marketing News that Dell made clear during the agencies' pitch process that it was the alpha dog. Not only did Dell stress to prospective agencies that Y&R was to remain the brand agency, Diamond said, but it informed the firms that they would not be pitching their own strategy for Dell's marketing. In fact, she recalled, Dell briefed the agencies on “The Power to Do More.”

Diamond admitted to some initial reservations about sharing the account, but she said Dell never failed to assert itself in the new dynamic. In keeping with the client's expectation that its agencies cooperate with one another, the firms organize quarterly interagency council meetings. At those meetings, which Dell does not attend, the agencies “share best-in-class creative, what's working, what's not, any new research we've seen, any new trends,” said George Pace, Arnold Worldwide's EVP and global brand director on the Dell account.

In addition, the digital elements one would expect from a company trying to bill itself as a technology services provider, Dell sends more than one billion pieces of direct mail annually to customers and prospects around the world. All four business segments use direct mail to promote white papers, product and solutions news, deals, offers and events, among other things. Creative work is handled by BDM, Arnold, and Sid Lee, and activation is handled by Enfatico primarily.

But integration remains a core aspect of the company's approach. As if to underscore this philosophy, Dell's public and large enterprise division (PLE) will launch a campaign during the first quarter to promote the rollout of its twelfth generation of servers. However, that campaign won't only have the PLE fingerprints on it; Dell also involved its SMB team throughout the campaign's development, starting at the creative and product briefing levels, with all sides sharing ideas and collaborating on visuals, specific messaging and even media guidelines.

“It's a major launch for us, and it surrounds our whole enterprise push,” Fujioka said.

Crawling, walking, running

Dell met Customer 2.0 the hard way. During the mid-2000s Dell repeatedly came under fire for shoddy customer service. The assaults mounted across the Internet, but arguably none were more relentless than those from City University of New York journalism professor and “Public Parts” author Jeff Jarvis, who criticized Dell in viral-before-viral blog posts and articles.

Jarvis lambasted Dell in a series of posts titled “Dell Hell,” detailing his frustration with a Dell PC and the company's deficient customer service.

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