Monday, November 7, 2011

Building the Big Tech Brand: Dell and Xerox

The last two years have been hard times for tech marketers: there has been major pressure to transform execution, coupled with a significant reduction in the rate of budget growth. This is truly the "We are being asked to do more, with less" situation that marketers casually complain about. But this time, it is reality.

Despite the headwinds, I have been very impressed with the major brand campaigns that Dell and Xerox have been able to execute.

Both Dell and Xerox have spent billions for a major make-over of their product portfolios: acquiring and developing significant Services and Software capabilities. So much has changed at these companies that the brand perception no longer matches the product reality.

Brand perception simplified is: "What do you think of, when you think of Dell?" And, "What do you think of, when you think of Xerox?". When I think "Dell", I think of several cardboard boxes of new PC gear lying in my driveway, fresh off the UPS truck. When I think "Xerox", I of course think "copiers".

Changing a company's brand perception is extremely difficult if not impossible. For how many years has our US auto industry been trying to change the negative brand perception for a now vastly improved product line? It has been, arguably, two decades. And still today, the brand perception does not yet square with the product reality.

If it doesn't square up, you have to make a big move. The CMO's of Dell and Xerox really had no choice but to undertake a major brand re-fresh and re-vamp. They needed to have brand perception start to match the product reality.

I am impressed by several factors in their execution:

1) The Dell and Xerox CMO's were successful because they presented their case as not a marketing issue, but a company issue.

2) These marketers created the budgets necessary to start the Big job. Major shifts require major monies. Having studied marketing budgets for so long I am convinced there is just no way to do this by shifting around the marketing mix of the run-rate budget envelope.

3) They were able to do this during the time of a recession. With 20/20 hindsight: they get extra points for having a lot more marketplace "voice", during a time when so many other vendors were hunkered down, scared and quiet.

The era of the Big Tech Brand is coming.

Going forward, our IT Industry will be one of consolidation and scale. It will be a slower growth industry and so the marketing challenge will be one of competitive share gains in addition to new market growth. And perhaps most importantly, the merging or our Business IT with our Personal IT will favor the biggest and best brands -- as the power of consumer "pull" will become a major factor in the IT decision equation.

Think deeply about your brand!

Does it square with product reality?


  1. Thanks for acknowledging Xerox's efforts in this space, Rich. Brand marketing is often a tough sell for the tech marketer. We found that we needed to be crystal clear on ROI objectives. They're not immediate and they're not immediately quantified through more "box sales" like traditional demand-gen campaigns. We've spent considerable time educating internally on the power of brand and how brand perception influences purchasing decisions and drives advocacy. We found religion: starting with shifting internal perceptions is a step in the right direction to changing external ones. And, it truly is one step at a time.
    Christa Carone, @christabc

  2. Thanks Rich and team for recognizing our efforts here. Transforming our brand is a critical part of the evolution that Dell is on to be a true solutions provider, as we continue to invest billions in providing new services to our customers. Marketing has to be about enabling every aspect of our business – from Sales to Operations to our amazing Support teams, all critical components of our brand. Great brands, like Dell, are built on the strength of an internal belief in the brand and a passion for measurement. These two factors make it a ton easier to shift spend to where our customers are and where the best ROI lives.

  3. We are in a tech era where Branding is very critical for corporations and consumers. The end customers in most cases are going to be loyal to the Brand they prefer. By expanding on a great portfolio of products and services that meet the demands of a ever changing technology environment, IT companies will remain competitive in a very tight market. Successful transformations are not easy but when done correctly, it changes the culture.