Dell reinvigorates marketing to tackle PC decline

Dell is tasking its marketers to find new ways of communicating to consumers and business customers beyond its traditional product catalogues and TV campaigns as it approaches what is reported to be the biggest buyout since the financial crisis in 2007 to mitigate the decline in PC sales.

Dell
Dell’s Heathrow T5 installation.

In the UK, Dell has appointed former LG consumer marketing director Stephen Gater to lead the new approach, which it hopes will boost its standing in the “bring your own device” market.He replaces James Griffiths, who has become Dell’s director of client business development in the UK, France and Germany.

Sarah Shields, Dell’s UK and Ireland general manager, says: “I’ve tasked my marketing team to find new ways of going out to market. Everyone recalls the Dell catalogue they get in the post or the product line-up ads in the newspapers and – while we will still keep them – we are also looking at what else we can try. Chucking money at a TV ad is easy, chucking money at a press ad is easy but the culture of this organisation at the moment is ‘let’s try something new’.”

An example of the “try something new” strategy is Dell’s experiential installation of its XPS range of Windows 8 laptops and tablets shaped like a world map at Heathrow Terminal 5’s business and departure lounge. It aims to target “fast forwards”: consumers who want the latest gadgets and tend to have high consumption rates on those devices because they use them both at home at work.

Shields says: “Experiential has been a ‘nice to do’ for us so far but it’s never really come into its own until we have an environment like Windows 8 where people can really play with [the software] on a touch screen. I was a little cynical at first because [with experiential] it can be difficult to get that ROI across but it’s a really important part of introducing tech to a wary audience. The comparison people are making so far is with the Macbook and the quality and value really comes through.”

The activity is being amplified with a social media campaign and is set to be complemented later this month with a new above the line campaign, which Shields describes creatively as “stunning, off the wall [and] a new way of looking at things” – taking inspiration from its summer “Annie: the girl who could fly” spot.

Although Dell has also moved into the tablet space, PC sales account for 70 per cent of its revenue. Dell’s PC shipments fell 20.9 per cent year on year in the fourth quarter, losing ground to rivals such as HP and Lenovo whose sales were flat and up 8.2 per cent respectively, according to Gartner.

Private equity group Silver Lake Management is reported to be lining up a deal to take the company private and attempt to turnaround the company’s fortunes.

Shields says: “We have significantly changed as an organisation we’ve been very successful in doing that. We lost market share, yes, but we have intended to do so and we’ve been on a major acquisition trail. There’s an opportunity around bring your own device and the consumerisation of the enterprise. We’ve moved from a maker of PCs to a solutions led business.”

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