Dell and the Art of Spinning Business Decisions

Dell has recently announced a new partnership with the WPP marketing company. The post on the Direct2Dell blog leads me to believe that Dell is spinning a run-of-the-mill business decision into some sort of ground-breaking partnership. Casey Jones is quoted to say:

Instead of dating 800 agencies, we are creating a partnership with one firm. We want our partner to spend 100% of their time thinking about our customers, rather than how they will get the next assignment.

It may appear that with this partnership Dell will be able to replace the complexity of 800 agencies with the simplicity of only having to deal with one agency but that would be incorrect. With this partnership, Dell is merely pushing away the complexity of marketing on a global scale behind an organizational entity called “WPP”. It may be that WPP is better equipped than Dell with managing that complexity and it may be that by letting WPP handling all of Dell’s marketing, the overall complexity will be reduced but it is not going to be reduced by a factor of 800. I have for evidence the following passage in the post:

We will empower our new agency to handle all subcontracting relationships with talented professionals and firms who want to work with Dell. They will be encouraged to join our Da Vinci team.

The hundreds of marketing agencies Dell is currently dealing with are going to be handled by this new Da Vinci partnership between Dell and WPP but the complexity of hundreds of agencies is not going to disappear.

And then there are the content-free statements:

The agency will be charged with building shareholder value via programs that are centered on “creativity with a business purpose”.

Ok, by opposition to what? Are there any divisions of Dell or partners of Dell that are not supposed to be “building shareholder value”? True, Dell’s partners have for mission to build value for their own shareholders but Dell entered in a partnership with them because the executives at Dell believed that it would help build value for Dell’s own shareholders. Which publicly traded business would say that they don’t center on creativity or that they engage in activities that have no business purpose? Basically, the statement I quote above could be uttered by the PR firm of just any publicly traded business. It is a given. Stating it does not convey any new information.

We want Dell’s agency to be the agency of choice for the most talented people in the world.

Again, by opposition to what? Are there publicly traded companies out there that will say “we want our company to be the company of choice for mediocre people?” Really? All companies want the best. Whether they can get what they want depends on the compensation packages they come up with and what kind of working environment they are able to nurture, everything else is just hot air. (About a dozen Dilbert strips are flashing through my mind as I write these lines.)

Here’s a gem:

One great team at WPP to match up with our team, so we can create magic together.

There’s a business plan: “create magic”. We’ll synergetically utilize leprechauns to produce unicorns while leveraging the power of imps and elves.

Don’t get me wrong. The executives at Dell probably had a good reason to do what they did but the spin they put on it sounds hollow. I owned a total of four laptops: 3 of them Dells and the last one a Sager NP2090. I’m not seeing anything substantial in the Da Vinci deal that would lead me to think that Dell is going to win me back as a customer. Quite the contrary, the hollowness of their announcement reminds me of how another company, Palm, has gradually devolved into a company emphasizing hype over substance. Is Dell following in Palm’s steps?

One thought on “Dell and the Art of Spinning Business Decisions

  1. Bob Pearson

    We plan to have the new agency operational by March 1, 2008. Meanwhile, we continue to move full speed on our key initiatives. Give us a chance to show how this model will be different. We will be integrating the voice of the 5 million customers we speak with everyday into all we do.

    Regarding the complexity, we have 869 agencies today. With Da Vinci, we will create one agency with one P&L. Our belief is that this makes a lot more sense, since we want our agency to spend 100% of their time focused on the customer, not on pitching us the next project or trying to ensure they keep the business. All the best, Bob Pearson

    Reply

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