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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?

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