Dell thinks direct again in latest global ad push

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Dell Computer Corp. will tout the benefits of the direct sales model as the company readies the second phase of a global brand push slated to launch by early November.

The effort marks the technology marketer's return to the direct message after flagging its Internet infrastructure services for businesses including Web hosting, servers and storage as part of its DellEcommerce initiative (AA, March 13). The "E" campaign, by BBDO Worldwide, New York, continues, but the message will return Dell to its roots in direct-to-customer sales, according to Scott Helbing, VP-global brand strategy at Dell.

POSITIONING DELL

The initial phase of the "E" effort, estimated at $15 million to $20 million, sought to position Dell as an Internet company and leading provider of e-business services. The campaign introduced a new tagline, "Dell. It's how `e' works," to create the association between Dell's expertise in direct sales and its capabilities as an Internet business partner. The effort, which continues to run on TV and in print, has received "pretty decent recognition," Mr. Helbing said. Dell will attempt to specifically reference customer benefits of the direct model in the effort's next phase.

A budget has not been finalized, but earlier this year the company projected total spending on the North American portion of its global branding effort at $50 million.

"We're trying to pay off the benefits of the direct model -- you'll recognize them more tangibly," Mr. Helbing said, emphasizing that it means more than ordering online. Multiple approaches are under consideration, including customer testimonials.

"The challenge is to have a clear message [that] Dell's a player in a variety of spaces, and we need cohesive messages across divisions," Mr. Helbing said.

STIFF COMPETITION

Dell faces stiff competition in the Internet commerce solutions and services space from Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and other rivals. Compaq Computer Corp. this week is expected to launch a global image effort that in part will articulate an Internet solutions position.

Meanwhile, Dell continues to search for a chief marketing officer, according to people familiar with the situation. The company is said to be looking for a person who eventually will be capable of running a business-to-business division. Dell has been in a search mode for more than a year, but there's no word on candidates. The position is hard to fill given the company's business segment model, analysts said.

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