The Global CMO Interview: Erin Mulligan Nelson, Dell

'Social Media Enables the Conversations to Happen Faster, More Globally'

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

YORK, Pa. ( -- Dell has been an aggressive technology marketer around the world for more than two decades, but recently the company changed its global point of view. Before a major reorganization 18 months ago, Dell was organized into three worldwide regions. Now the company is organized into four product divisions, and each one is global.

Erin Mulligan Nelson
Erin Mulligan Nelson
Erin Mulligan Nelson, senior VP-CMO, is leading the global marketing charge and helped launch the company's first global campaign under the new global viewpoint, a small and midsize business effort called "Take Your Own Path."

Dell reported global advertising costs of $619 million in the year ended January 2010, a figure that excludes co-op money provided in Intel Corp.'s Intel Inside program.

Ms. Nelson comes from a diverse worldwide background that includes stints at major package-goods companies, beverage makers and consulting firms. She is also an 11-year Dell veteran, most recently handling the marketing duties for Dell's business in Europe/Middle East/Asia, before taking the global CMO job in January 2009.

Ad Age: How do you now manage a unified message globally and across those four divisions?

Ms. Nelson: We've got one core brand strategy and brand architecture, and it centers around our purpose to deliver technology solutions that enable people everywhere to grow and thrive. It starts there, but then in each one of the business units we translate what that really means.

Ad Age: Have you changed the way you determine ROI, and how do you continue to manage and adjust your global marketing?

Ms. Nelson: As we start articulating a global brand strategy, we also want to measure how is the strength of our consideration doing, how is the strength of our understanding of our brand and what we stand for, doing. We've measured it before, but it hasn't been as globally relevant and as elevated as it is now.

Ad Age: What's your global ad agency structure?

Ms. Nelson: We work primarily with WPP and a "Team Dell" structure. We have 10 different global hubs where we have agency people for all our businesses.

Ad Age: How do you use social media to stay competitive globally?

Ms. Nelson: Social media is a critical lever for us. It's a great groundswell where you get people to have a conversation about your brand. That's more impactful than spending hundreds of millions of dollars just "talking" with ad campaigns. For a culture like ours built on a direct interaction with customers, social media is a natural outgrowth, but it enables the conversations to happen faster, more globally and probably more inclusively than ever before.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story inaccurately said Dell is organized into four product divisions. It is organized into four business units.

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