Into the Wild Wild Internet Frontier
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
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Into the Wild Wild Internet Frontier

. Dell’s promise – “We Know How E Works” – would be at the center of a new positioning and advertising initiative aimed at driving home its e-com expertise in helping customers achieve the promise of the next frontier of the Internet.

Paul Holmes

Throughout the 90s, Dell grabbed headlines and market share as it led the hyper-growth of the PC market with its breakout direct business model that yielded high-performance, made-to-order machines and stellar round-the-clock service and support.   But as the PC market began to mature, Michael Dell and team recognized that the company’s continued leadership and growth would depend on stepping out of the confines of the familiar PC box and into the vast, wide-open territory of the business Internet.  

This broadened focus was a perfect fit with and extension of the company’s direct business model founded on the inherent benefits that result when manufacturer and customer are able to connect directly, without a middleman.  After all, direct connections are what the Internet is all about.  Moreover, when it comes to e-commerce, Dell wrote the code, putting the Internet at the center of its own operations to transform virtually every aspect of its business.  Specifically, Dell created its own Internet infrastructure to deliver a world-class e-commerce site, integrated its operations on-line with suppliers for greater efficiencies, in addition to harnessing the Internet for better customer service and support.   

As word of Dell’s own new breakthroughs in e-commerce spread, the company set its sights on becoming the premier Internet infrastructure partner, providing the products and expertise to help customers get the most from e-commerce.  Dell’s promise – “We Know How E Works” – would be at the center of a new positioning and advertising initiative aimed at driving home its e-com expertise in helping customers achieve the promise of the next frontier of the Internet.  At the heart of making this strategy work would be gaining understanding and excitement among Dell’s more than 30,000 employees who would be needed to strongly support Dell’s new direction in their day-to-day jobs.  With the high-tech labor market particularly tight, the stakes for rallying employees behind this new focus would be especially high.  

RESEARCH

Industry research from Dell highlights the strong underlying case to be conveyed to employees in support of the company’s broadened focus from PC “boxes” to Internet infrastructure.  In 1999, 240 million people bought or sold goods or services over the Internet.  By 2003, 600 million people will be using e-commerce, and with every single “www” transaction, a server will be tapped to meet this demand.  With this usage trend in mind, global spending on Internet infrastructure is expected to reach $370 billion by 2003, with the majority of spending anticipated in server and storage products – areas in which Dell has focused increasing attention and resources in recent years.  With the industry’s fullest complement of products and services – from PCs to high-performance servers – Dell is in excellent position to offer customers the infrastructure they need to capitalize on the e-com explosion.

PLANNING

Since Dell’s Internet positioning was new to the company’s employee base, a comprehensive education and awareness campaign was needed to underscore the importance of this business focus and to gain employee support in executing the strategy at every point throughout Dell’s global operations.   In conjunction with the break of the company’s high-profile brand positioning campaign, the PR team planned an extensive communications initiative among worldwide employees to unveil its Internet strategy and new corporate signature – “Dell E com” – and to articulate the strategy to audiences across the globe.   But a more dynamic element would be needed to complement these activities – one that would bring employees face-to-face with the excitement and opportunities of Dell’s new direction.

OBJECTIVES

Build understanding of and excitement for Dell’s positioning as the premier provider of products and services for the Internet, and the critical role employees play in helping Dell succeed in this space.

Reinforce Dell’s winning corporate culture as a means of rallying employees behind the company’s e-com goals.

STRATEGIES

Use two-phase approach of 1) articulating and seeding strategy through the company’s communications channels and 2) bringing the strategy to life through all-employee event aimed at dimensionalizing the company’s positioning platform.  

Utilize “techno-West” theming and imagery to frame Dell’s mission as a company uniquely qualified to succeed in helping customers realize the true promises and riches of the next Internet frontier.

Position Dell as the original digital cowboy with the vision and know-how to leverage the Internet to transform business operations inside and out.

EXECUTION/TACTICS

Phase I -- Articulating the Strategy.  From the launch of the ad campaign in March and throughout the spring and summer months, Dell maintained a steady drum-beat of messaging in support of the new positioning:

All-employee emails and voice-mail messages from Michael Dell touted and explained the new strategy and signature, as did front-page articles on the company’s inside.Dell.com Web site and in the company’s hard-copy publication Dell Traveler.  Features also ran in Dell’s hard-copy publication for manufacturing employees, Dellocity, and in the corporate online publication NewsLine.

All-employee “E” Strategy Forums were held around the globe to enable managers to present the initiative to employees in their work groups and to discuss the role each group plays in supporting the mission.  

Splash screens featured the Dell E com signature, and all employees received “E” antenna balls for added fun and day-to-day awareness.  

Phase II -- Driving the Message Home – “Wild, Wild E” All-Employee Event.  To drive home and bring to life Dell’s exciting Internet infrastructure positioning for employees, Dell planned a high-energy stage-show event at the University of Texas entertainment complex designed to give workers a sense of the tremendous opportunities the company faces in this new era.  Through the theme, “Wild, Wild E!  Branding the Next Internet Frontier,” Dell framed its Internet leadership strategy as a bold and proprietary initiative that is opening whole new e-com opportunities for the company and its customers.  Like the opening of the Wild West, the next frontier of the Internet takes customers into new territory, promising great business riches that extend well beyond e-mail and Web sales that dominated the first frontier.  As the pioneer that mined this territory to transform its own business inside and out, this theming showcased Dell as the ideal guide to take enterprises into the next E-frontier.  Elements of the event – which were packaged (via videos, collateral materials, etc.) for use in other Dell international markets -- included:

Grand entrance by Michael Dell and senior executive “posse” in custom cowboy outfits

Arena-sized Western stage set

Live entertainment by Western band, the Derailers

Live and taped case history presentations by Dell E com customers (U.S. Navy, Nordstrom.com, etc.)

Business presentations by Dell senior executives highlighting the critical importance of Dell’s Internet leadership strategy

Recognition of employee teams that have made remarkable contributions to the company’s success in the e-com space thus far

Western themed videos highlighting Dell’s lead-horse positioning and poking fun of the company’s “villainous” competition

RESULTS

In on-line surveys with employees conducted immediately following the event, Dell proved the success and value of its communications.  Key findings include:

On a 1-5 scale (with 5 being highest), employee respondents rated the event and surrounding communications 4.23 for providing a sense of excitement about Dell’s direction and culture.

Employees reported taking away three key messages from the event and surrounding communications:

Dell’s goal is to be No. 1 in servers and storage and the premier Internet partner for customers around the world.

Dell has its strategy and plan for the future.  Now we need to execute.
Dell values its employees, and there is no other team Michael Dell would rather ride with into the “Wild, Wild E” than this group of employees.

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