July 21, 2008

Gaping Void is talking to Dell about revamping their brand.

My comments :

Seems to me that it's the usual branding vs. commoditization problem. As long as Dell make commodities (PCs) they have no social object to hang a story around. We know what a PC is and what we want from it. Either Dell can give it to us as cheaply as possible or they can't.

If Dell want a social object / brand makeover they have to make products that are differentiated in a way worth talking about. With English Cut and Stormhoek you had a novel story : "a tailor / wine that blogs". With Dell, "a computer company that blogs" isn't going to fly.

Who's making a differentiated PC today? (Apart from Apple who are at a whole other level.) Basically Asus. They have great stories : a whole new form-factor, a whole new price, new technologies (solid state disks), Linux really making things cheaper, etc.

Dell used to have two good stories : "cheaper because we sell direct without dealers" and "you can customize on our web-site and our super-lean process will build to your design in a day". The first story is probably no-longer available. Doesn't *everybody* sell direct? The second seems to have gone AWOL.

"Customizability" could be an idea that Dell still owns. The right web-site, a cute user-interface, could turn computer shopping into an intensely personal Build-a-Bear kind of emotional experience. Dell could offer wider variety of peripherals, accessories etc. They could invest in and promote their supply-chain, gain green credentials through offering you the chance to build "low carbon footprint" PCs from local or lower-polluting sources. They could create an Etsy-like market for casemodders etc.

But they need to have *something* to tell a story about.

Update : what inspiration should Dell take from Nabaztag or Chumby or LiveScribe? The PC is becoming the Device Swarm. How does a traditional, "staid", clone-manufacturer engage with that? Buy the innovative start-ups? Try to make me-too copies? Partner with the originators to sell them with the site? Help foster an eco-system that includes them?
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