Michael Dell started Dell in 1984 as a computer business. And while its PC business continues to thrive, the company has expanded so that Dell is just one of seven brands that fall under the Dell Technologies umbrella.
“Dell Technologies is dedicated to providing best-in-class products, solutions, and services designed for the success of our customers and partners,” said Liz Matthews, SVP of global brand and creative, who is responsible for driving the Dell Technologies brand globally through advertising, messaging, creative, and voice and visual identity, while also igniting Dell’s purpose internally.
CMO.com spoke with Matthews, a member of the Ad Council board, to learn more about the new business and related campaign launch. She also shared her digital transformation insights.
CMO.com: Tell us about your business and marketing journey before you came to Dell. What were the big lessons you brought with you from large global brands and startups?
Matthews: I fell in love with marketing when I was at J&J in product marketing. I then moved to positions at Silicon Valley and Austin-based high-tech companies in marketing. I was recruited from Sun Microsystems to Dell into the SMB and consumer division. I’ve worked in sales, the people department, training, but mostly in marketing. All of my functional roles had one thing in common: the study, belief, and love of human beings and the connections people have with other people, a product, a company, or a culture, and believing that my role somehow enabled that. I thrive on this, and this is where I deliver value. I firmly believe that when you have connections with people, the business financials follow.
I’ve learned a lot of leadership lessons along the way. The most important was when I worked for a startup in the late 1990s. I saw how people’s true character comes out during adversity. This really impacted me and formed a fundamental belief that it is not about you--it’s about the people around you. I’ve carried this belief since then.
CMO.com: How is Dell Technologies changing its approach to customer engagement?
Matthews: Dell’s purpose is to create technologies that drive human progress, and we are using this for the launch of Dell Technologies, which is the umbrella brand for a family of seven brands: Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal Software, RSA, SecureWorks, Virtustream, and VMware. We worked with Brand Union to develop the new brand visual identity. In our brand story, we say that we are large and small; we are open and integrated.
We have always been a data-driven company and have incredible insights on our customers. We have a customer heritage. We’ve seen a convergence of B2B and B2C. At the end of the day, people are your customers. How and where they consume information and the tech they use is blurring. We use different content and our tech stack to reach different B2B and B2C customers. The new Dell Technologies campaign, which is starting first in the U.S., is our latest example.
We use the traditional way of one-to-one or events [to reach customers]. In May, we had our Dell EMC World in Las Vegas, and then we take the show’s content on the road globally in a number of forums. We use one-to-many platforms, like webinars and digital content. This year with the launch of Dell Technologies, we are adding more ongoing B2B business decision maker thought leadership content with the “Perspectives” website and “Trailblazers” podcast with Walter Isaacson. ... In the future, you’ll see us showcasing content on VR and AR. Even though this technology started in gaming, we’ll show how they are being used in business use cases. We’re going to provide value with this content marketing.
CMO.com: Do you believe in brand storytelling?
Matthews: We absolutely believe in brand storytelling. As we’ve galvanized around becoming a purpose-driven brand, storytelling has helped us. Two years ago, we launched a campaign, called “Future Ready,” that told episodic stories with TV commercials of how technology enabled a little girl to get a new heart. It was told from different perspectives--the girl, the doctors--and how it all came together. We had great success with it.
We took this approach forward in our new campaign where we want to make a connection between Dell Technologies and our new family of brands. We’re calling it “Let’s Make It Real” to tell the stories of our customers. We won’t necessarily talk about us but rather the role that technology plays in their journey and how they are trying to digitally transform. We are launching with three customers: GE, Columbia Sportswear, Chitale Dairy.
Digital transformation is hard. It doesn’t happen with a push of a button or a wave of a wand. Our customers’ stories inspired us. This is how the idea of “magic doesn’t make digital transformation happen” came about. It takes hard work, people, partners--so let’s make it real.
CMO.com: What have you learned at Dell, and why is this learning important to fellow executives?
Matthews: Unequivocally, collaboration and being in service of your team and your peers is what will make success. I’ve seen this throughout my career. Also, the importance of listening, partnering, and being completely selfless will absolutely move things forward. The choices you make in your behaviors determine the outcomes. I also believe that creating positive energy is contagious and makes a difference.
CMO.com: What are the top three marketing principles you believe in that you think other digital transformation leaders should also practice?
Matthews: While data is rich and important, don’t ignore the art in the art and science of marketing. Many times great creative happens from intangibles. Sometimes you need to ignore the naysayers and the research. Use innate feelings. Take risks. If you fail, fail fast. Own it. Raise your hand and say why it failed, but here’s what we learned. I had a boss who once told me, “I’d rather have you take a swing and miss than not swing at all.”
Second, manage your energy like you manage your time. Energy is so fundamental to how people operate. It is often overlooked. Sometimes you give energy and sometimes you get it. If you are giving too much energy and don’t replenish it, you'll burn out. I look at my calendar with this lens to make sure I am balancing my time.
Third, be a servant. It is not about you. It is about the people around you. When your people, your peers, and other functions are happy and they perform, great things will happen.