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Why Agility in Marketing Is More Relevant than Ever: A Conversation with Dell and Cadent

By Cadent Staff
07/27/20 5 MIN READ
Jamie Power, Chief Data Officer, Cadent
Liz Matthews, SVP of Global Brand, Consumer and Small Business Creative & Experiential, Dell Technologies

Liz Matthews, SVP of Global Brand, Consumer and Small Business Creative & Experiential, Dell Technologies, and Jamie Power, Chief Data Officer, Cadent, recently took part in a Brand Innovators Women in Marketing Livecast Series, and their discussion touched upon several important aspects of marketing in an age of pandemic.

Read a synopsis of their conversation below, covering agility in marketing; meeting customers wherever their needs are; and being an effective leader to teams during difficult times. 

The following has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Jamie: You’ve been called the trailblazer. Could you share with us a little about your role at Dell and the journey getting there?

Liz: Absolutely. I started my career with Johnson and Johnson. I’ve always had a love of human behavior, so I haven’t always done marketing. I did sales, I did training and development, I did HR and I’ve probably done every type of marketing. 

One of the reasons that I just fell in love with brands was this idea that I think they’re the soul of companies. There’s so much you can do by being connected to them. And it’s personal and passionate, and it requires energy to move them forward. And you have to listen. Through all the different types of marketing and all the different roles I had in my career, I gravitated to this one because it’s probably the closest connection that I feel to being human.

Jamie: You’ve described brands as living, breathing entities because they’re fundamentally made up of people. With what the world is like today, how does that philosophy guide Dell through these times?

Liz: It’s such an interesting time, right? You’ve probably seen this so much in your every day, more and more the importance of authenticity. And how we show up as a brand is critical. And look, I do say brands are alive, I mean, for people, because we would not be here without the people in our company. And if they’re not bought into your purpose and they’re not bought into what you believe, and they’re not bought into what you’re doing, you have a very inauthentic brand. And more than ever before, ever, ever people can see through that. Generations of people that, in just seconds, can see through that.

Especially during a pandemic, we have focused so much on making sure we’re telling our story internally, just as much as externally. 

We pivoted quickly to idea of “we’re here to help” and focused on being authentic to who we are around being a technology brand and how people can use technology during this time. And in many cases from consumers to business owners from laptops to how people were shifting their business, became a really important story for us.

Jamie: Did that effort help the authenticity of the brand and getting the new messaging out?

Liz: It  did. This brought about just an incredibly, almost human transformation of our company. We talked about digital transformation. We’re going to talk about the digital transformation marketing is going through and how rapid it is. But we believe a product [inaudible 00:06:35] transformation, and a kinder, gentler, more patient, more understanding, listening culture because everyone was going through something. 

If you show up for your team members that way, and you let them know you care, you can’t help but transition that externally. So, the same idea that we were flowing through our team members, which is we’re here to help, absolutely was coming out externally.

Jamie: Can you talk about the transformation or the evolution that you’ve kind of led over the last five years?

Liz: Dell has been around for a long time. It’s actually a 36 year old company… Through a large acquisition and bringing together a number of different technology pieces, we created a completely new company. And when you do that, you have to hold a mirror up to yourself. You have no choice, but to say, “Hey, is this the opportunity to do things different and how do we want to show up as Dell Technologies?”. What do we want to stand for, our purpose? What do team members tell us they want to be? And what are, most importantly, our customers expecting from us?

And so we went through that really robust process to try to transition, and we’re still in that process, Jamie. Transitioning from being known as only selling PCs, to be really being, an essential technology company. 

Jamie: As a marketing leader, how are you helping your team avoid burnout?

Liz: I’ll tell you, never in my career have I sent emails about mental health and mental wellbeing and self care. And that becomes everyday conversations and part of our talk track. Honestly, if I’m not living it and showing it, then my team members won’t see that as an example. And so we’re very conscious about making sure leaders are modeling that behavior.

Jamie: How are you thinking about agility in your marketing?

Liz: The word agility gets used a lot, and it’s true – you have to move super fast. From a media perspective, I think like many women on this call, you have to understand where your consumers were going, how you were going to meet them with the information, and, with Dell Technologies, which is a tech brand, there’s a consumer piece, but there’s a pretty significant business to business component. We still had products we needed to launch, technology we needed to innovate on, to serve our customers during this time. 

Jamie: Can you talk about how your plans changed?

Liz: We pulled down media plans, we re-pivoted, we had agile teams and we’d meet in the morning and meet in the afternoons and think about, what is it that we’re trying to achieve based upon our business segments? Because our segments, while we’re out marketing to people, they do go to many different techniques, have different technology needs. 

We saw, like many, an increase in connected TV. We saw an increase in digital. We saw an increase in the need for more storytelling because people wanted to feel connected and wanted to feel good. At the same time, our big flagship event in Vegas was moved to the fall. So we launched that innovation in pieces, so we could target the audience that we wanted to hit with that message.

Jamie: How do you find the right moments to pivot? At what point do you shift more for consumer B2B focused messaging?

Liz: We’re at that process now and when you think about our tonal shift at the top for everything was really around here to help. And, and now it’s, this slightly tonal shift to we’re in this together, right? And making sure we’re focusing on the products, the services, the things that we have to offer customers during this time and making that really the focus. And in the fall, or even in the next year, it’s really going to be about being ready. How do you be ready for whatever comes next? How are we ready?

Jamie: Here’s a question from the audience: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

Liz: I would say when, when my team members get promoted. All the fancy stuff that we’ve done in our careers mean nothing unless I’ve brought people along in that journey and their careers have grown. If someone was promoted within Dell or has gone outside and their career has grown, if they’re growing, then I’ve done my job.

Watch the full interview below.

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