Dell’s da Vinci Marketing Code

The industry has been buzzing about Dell’s recent decision to create an integrated marketing and communications agency in partnership with WPP in a deal valued at $4.5 billion in agency billings over the first three years. (Disclosure: WPP owns my company, ZAAZ.)

The deal is a massive statement by Dell on the importance of coordinated, integrated marketing activities. A lot of people have focused on the big number: $4.5 billion. It represents opportunity and risk for a lot of organizations. Some people looked at the announcement and saw a new agency being created that will need 1,000 employees. I, however, zoomed in on one of the most important statements about marketing I’ve have seen in years.

Dell’s CMO, Mark Jarvis, wrote on Dell’s blog:

The importance of analytics– Improving shareholder value is the ultimate award for all of us to win. Yes, we don’t mind winning industry awards, but our customers and our shareholders are our focus, not what we can win in Cannes. A combination of great analytics and creative is key.

The CMO of one of the world’s largest corporations clearly gets it. Analytics isn’t something buried in a footnote in the largest agency selection process in decades; it’s front and center as a core component of the process. This is a wakeup call to everyone else in the industry: you’d better be able to marry your creative to analytics and create shareholder value (something I often refer to as ROI!). It’s not the awards that should be the focus, it’s the results.

In its announcement, Dell said it called the agency selection process “Project da Vinci” because it was looking for the “combination of artist and scientist — an agency that has both the creative horsepower and ability to measure the business impact of their work.” That sounds like something I’ve been saying for years to both clients and peers.

Because you probably can’t go out and find a new agency tomorrow (or if you are an agency, you can’t necessarily find a client as enlightened as Dell), it’s important to focus on what you can do to align yourself with the swelling wave of analytics rolling through the marketing universe.

First, send a Dell blog link to everyone on your team and to your agency. It can serve as a manifesto for change for any size company. The key attributes of accountability, measurability, and “creativity with a business purpose” should be relevant to every marketing manager, executive, and agency.

Next, think about your existing analytics infrastructure and how it reports on your programs. Are you improving shareholder value with everything you do? Can you easily demonstrate this if your CEO comes by the office later? Are you ensuring your creative team sees how its great work can be continuously improved through analytics and optimization? Spend your next staff meeting discussing these questions.

If you had to hire a new agency tomorrow, what would be your selection criteria? Integration of creativity and analytics should be at the top of your list. If you’re unsure how to determine that, check this column’s archives or drop me a note.

Jarvis makes another important point in his post:

The Internet revolution — When you have one billion people online and another one billion joining them over the next four years, it becomes very important for us to have the right analytics, the right team and the ability to build campaigns in days, rather than months.

“The ability to build campaigns in days” is a stunning phrase, especially in the context of 2 billion people online! If you can’t measure and optimize the campaigns you have now, how could you possibly meet the challenge of a competitor like Dell? Every business will move to an ongoing cycle of action based on analytics that can occur in days and possibly even hours. It’s not a question of how; the tools exist. It’s a question of how soon.

It’s not often we get to see the blueprint for the future laid before us. In this instance, it’s very clear that a sea change has happened and we must all pay heed. Agencies must reinvent themselves around analytics and ROI; clients must hold themselves accountable for the same.

Dell gets it and is willing to make the biggest bet possible. Are you?

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