Published on: June 17, 2009by Kate McMahon
Content Guy’s Note: Kate’s BlogBeat is a new ingredient in the MorningNewsBeat stew – a regular look at what people are talking about on the Internet, and how it impacts the conduct of business by retailers and manufacturers.
Call it “the Della debacle” – the latest example of blogosphere outrage forcing a company to quickly remedy an online marketing blunder.
It is still mind-boggling that Dell Computer created the Della in question, a short-lived area on Dell’s website entitled “What Do Women Want In A Laptop?” Well, gee, gals. How about pretty pastel cases and nifty “tech tips” on using your new laptop to count carbs and calories, search recipes, watch fitness videos and shop for vintage clothing?
I am not making this up. (I probably couldn’t make this up.) The pitch for Dell’s Inspiron Mini 10 netbooks was straight out of the Ozzie and Harriet 1950’s…and the online response – mostly from women, but also from men – was fast and furious. It condemned the Della campaign as “demeaning,” “sexist,” and “insulting.” In Twitter talk, it was described as “the new website 4 women who r 2 stupid 2 go 2 sell.com.”
For anyone who thinks that the criticism was confined to a small network of angry bloggers, or that the comments vanished into cyberspace, think again. That is why this case drives home three key lessons about the power of online networking…lessons that apply to retailers, manufacturers and service providers everywhere.
Lesson # 1: Speed. Dell had no sooner launched Della than the backlash hit. Give Dell some credit for damage control; the computer maker quickly deleted any references to Della on its site, removed the photo of the three women wearing sweaters in colors that matched their laptops (no joke), and toned down the offensive “tech tips.” Dell added, “There was obviously no intent to stereotype or otherwise offend anyone.” And, “There’s less pink. We are listening.”
Lesson # 2: Control. If you open your site to feedback and blog posts, you cannot control the substance nor hit “delete” after 24 hours. Some of the comments will sting, and all of them will stick. Even today, dell’s own site Direct2Dell, is still home to Della feedback such as “epic fail” and “truly offensive.” And then there are the rest of the blogs, including one post proposing “Dello” for men with “tech tips” on how to stream porn and read sports scores on the small screen.
Lesson # 3: Connection. Online social networking has changed the relationship between companies and consumers, and this holds true whether you are selling laptops, laundry detergent, blue jeans or coffee beans. The days of launching a product with traditional media and awaiting the results are over. Consumers are no longer content to just vote with their wallets. They want a dialogue, a connection, a relationship.
What do I think women want in a laptop? Well, I would suggest to Dell that we want one that is fast, reliable and well-priced. Just like a man.
And they can keep the pink.
Kate McMahon can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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