After the Apple iPad, stand by for the Dell Streak

If people had problems with the name of Apple’s iPad, they are going to have a high old time with Dell’s entry into the touch screen tablet market.

Engadget has posted two slides from an internal Dell document that purports show color options, sizes and the new name for the tablet referred to as “Streak”.

Streak is troubling for a couple of reasons. By definition, a streak is a line, mark or smear. Apart from the open invitation it offers to toilet humorists, Streak is a hard name to love if it is anything more than a code name. More problematically for Dell, it is yet another ‘brand’ that has to fight for attention alongside OptiPlex, Vostro, n Series, Latitude, Precision, PowerEdge, PowerVault, PowerConnect EqualLogic, Inspiron, Studio, Studio XPS, Alienware and the pretentious Adamo.

For all the issues some people have with the iPad and Apple’s iNaming convention, at least it has a logic that helps you to understand the family of products within an Apple-centric system.

From Pampers to Pontiacs

Where is Dell going? Regrettably, the company seems to be heading down the same P&G-style consumer product branding path that Ron Zarella pursued a few years ago at GM at the behest of his Board mentor, John Smale. A former chairman of Procter & Gamble, Smale hoped to introduce the marketing skills of the packaged-goods business to cars. What worked for Pampers will work for Pontiacs was the logic.

Zarella, president of GM North America, duly obliged and poured marketing money into individual vehicle models at the expense of the core ‘divisional’ brands (Pontiac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac).

No new dawn for Oldsmobile

He even went so far as ‘de-badging’ Oldsmobile cars and promoted models such as the Aurora as brands in their own right, removing all trace of Oldsmobile on the vehicle. The problem was you still had to walk into an Oldsmobile dealership to buy one, an experience not for the faint-hearted. It was sleight-of-hand brand marketing logic devoid of any consumer buying psychology.  An already weak brand was effectively killed by this strategy which provided another expensive lesson in why classic consumer branding techniques cannot be applied willy-nilly across different industries.

Dell should look to its brand laurels. As innovative as its products might be (and I’m not sure they are technically), Dell is not a product marketing company. I don’t think it knows what it is anymore, but this much is certain: Dell needs a strong brand under which it can introduce new products and a nomenclature strategy that supports the brand. Fighting a war of product brands in now obligatory bright colors is killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

2 thoughts on “After the Apple iPad, stand by for the Dell Streak

  1. Walter Ellis

    But what if it should turn out to the the Winning Streak?

    I am reminded of the scene in The Birdcage in which the nightclub owner, played by Robin Williams, is tutoring his gay partner, played by Nathan Lane, in the ways of straight men. He shows him how to butter toast. Men don’t dab on the butter, he says, men s-m-e-a-r.

    Yesterday, my wife and I were shown by our niece and her pal how to operate the iPhone and the Droid. I tried to look interested, but failed. I told them I would stick with my existing long-distance communication device, which I refer to affectionately as my “mobile”.

    Laugh? I thought they’d never start!

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