Dell Inc.

Author:Candice Mancini

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1 Dell Way

Round Rock, Texas 78682-2222


Telephone: (512) 338-4400

Fax: (512) 283-6161

Web site:


In 2002 Dell Inc. experienced its first-ever yearly decline in net revenue. In 2001 sales hit $31.9 billion, but the next year they fell to $31.2 billion. The drop in sales coincided with an overall decline in computer sales worldwide, and the mail-in computer giant was far from doomed. Still, it was at this time that Dell shifted its advertising approach, introducing its "Dude, You're Getting a Dell" campaign in 2001. The advertisements starred Steven, a "surfer dude" teen, and were intended to attract high school and college students and their parents.

The Chicago office of ad agency DDB created the campaign, which consisted of approximately 20 television commercials that placed Steven in various scenarios in which he could promote the computer, using the ubiquitous tagline "Dude, you're getting a Dell." Such instances occurred during a high school graduation speech, in a college classroom, and during a computer-store sales pitch. Throughout the campaign Steven persistently promoted Dells in a way that appealed to teens and both charmed and annoyed adults. The "dude" became incredibly popular with TV viewers, prompting Dell, from 2000 through 2002, to spend a large portion of its $200 million annual advertising budget on the campaign.

Steven became an instant pop-culture icon. But sales, which had begun to decline in 2001, did not rebound in 2002, and some people at Dell wondered if the popular character was overshadowing the product. Dell and DDB therefore began preparations to move away from the "Dude" campaign by phasing Steven out in late 2002, replacing him with a group of fictional interns. "Dude" fans were outraged, but sales did not suffer. In fact Dell shipments increased by 25 percent in the quarter following the introduction of the intern ads. Sales continued to grow, and Dell more than rebounded from the losses it had experienced in 2002. By the end of 2003 annual revenue had grown past $40 billion, and it increased to nearly $50 billion the following year. Regardless of the effectiveness of the "Dude, You're Getting a Dell" campaign, however, the "dude" was regarded as one of the most memorable figures in the history of advertising.


Michael Dell began working with computers at age 15, when he took apart a brand-new Apple computer to see if he could rebuild it. He could. In the 1980s Dell began rebuilding and selling computers from his University of Texas at Austin dorm room, naming his company PCs

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A still from Dell's "Dude. You're Getting A Dell" television campaign featuring Steven, the Dell "dude." DDB/Needham, Chicago. Reproduced by Permission. Limited. In 1985 the company developed its own computer, the Turbo PC, which was advertised for direct sale in national computer magazines. Consumers were attracted by the low prices, so much so that the company grossed $6 million in its first year of business. In 1987 PCs Limited changed its name to Dell Computer Corporation, and in 1992 Fortune magazine listed Dell as one of the world's 500 largest companies. Sales climbed dramatically, giving even the century-old IBM something to worry about. Within a decade Dell had become the largest seller of personal computers in the United States. It lost that spot to Hewlett-Packard in 2002 but regained it within a year. In subsequent years the two continued to battle for the number one spot

Dell's concentration remained on direct sales even as it moved away from relying solely on its mail-order catalog to reach customers. During the shift Dell used larger and larger advertising campaigns to promote its products and its direct sales...

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