A conversation with Dell Technologies’ Rachael Henke
Rachael Henke’s short title is just “brand” at Dell Technologies. Her formal title is long, but it’s a big job, for a big company: Director of Global Brand Advertising Content and Customer Engagement Storytelling. That means, per Henke, “everything we do — the purpose — ultimately is to elevate the brand.” While most everyone has heard of “Dell,” her job is to ensure everyone knows the larger entity – created from the merger with EMC some three years ago — is actually “Dell Technologies” and that it’s gone from primarily computers to being “an end to end essential technology partner”.
By E.B. Moss
While computers are, as Henke says, “still a very critical part of our business, we … really want to focus [on the] B2B space, really showing how we are embracing and driving innovation and emerging technologies across areas like cloud storage and AI.” For Henke, that means that while being part of the brand team for a 150,000-person global company is impressive enough, she’s also, necessarily, a woman who can use “hyperconverged infrastructure solutions” in a sentence. But it’s still a human-oriented brand, evidenced from top-down actions like Michael Dell donating $100 million dollars to pro social initiatives during our current COVID-19 crisis. So, in Episode 6 of Insider Interviews, Henke explains how her team approaches brand storytelling – turning complicated offerings into human-oriented content.
Here’s a topline of our conversation, edited for clarity:
“Every day is different.”
Henke’s days involve “conversations about what products are going to launch… to how we’re selling what we need today in order to prepare ourselves and our customers for tomorrow … and how that will turn into the vision of our company and where we’re going… a lot of conversations around messaging and … we talk to a lot of customers to understand how our technology gets used to transform their businesses.”
Applying the Conversations to the Content
A recent series of spots that take the figurative (“is your business going in circles?”) and make it literal, with spokesperson/actor Jeffrey Wright then going in circles and upstairs and coming back to the starting point; or literal clouds filling an office having too many cloud computing options. Henke says their B2B brand campaign aims to showcase how they deliver on solutions such as cloud and unified workspace, and what is innovative. “So we’ll work really closely with the cloud team in coming up with the messaging,” she explains, “and connecting that solution to work for the field too, so we’re working hand in hand, not only from providing that creative umbrella but having that open up the door for sales teams, the demand gen creation team, to really go in and deliver on that.”
Henke and her teammates also interface with the consumer marketing teams in order to connect the work” so that if there’s a consumer campaign that works really well, it provides lift to our business side as well.” That applies to small business as well, “which has always been a core part of Dell Technologies, and as the company has grown, we’ve never lost that small business spirit. And I will say,” Henke continues, “Michael Dell is an entrepreneur at heart … so even right now when small business is really struggling, we’ve actually doubled down in understanding how we can support them. … Dell Technologies advisors are now all working from home but still supporting small business, and that productivity has not decreased at all.”
In fact, the small business division worked with MediaCom and audio company Entercom to create the first ever virtual podcast conference — The PodFerence – for the month of May.
“When you look at the podcast landscape it’s really confusing when you dive into it, because where do you start? There’s so much out there. So, we wanted to have a sharp editing tool and say, ‘Hey, what are some of the podcasts and partners that we would recommend?’ … The PodFerence highlights thought leaders that are talking about the relevant topics for our customers. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t do a shout out to one, Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, a podcast about disruption. The episode featured in the PodFerence, for example, spotlights the new approach to jobs and job-seeking via technology.”
Diving into Dell Technologies Site
The Dell Technologies site is another platform that, upon diving in, needed some swim lanes – from customer beauty shots and videos to executive profiles, Zoom interviews and the aforementioned podcasts. Henke explains that “when we became Dell Technologies, we had one of these ‘oh no’ moments of, because we had Dell content, we had EMC content, but we didn’t have Dell Technologies content. So, it was an opportunity to start from scratch …and so created content for different personas, be it a CEO to an IT decision maker. We have a site called Perspectives where we do a lot of a lot of content that’s just about emerging technology. But then we also pivot to talking about a lot of great customer stories out there and how technology weaves into their business strategy.
Rinse and Repeat
Henke goes on to name brands she “keeps an eye on” and marketers she admires along with her own goals to balance creative and data, or, as she puts it, “the art and science….One of the challenges that any brand marketer has is how the heck do you measure brand advertising, because you’re not necessarily tied to a click, a call, a transactional sale. But we recognize that the brand has to influence that positively. So we do a lot of measurement of the creative as well as what it’s driving so we understand if the message that we intend to come out of this TV spot, for example, is coming across in the ad, and making sure that we have nuances that makes sense…and do you feel good about the brand when you finish watching this? And we do a lot of measurement in terms of perception shifting. …We have to …make sure we’re not just looking at data in a silo [but working together with other divisions.]
The Media and Marketing for Tomorrow
At a time when linear media may seem challenged will one of the world’s largest tech companies continue to put budget there? Henke is bullish on balance between linear and digital, especially when it comes to live sports for the former. “It’s really timely to ask that because we are a PGA sponsor and we have Dell Technologies Match Play which was supposed to take place in March. And, we had a huge activation planned around it. But I still feel like sponsorships will still be something strong and that we will continue because let’s face it, sports is going to come back. I think people want sports more than ever.”
For the future? “We’re really looking at what our customers are going to. We truly believe that because of what has happened globally that companies are really looking at how do they digitally transform in a way that makes sense also in a practical way. Dell Technologies is known as a practical brand so we want to make sure that our brand is there to be that partner for our customers as they need to make changes because the world will be different. So how are we going to reach those customers?
We’re looking at continuing with linear, but figuring out where are people still watching? I think CTV and On Demand will absolutely be part of that mix as well. But we also look at partnerships that we like to own into as well. For example, we work closely with Business Insider, with Wall Street Journal, and really going deeper with them.
Balance and Togetherness
Balance – between divisions as well as between work and home – is a continuous theme for Henke. Her bio describes her home life as including one horse-loving child and one gaming-loving child. But she acknowledges “I don’t know how we all do it. In a moment of vulnerability I’ll just say every day is a challenge. One of the things that I have to harp on myself on is self-care, especially when you work from home. I’m the type where I will just sit in front of my computer for eight hours straight and be like, did I eat? When was the last time I saw the sun?” So, this tech brand expert also relies on tech to remind her to get out and exercise…. “and making sure that I have those moments where I can go and retreat and think and take a step back. It’s not always easy. I don’t get every day perfect, with two kids running around, too, and they’re not afraid to interrupt me. But you know I think I always have to reset with myself. I try.”
And Henke seems to be succeeding.
E.B. is a strategist, podcaster, and writer who creates content and “explanatory journalism” that drives revenue and humanizes brands. She also profiles executives through her podcast, “Insider Interviews with E.B. Moss” and guest hosts/produces Advancing Diversity podcast for MediaVillage where she was formerly Head of Content Strategy. She ran ad sales marketing at Food Network, Lifetime and Westwood One and now helms marketing consultancy, Moss Appeal. To inquire about help with a B2B podcast please email [email protected]