The rivalry between technology industry giants Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise spilled out onto the streets of Boston Tuesday morning in the form of a guerrilla marketing assault on behalf of Dell.
In a show of bravado that was equal parts marketing stunt and surrealist street theater outside the Boston Convention Center, the site of this week's HPE Global Partner Conference, people dressed head-to-toe in tight, black outfits waved large white balloons emblazoned with Dell talking points.
Prominently featuring the new Dell-EMC logo, the balloons read, “#1 in secure business laptops,” “#1 in external storage,” “#1 in cloud infrastructure,” and “#1 in all-flash storage,” among other claims.
Mark McKeever, principal at Tempe, Ariz.-based solution provider MicroAge who is attending the HPE conference, told CRN in an email that while the stunt is certainly visible, it's not necessarily a tactic that will have financial impact. "It's not an approach to marketing that I would invest in to win enterprise business or recruit partners. I'd really love to know how they will measure the ROI," McKeever said. "Raining on someone else's parade doesn't really impress or resonate with me."
Dell and HPE are fierce competitors, and the rhetoric soared to a higher temperature last week when Dell completed its landmark $58 billion acquisition of EMC. HPE CEO Meg Whitman criticized the merger as good for Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell, but not necessarily good for his company or its customers and partners.
Whitman, who has overseen an effort to reduce HPE to its most essential units and strengths, said that becoming smaller will make her company more nimble and more prepared to lead in a rapidly changing IT market, while the $47 billion in debt that Dell took on to make the EMC acquisition work would weigh heavily on the company, making it slower and less innovative.
Michael Dell says his company would have the advantage of scale, and its new, larger size would not make it any less nimble. He stressed that Dell, as a privately held firm, would have more freedom to innovate because it isn’t beholden to the whims of investors. Dell’s debt payments, he said, would be less than what its competitors pay in share buybacks and dividends.
In the merger, Dell established two distinct divisions: a Dell-EMC enterprise division and a PC division known simply as Dell. The Round Rock, Texas, company is now a more-than $70 billion global IT behemoth.
Last year, Hewlett-Packard split into two separate companies: HPE, and HP Inc., which sells PCs and printers.
Representatives of Dell and HPE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.