The short answer? Yes, it can. But I am talking about the old-fashioned kind of 4-P marketing. Advertising alone cannot save Dell. They have to get all it all right – including (very importantly) product. In today’s interconnected world, if the product isn’t right, the advertising won’t matter.
In many categories, but especially cellphones and computers, if the product isn’t right the rest won’t matter. The online advocates and influentials will take the product apart and tell their communities (Cellular has >6 MM messages/year in the US alone) whether it is good or bad.
These communities don’t rely on the manufacturer to tell them if something is good or not – they rely on their peers. (If you don’t believe this, just take a look at Howard Forums and see if you can find a better source of cellphone information. Same thing exists in all almost any category.)
So, this is what the world looks like today:
Consumers might be interested based on the initial specs and marketing, but within a few weeks of release, all that matters is the product as evaluated by their community. If the product isn’t there, the rest won’t matter.
That is why (among many other reasons) advertising cannot save Dell. By the way I think Dell knows this – just go read Andy Lark’s post on the subject.