Byravee Iyer
Sep 29, 2015

CMO colours Lenovo brand

THE FACE BEHIND THE BRAND: Nick Reynolds talks about Lenovo’s digital and social strategy, and how social-media influencers are becoming mainstream company endorsers.

Guerrilla action: Reynolds once sent two bloggers to Samsung-sponsored Melbourne Fashion Week with Lenovo products, successfully usurping Samsung’s social-media presence.
Guerrilla action: Reynolds once sent two bloggers to Samsung-sponsored Melbourne Fashion Week with Lenovo products, successfully usurping Samsung’s social-media presence.

Nick Reynolds, Lenovo’s new CMO for Asia-Pacific, is steering a multimillion dollar brand. But when it comes to awareness and affinity, the world’s top PC maker continues to struggle behind its rivals. The company has yet to make it on Interbrand’s Top 100 global brand list, and is well behind Apple and Samsung in Campaign Asia-Pacific’s Top 1000 Brands report. 

The situation, however, is improving with Lenovo climbing 25 spots on Campaign’s list this year (and being featured as one of the Asia-based brands on the rise). Reynolds joined Lenovo in 2007, initially to lead worldwide product launches for the consumer segment then later running the notebook product development team. He was previously with Apple and led the launch some of its marquee products in Australia. Reynolds also spent considerable time at Dell in sales and marketing. 

By and large, Reynolds says he finds Lenovo to be a good mix of his former employers. “It’s a performance-driven culture where merit counts, not a political one,” says Reynolds. “I prefer that.” 

As Lenovo’s CMO, Reynolds oversees branding, demand-generation, digital marketing, public relations and social media across Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Southeast Asia and India. He previously led marketing for Lenovo’s Asia-Pacific Mature Markets group covering ANZ and Japan and was instrumental in driving a dual-brand strategy for Lenovo- and NEC-branded PCs. He has also led the launch of Lenovo’s consumer brand with a focus on Premium Yoga products and helped grow the notebook’s market share to 8.9 per cent in three months. “When I left Dell and went to Apple I found it limiting being back in Australia,” he says. “Asia-Pacific is a dynamic and diverse market and Lenovo keeps surprising me.”

He says when he joined Lenovo, the firm was a PC company ranked sixth or seventh in terms of global market share. Eight years later, he’s happy to note that it’s the top-selling PC brand, second for tablets, and third for servers and smartphones. That, however, is proving to be both an opportunity and a challenge for the cheerful Australian. “We have a lot more complexity and broader portfolio but Lenovo’s business is ahead of its brand. If you ask consumers, they would probably list us among the top [brands] but wouldn’t say we’re the number one PC player—so we have some catching up to do.”

That mission is partly driven by a new logo designed by Saatchi & Saatchi New York. The new logo, which launched in May, can be dynamically changed by its agency partners. It was designed to be a box shape so the background can be edited to include different colours, scenes and photographs. The most apparent way this change can be seen is through the company’s social accounts and digital media assets.

Lenovo recently acquired IBM’s server division and Motorola’s mobile business. While it continues to sell IBM’s ThinkPad, it is now more focused on developing its own innovations and brands like the Yoga series, IdeaPad tablets and its own brand in the smartphone category. 

According to Reynolds, marketing PCs was very static 10 years ago, but today it’s much more attractive and colourful. “Lenovo hadn’t changed its logo since Legend and IBM came together to form Lenovo. Our business is now very different and we needed to be more relevant to the consumer market.”

Indeed, PCs now account for 64 per cent of the company’s business compared to 81 per cent a year ago, as mobile accounts for 25 per cent and the enterprise business has grown to 9 per cent. 

Reynolds is now channelling much of his marketing might towards the company’s premium brands: Yoga and the Motorola-branded smartphones. He says he’s selling more smartphones than PCs and tablets in Asia. “I need to make sure there’s a brand that’s attractive to consumers and my marketing has to reflect that.”


PROFESSIONAL CV

  • 2015 CMO Asia-Pacific, Lenovo
  • 2007 Director of marketing and strategy, Lenovo
  • 2005 Senior manager, marketing and business intelligence, Dell
  • 2004 National sales manager, Apple
  • 1998 Manager, marketing and business intelligence, Dell
  • 1996 Business analyst, Gateway Computer

PERSONAL CV

  • Born Sydney, Australia
  • Family Wife and two children
  • Interests Spending time with family (no email on weekends); keeping fit; and community service — most recently participated in Stptember for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Weaning itself from dependence on PCs, however, means that Lenovo is now competing with Apple and Samsung. Here, the firm, is pushing a dual brand strategy with Motorola-branded smartphones targeting high-end consumers and Lenovo phones positioned as entry-level. 

His strategy includes luring the first-time smartphone buyer. More specifically, Lenovo is targeting 18-to-25-year-olds who are defining trends in technology, fashion and music. In fact, in APAC the first Lenovo product most consumers encounter is a smartphone—whether a Lenovo- or Motorola-branded one—Reynolds points out. 

This means marketing differently, mainly through digital and social. “The growth is in mobile and I have to market to these consumers as a brand that is relevant to them. We need to be disruptive, look different and have new attitude because the game will be won or lost in the mobile space.” Reynolds describes this restless marketing approach as ‘Never stand still’. “The challenge is to build a brand for the millennial audience—they are fickle and don’t believe in traditional marketing and their social status depends on their digital persona.” 

The change is very clearly reflected in the way the company now spends money. Over the last 18 months, Lenovo’s digital social spend has accounted for 40 per cent of the overall marketing budget. Reynolds is hoping to grow that number to 50 per cent in the next 18 months.

The Sydney-based marketer claims this has brought “amazing results” across the tech giant’s social pages. In the last 12 months, Lenovo Worldwide’s cumulative fan following has grown from 20 million to 30 million across the top five platforms. The fastest growth has been in APAC, particularly in India, Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia. 

In response, the firm is also ramping up its Digital and Social Centre of Excellence in Singapore. “Our team of 30 is based in Singapore and has the experience to work with regional teams around the world. Having a team in this part makes sense because we’re seeing maximum growth in this region,” Reynolds says.

The firm currently has about 400 social media influencers working with it. These are not your typical stars but individuals with a strong social media community around fashion, sports, design, technology and entertainment. Reynolds admits that these young influencers have really helped the company build a bigger, more diverse social media reach. 


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During Melbourne Fashion Week, for example, Lenovo sent two Australian bloggers armed with Lenovo-branded products to the event, which was sponsored by Samsung. “We created more conversation linked to Lenovo than the event got through the sponsor.” The two were later barred from entering the event and Lenovo has now been approached to become a key sponsor. “It gives you an idea of just how disruptive this sort of thing can be compared to a traditional approach.”

None of this means that the world’s number one PC maker will be cutting back on its celebrity endorsements. If anything, that’s a card they’ll continue to play aggressively because of how involved celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Ryan Higa and Ranbir Kapoor are with the brand. 

“Ashton Kutcher helped us design the Yoga tablet. It’s working really well for us—raising awareness and engaging with fans.” 

The other change under Reynolds can be seen in the way the company launches new products. Recently, it took 100 business partners and journalists to its Tech World event in Beijing to showcase the best of what the firm has to offer and the next wave of products. “We always do CES and IFA Berlin but Tech World will be the place we showcase our leading-edge technology,” he says. 

 

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