Lenovo’s Chance

May 24, 2007


The big Chinese brand hope is on Lenovo, the largest personal-computer maker in China. Formerly known as Legend Group Limited, the company bought IBM’s PC operations for $1.75 billion in 2005.

In addition to desktop and notebook PCs, Lenovo makes displays and storage drives. The company also has an IT services business.

Currently Lenovo is tied with Acer, the Taiwan company, as the third largest PC manufacturer with a market share of 6.7 percent. (Hewlett-Packard leads with 19.1 percent. Dell is second with 15.2 percent.)

How can Lenovo move up the PC ladder? We made three suggestions to the Chinese marketing community.

1. Focus the product line.

Leaders can sometimes get away with marketing a broad line of products and services, especially if they have a powerful brand name like General Electric. But is Lenovo a powerful brand name? I think not.

What should Lenovo focus on? Again, that’s a decision that should be easy to make. Recently laptop and notebook computers have been outselling desktop computers. Furthermore, there’s reason to believe desktop computers might someday become obsolete.

Lenovo should drop its desktop machines and focus on notebook computers.

2. Focus the company name.

Legend was a bad name; Lenovo is an even worse name. It sounds like an Italian dessert.

Fortunately, Lenovo was given a priceless present in its IBM purchase. That present was the “ThinkPad” name which IBM used on its notebook computers.

Change the name of the company to ThinkPad Corporation.

ThinkPad is a unique and different name. Furthermore it communicates the “notebook” idea, the new focus of the company.

3. Focus the attribute of the ThinkPad brand.

To build a powerful brand, you need to stand for something in the prospect’s mind. BMW means “driving.” Volvo means “safety.” Mercedes-Benz means “prestige.” What should ThinkPad mean?

What’s the weakness of a notebook computer as compared with a desktop machine? It’s battery life.

We would redesign the entire ThinkPad line in order to double the battery life, even if it meant selling a heavier machine. (Every benefit comes with baggage.) Furthermore, as batteries get better, that disadvantage would disappear.

Hopefully, the new ThinkPad Corporation could produce notebook computers that would run all day on one charge. That would mean a company employee could use his or her notebook computer all day long without plugging the machine into an outline. At the end of the day, the employee would re-charge the notebook so it would be ready to go again the next morning.

Slogan: ThinkPad: The all-day notebook.

Sure, Lenovo is currently successful because it can build computers in China very cheap. But as I said last week, as the Chinese economy improves, as the wages go up, that advantage is going to go away. While it lasts, Lenovo has an opportunity to build a powerful worldwide brand that stands for something in the mind.

China chance will depend on the strength of its brands. And ThinkPad, if focused and branded correctly, has a great chance at being the world’s best computer brand.