Media captionRory Cellan-Jones reports on Lenovo’s strategy, from China China’s Lenovo is on a roll. They have just been called the world’s number one PC seller, and they have quickly received the true number two spot in mobile phones in its market. However the company knows it lacks one thing – even in China it isn’t seen as a cool brand. Eight years back, Lenovo’s takeover of IBM’s PC division transformed a virtually unknown brand into a global contender. It has built on that acquisition, renewing products like the Thinkpad, in October and, the research firm Gartner said the Chinese language company experienced overtaken the long-term market head Horsepower finally.
But at Lenovo’s head office in Beijing they know the competition is not over plus they now have a fresh task – to build a brand which consumers love as well as respect. This fast speaking marketing professional who emerged to Lenovo from HP has already used the business from nowhere to number 1 in the Russian market, and has been rewarded with a significant role at headquarters.
In an exhibition centre showcasing Lenovo’s products over time, Mr Wei performs me a video of a recently available release happily, where a new laptop was unveiled in a glitzy fashion show went to by a masses of excited celebrities. This, he shows, is in which a ongoing company that for years made boring beige boxes at keen prices is going now.
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But upstairs in Lenovo’s design centre is the man who is essential to changing consumer perceptions of the business. Dressed in skinny jeans and a greyish turtle throat sweater casually, Yao Yingjia is Lenovo’s exact carbon copy of Apple’s design guru Sir Jonathan Ive. Caressing the Yoga Thinkpad – a laptop which converts into a touchscreen tablet – he speaks in terms that sound remarkably just like those employed by Apple’s Sir Jonathan: “It’s creating a fresh feelings,” he says.
The Yoga is an excellent signal of the thinking of a company that rejects the idea that the PC is inactive but talks of a “PC plus” strategy. It represents its approach as “protect and strike” – protect its business lead in markets like China, while attacking new territories and product areas. Yet for all of this success, go out on China’s teeming shopping streets and Lenovo’s brand still seems to need some polishing. The devices that get attention and envy are those made by Samsung – whose Galaxy Note appears to be the smartphone of choice for young IT professionals – and undoubtedly Apple.
Chinese consumers have been snapping up Lenovo smartphones, but at far lower prices than what they seem willing to pay for an iPhone or a Samsung device. Inside a Beijing apartment, we collected a small concentrate band of three savvy consumers who proved helpful in IT and asked them to mention their favourite gadgets. Each had an iPad, and on the espresso table there were phones created by Samsung, Nokia and Apple – but nothing called a Lenovo device as something they would show off with their friends.