Face off: Our focus is now on entry level consumers, says Bhaskar Choudhuri

Global PC giant and smartphone company Lenovo is at the cusp of transformation and the focus now is to translate its brand equity from a product centric to a consumer centric brand.

Global PC giant and smartphone company Lenovo is at the cusp of transformation and the focus now is to translate its brand equity from a product centric to a consumer centric brand. To meet this, Lenovo is engaging with the digital generation through relationships, storytelling and above all, projecting a new personality that is constantly innovating. In an interview with BrandWagon’s Ankita Rai, Lenovo India’s director, marketing, Bhaskar Choudhuri talks about the company’s efforts to make itself more digital and millennial-friendly. Excerpts:

As Lenovo grows from a PC-only company to a PC-plus company, what has been the role of marketing in this transformation?

At Lenovo, the focus is on creating a customer-centric company. So instead of designing products and then bringing them to the market, we are looking at unmet consumer needs and designing products accordingly. Marketing plays a key role here. This is in line with our global positioning, ‘Innovation never stands still’.

The reason behind the trajectory is the growth in the PC segment and coming up of technologies like smartphones, apps, wearables and Internet of Things (IoT). The role of marketing is to translate Lenovo’s brand equity from a product centric to a consumer centric brand. The brand has a legacy of ThinkPad, which stands for endurance, trust and resilience. The challenge is bringing these elements into categories like tablets and smartphones.

So the first campaign that we did for smartphones focussed on battery life — the biggest painpoint in this segment. Not only smartphones, we have disrupted the tablet market too with YOGA. YOGA is a unique product in the tablet market as it adapts itself according to the user.

How has digital marketing changed the lives of technology marketers?

In the technology industry, digital is a must-have. An increasing percentage of smartphones, tablets and PCs are being sold through e-commerce. So for us, digital is a marketplace. It is not just another medium but a parallel universe where consumers are living their lives and traversing their shopping journey, which includes advocacy.

Digital is a second life for us and we have been changing the way we interact with customers by engaging with them and co-creating content. For example, we worked with The Viral Fever (TVF) to make an off the hook western movie in TVF style called #Goodweird.

The ‘Pitch to Her’ campaign launched in association with YUWA, on the eve of India’s 69th Independence Day, has reached nearly 40 million people on digital. Also, for the recent Lenovo PHAB Plus we called on techies, fashionistas, musicians, writers and photographers to volunteer replacing their existing phones and tablets combo with a single 6.8 inch screen hybrid device called PHAB.

In India, Lenovo reported the largest increase in market share, as it accounted for 18.1% of PC shipments here in the second quarter of 2015, up from 14% share in the same period in 2014 (Gartner). Is the focus on youth, the reason behind the growth?

Lenovo has been able to maintain its leadership in the PC segment globally because of consistent focus on products. A significant amount of revenue is invested in R&D, with focus on product design. Coupled with that in India, the focus is to bring more people into the fold because the re-purchase market is not big. Computer penetration in India is one of the lowest at 10%. So there is no reason why such an underpenetrated category should grow so slowly.

We have been working on a campaign called ‘Start up with Lenovo’, which looks at bringing entry level users into the fold by making it easy to acquire PCs. The campaign is meant for semi-urban areas and towns in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Punjab, Maharashtra and MP. The idea is to target the youth in Tier-II markets across India. We have 1,000 Lenovo exclusive stores across 800 towns.

In terms of target segment, we are focussing on first time buyers in the age group of 15-25. There is a huge demand in rural areas. The challenge is how do you devise a product that is custom-made for these places? One of the biggest barriers to purchase or adoption is ignorance coupled with anxiety. Therefore, service infrastructure should lead the penetration. That is another reason we have made some impressive gains in small town India.

India is the only country where Lenovo offers its entire range of products from smartphones to servers. Is this the secret sauce to business success?

Investment in the brand has always been ahead of the curve in India. We are one of the first technology brands to use celebrities in the PC segment. We signed Saif and Soha Ali Khan as brand ambassadors in 2006 when we were relatively a new player in the Indian market. Having a celebrity as a brand ambassador can exponentially increase a brand’s familiarity quickly. Second, take our retail leadership. The leadership stance that was taken had resulted in us building a portfolio where we have not gone wrong in any of the categories we have entered into. We have done quite well in servers, smartphones, tablets or PCs. In India and China, the brand is the strongest, as compared to any other place where Lenovo is present.


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