“The purpose of a CMO or marketer is to build a long-term sustainable brand that you are proud of. I have been lucky enough to craft a team that deserves a lot of credit for achieving the growth we have seen in APAC over the last three years, over 30%, and has seen Lenovo expand from beyond PC’s into both Mobile & DataCentre segments with the acquisition of Motorola from Google & System X Server business from IBM. Most marketers haven’t carried a sales target. As a marketer, I think you need to have sales experience to understand the drivers. Many marketers struggle with this. I have tried to work in all aspects of the business, from sales to leading a team in product development. I moved to China to spearhead the development of the Yoga line and then to Singapore to lead the global marketing for our consumer brand. These are risks I took to become better at my job and keep learning.”
Insightive.tv: What does digital transformation mean to you?
Nick: It means being a disruptor rather than the disrupted. It means keeping Lenovo relevant. The technology industry has seen a massive shift in our end users — both B2B and B2C — as they grapple with an extraordinary amount of change. Our goal at Lenovo is to become the World’s pre-eminent technology company, spanning not just PCs, but the data centre, tablets and mobile. This requires growing our Brand. The way we have gone about doing this is to become a digital-first company and by changing our corporate culture to be on the front foot of this disruption.
There has been an explosion of media in the consumer space and a shift in the media spend to prioritise digital and social. This also applies to B2B. To gain the attention of CIOs, you have to lead with great content to be in the consideration set, & then engage both through traditional means & in new ways, such as social selling. Your brand has to be accessible and always-on from a customer perspective. Today, we spend >70% of our marketing dollars on digital and social. That is a shift from <30% since I took the role three years ago.
Insightive.tv: What are the main strategies you have adopted to create this change and where have the challenges been in implementation?
Nick: A huge part of this change is cultural — and that change has to come from the top. I give a lot of credit to our CEO, Yuanqing Yang (better known as ‘YY’) who, over the last three-to-four years, has pushed the company to pivot. Ronald Reagan has a great quote — ‘the camera is always on.’ So, The CEO, myself, and a lot of our executives have embraced this ethos. Our CEO led that change and basically asked us to follow him in this transformation to be a company that stays relevant through this time of digital disruption.
This was not necessarily easy, however. We had to ease executives into the process and break down barriers that made people scared. This involved ghostwriting content based on interviews. We have also made it technically easier for all staff to share material by providing a simple mobile app. Today, in APAC, over 30% of our staff share content on Twitter or Linkedin weekly. That is up from 5% 18 months ago. Analysis shows that we get an enormous uplift through that employee amplification. Salespeople are the most active and two-thirds of acquisition sales meetings with new clients are setup through social tools and social selling.
When it comes to B2C, our goal is to make the Lenovo brand relevant to the internet generation. In Australia, for example, we have been able to build our brand awareness from below 5% to just over 60% in the last three years — and thereby surpassing Acer, Apple, Dell to now be the #2 PC Brand for Consumer in Australia, just behind HP. This is not something we achieved though having the biggest spend — far from it, in fact — but because we doubled down on digital and social in a targeted manner. We went after teens and young adults because we know they drive trends in music, design, fashion & technology. It’s not people in their 40’s like me who drive this, it’s them!!
We also achieved growth through product innovation. The tablet market has globally declined, mostly because nobody feels they need to upgrade. Basically, the entire category has not innovated for years, but the Lenovo Yoga Tablet line has changed this by adding a hinge, significantly improved battery life and building in things like a SubWoofer & inbuilt projector — while still being cheaper than most of its Apple or Samsung competitors. Ashton Kutcher came on as a product engineer to help us design the range and promote this innovative product range. He suggested a subwoofer, the projector and a 13-inch screen. And because 85% of people never take their tablet outside — why not go big? The fact that our brand suddenly exploded on the scene with innovative new products meant we suddenly became relevant to the youth market, and that was our goal — launch in Australia with innovative new products as a new challenger brand to the incumbent competition.
Insightive.tv: The B2B market is incredibly noisy and you are attempting to reach an audience that is time poor — how do you cut through that noise?
Nick: The first question I ask myself is how do we influence decision makers before they start their buying journey? Our research indicates that businesses are 50% of the way through their buying journey before they ever contact Lenovo or Lenovo Resellers directly. So influencing them earlier in the decision-making process was key. Positioning Lenovo as a thought-leader with compelling content on technology influences business decision-makers so Lenovo is on their vendor shortlist.
However, we still have to reach the CIO. A great example of how we have used social selling to reach out on the highest level is through the creation of an exclusive society called The Think Society — based on our product line ThinkPad. Pioneered in India, we have expanded it to other markets in APAC. It is exclusive to CIOs and offers them great experiences that money can’t buy. As an example, in Sydney this involved taking 20 CIOs to a Maserati dealership after-hours where they meet & eat a three-course meal cooked from Chef’s Hat Awarded chef Pilu, paired with great wines from Darren de Bortoli & meet the Australian Lenovo management team led by Matt Codrington. We obviously showcase our Lenovo Thinkpad products around, but the emphasis was on networking — as much for them as for us. C-Level People creating connections with people. 18 months later, about 20% of the companies represented, none of whom had ever done business with Lenovo before, are customers.
These are not events that could have been achieved in the past. Networks have always existed, but without Linkedin, they were not accessible in the same way. They were exclusive to the senioraccount executive with the business card who knew the guy. But, you still need people at a high level to open communications. Getting the relevant General Manager to reach out on Linkedin and personally connect, or even sending a Yoga tablet to their office with an uploaded, similarly personal message is often the only way to get a response.
Insightive.tv: How is Lenovo being changed by technology, how do you stay on top of developments, what companies do you think are doing a great job and how do you think people should approach career change?
Nick: I think that Air New Zealand is an example of a company that has undergone a remarkably successful rebrand. They have reshaped their communication and marketing to become one of the most trusted brand names here in Australia. I follow every single CMO in the Australian top 50 on Twitter and Linkedin. But, I try to get my daily dose of information not necessarily from trusted people but from trusted news sources. I find the Economist and their daily app Economist Espresso to be one the best places to get information. I use TechCrunch, Buzzfeed and Bloomberg every day.
Most of our business is hardware. We are not a professional consulting or services company. However, you do ultimately have to deliver a solution. We now provide an offering with Microsoft Azure that allows clients to move completely into the cloud using our kit. We also provide PCs as a service. This offering extends to tablets, phones and even servers, all provided for a monthly fee until they are no longer needed. We just signed a contract for PC-as-a-Service with a large global consultancy accounting firm that is deploying 15,000 machines. However, half of that is device as a service. If they need another 100 consultants, they can just add them, and vice versa. I think that this approach is going to become a more dominant part of our business as it is adopted across industries.
Every day, you have the choice of doing what you are doing or doing something else. I long ago decided I was an existentialist. I am free to make my own choices & with that freedom comes responsibility for those choices. It can be an unpopular position, but, I think it is essential for owning your own destiny.
I also believe measuring your career with five simple measures, which I encourage all my staff to do the same:
First, are you getting paid? Second, are you making a difference? Third, are you learning, growing and improving as a person? Fourth, do you enjoy your team & people you work with? We spend too much time at work to not like the people we work with. This is why, lastly, you have to have fun. If you can’t say these things about your job or career, you have to get out. Choose something different, take responsibility and change, because you really are free. Most people are just scared and don’t know how to do that.
Nick Reynolds is CMO-APAC for Lenovo. He was promoted to this position in 2014 and has led a digital and social shift in Lenovo’s Asia-Pacific marketing strategy. Nick also has experience as a Senior Manager at Dell, in Sales at Apple and a decade of experience at Lenovo. As someone who takes an always-on approach to business, we wanted to gain an understanding of how he views the developing digital transformation in marketing.