How Lenovo uses martech to build unified campaigns around its separate business groups

A CMO's View with David Roman, Lenovo's Chief Marketing Officer

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As chief marketing officer for Lenovo, David Roman says his team’s focus is bringing together what he calls a unified campaign for a company that has become quite diversified in recent years.

With the acquisition of Motorola and IBM’s x86 server business, the brand now has three distinct business groups in three different spaces: its mobile business group, its PC business and the DCG group, Lenovo’s data center business.

“Of course, the more diversified it becomes, the more challenging it becomes,” says Roman. From a marketing standpoint, the CMO says the brand has marketing teams within each of those business groups, as well as geographic marketing teams to execute all of its marketing initiatives. Roman says his aim is to ensure the brand is more visible and more relevant to Lenovo’s customer-base.

“A lot of my role is trying to keep all of that together.”

In today’s CMO’s View, Roman talks about how Lenovo is using marketing technology to create a unified campaign covering the different business groups, and shares his thoughts on how technology will impact marketing — and the CMO role — in the years to come.

Get To Know:

David Roman

CMO @ Lenovo


1. Focus on customer value: Remember that new technology tools don’t replace real marketing. Basic marketing rules still apply: we must deliver value to the customer.

2. Aim for ‘shareable’ content: A key goal of marketing is to get people to talk about you. Social media amplification is as close to word-of-mouth marketing as we can get digitally, and it shows a strong conversion rate. To see these kinds of results, though, creative content must be disruptive and shareable. You must break through all the clutter online with content people want to share.

3. Look for scale: Start with small projects, test and tune them to see what works quickly with your audiences. Then use technology to scale campaigns and content globally.

Amy Gesenhues: What role does marketing technology play in Lenovo’s aim to create unified campaigns around its separate business groups?

David Roman: There are so many different dimensions to it. I think, just as a starting point, when you look at some of these new technologies, there are two distinct parts.

One is new technology has enabled a completely different relationship with our audiences, and it has also driven their expectations to different levels. The way audiences expect to deal with the brand today is very different than it was even five years ago, let alone 10 years ago.

On the one hand, the technology has really changed the way people want to get their information from us. The way people interact with us, the way they experience the company, experience the brand overall — this has changed radically.

The second element is, of course, the tools we have now allow us to do things in a very different way. That’s everything from understanding the insights of what users are looking for to developing products to creating materials to go out to them — testing the materials, delivering the materials in different ways.

So there are those two elements, and I think both of them are really important. As a company, we’ve been focused on both. On the one hand, we’ve been saying, “With the expectations of the markets today, what should we look like as a company? How do we make it easy for them to interact with us?”

Some customers want to have much more interaction with the brand. You have fans that want to be heavily involved, and want to talk to us — want to give us the ideas, want to be involved in beta testing the products. You have other people who just want support.

We want to make sure that we are giving them the experience they expect and they want — and a lot of that is through social media; it’s through setting up the right systems.

Let me give you an example in terms of product details on our website. Now, our customers expect to see user reviews on the products on the website. So making it easy to submit those reviews, to see the reviews, to get the ratings from different customers alongside the professional reviews — that’s a big change from how we would have done it even just a few years ago.

Lenovo Ratings Reviews

So on the one hand, there’s that. On the other hand, in terms of using the tools, the way we drive marketing is very different. We know more about our users upfront because they are talking to us. We gain insight with every interaction we have with them — we know more about what they expect.

We can target much more specifically. A lot of our marketing material tends to be more focused because you can go to a very specific profile of user. We can test creative in real time. We can see what messages resonate, and what messages we want to reinforce and strengthen. We can adapt the creative as we do it, so our testing process actually becomes faster, and there’s more that you can test.

This goes all the way from doing eye-tracking on display ads to seeing how people respond to things. And, of course, we want to have the flexibility of making the changes as we do it. We can also deliver the messages in ways that are more personalized to our audiences.

And then, we can measure pretty accurately what is working what’s not working – so we can check the results faster than we could before and more efficiently.

AG: What do you think has been the biggest game-changer as a result of the martech you have now?

DR: I think it’s the relationship with the audience, or with the customers. The relationship with the audience in marketing often can be a little bit of an abstract. You have this model of who the user is, and you create a persona, and make assumptions in terms of what’s going to work, in terms of telling your story to that persona.

Now, we actually get the real thing. We have users that are giving us feedback in real time. Users that want to help us develop our story. Users that want to be part of helping us tell our story.

Word-of-mouth has always been key in marketing. Now, word-of-mouth with the internet has been amplified so much that it’s one of our key metrics — how much users are sharing with others, how sharable it is.

Engagement with the audience has become totally different. It’s truly an engagement, and it’s much deeper. I think technology has enabled the customers to have a different relationship with the brand, and, at the same time, it enables us to work with them in a different way because we can actually reach them one by one.

AG: Can you share a specific example how audience engagement informed or help shape a campaign?

DR: Two years ago, we decided that we really needed to upgrade our logo. We’d had it since 2005 — it was really time to do it. The process of changing a logo is pretty standard in marketing. We decided, “Let’s really think about this now in the digital age. What does it really mean?”

The first conclusion we came to is most people are going to experience our logo online or in some sort of digital form, therefore, let’s develop the logo first and foremost as a digital asset, and then create a print asset afterward. It’s the opposite of all the logos I’ve ever created in the past. As a digital asset, a logo really doesn’t have to be fixed. You can have movement, you can have sounds, you can have animations — therefore, why bother constraining it?

Instead of going out and getting one agency and doing the usual things — and spending two months doing the research and then coming up with the ideas and then testing — we actually took it out to our fans, to our existing users, and started to do some exercises.

We worked through Tongal to come up with various components of the logo. We let our users pick the ones that they liked the most. We went through almost a crowd-sourcing exercise to create the logo.

We ended up with this logo that was very flexible because we had a typeface within basically a container — a box — and use that box to make it relevant to the context in which it’s being used. The box could be a video, it could be a different color, it could have animations, it could have visuals — all sorts of things.

Lenovo’s previous logo

Old Lenovo Logo

Versions of Lenovo’s new logo

News Lenovo Logo 4

New Lenovo Logo 5

New Lenovo Logo 3

We ended up having a very interesting form of logo, but also it allowed us to have a logo we can basically let anybody customize. We can customize it to large accounts — to have their own version of a Lenovo logo that is relevant to them. Users can customize their own versions of it. We can customize it to different products. We can do a number of different things.

The whole process of doing that was really a process of engagement with our users. The budget we spent was the same budget as if we had gone out with an agency. It didn’t cost us any less; we spent the same amount of money. It took us probably marginally longer, but I think the difference was the logo became an exciting event for the company.
It was a change for the company. It symbolized the transformation we were going through. Our people internally got very attached to the logo and very involved. We had a number of fans that were really involved. We had a lot of social media activities around it.

The change in the logo really became a milestone in terms of the transformation of the company, rather than just a new logo.

I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and I’ve had the privilege of working with some great brands and producing lots of interesting logos. I’ve never gone through that experience before. I found it totally different. I think the end result was actually the best logo I’ve ever worked on. The process of doing it was a very positive process. We learned a lot as we went along — we brought in more fans, more people who were more engaged with us, that understood us better as we did it.

AG: What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about your customers through these processes where you are engaging and interacting with your audiences?

DR: It never ceases to surprise me how willing some people are to get involved if there’s something that is interesting to them, that is relevant to them, where they feel the company is authentic and not trying to just market to them or get something from them.

People are genuinely willing to engage, genuinely helpful in their thoughts on how to develop things further. Not everybody, of course, but there are a number of people out there that love to engage.

It’s a little bit humbling from a CMO perspective. Obviously, we love our own brands — that’s the problem of being a marketing person, that you get caught up in that world — but to see other people outside that love the brand as much as you do, and take it as seriously as you do, to me, that is always a surprise.

AG: What has martech not been capable of delivering in terms of brand management?
DR: When we look at what the technology has not accomplished — and I think it is an expectation a lot of people have — that is an automatic, literal return on investment. I think that’s been the Holy Grail in marketing forever.

Everybody expects as we become much more data-driven, as you have all of this information, you can have this very accurate measure of the exact impact and exact return you’re getting for any investment.

That is true in very narrow spaces — where you’re doing your direct marketing, and in our case for example, where we have our ecommerce site. We have ads promoting a product on our ecommerce site, and you can see literally whether somebody buys those products or not.

But, apart from very direct experiences, overall the use of technology has not changed the fundamentals of marketing. Marketing is still building a long-term relationship with customers. You can’t measure accurately every single thing you do, and you never will be able to.

I think at some stage, some of the marketing technology companies and ad-tech companies provided this slightly optimistic, if not false, version of things where the marketing technology basically looks like a big machine. You put in stuff and crank the handle that spits top results at the other end, and gives you your perfect ROI — and that has not happened.

I haven’t seen that happen. I don’t expect that will happen.

AG: How do you see the role of CMO changing as marketing technology continues to evolve?

DR: The role of marketing in companies is driving innovation more than before. Obviously, the CMO role — in terms of being stewards of the brand, in terms of helping support sales, in terms of driving things — is always the same. But the CMO role is driving innovation now.

I think because marketing is closest to the actual users, and especially now with all the tools we have, that innovation is going to come from the user; it’s going to come from the markets, from the audiences.

The CMO role on the C-suite will increasingly have a bigger and bigger contribution to driving innovation than it had in the past — and I think that’s a very good thing.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Amy Gesenhues
Amy Gesenhues was a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.

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