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9/22/2005
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The Importance Of The Brand

Lenovo is learning the creating a brand is not as easy as it seems.

Coke, Pepsi, the Gap. Those are among the gold-medal winners in the all important arena of brand building. Hear the name, picture the product. That's the goal of a successful branding campaign. It looks easy -- and it's supposed to -- but it's not. Just ask Yuanqing Yang. His name isn't as well known as, say, Bill Gates', but then, neither is his company, Lenovo. In fact, however, Lenovo is the leading manufacturer of desktop computers in China. And, oh yes, it acquired IBM's ThinkPad laptop division six months ago (IBM maintains a 13 percent stake in Lenovo).Last week, at a press and analyst day in New York, CEO Yang said the vendor will focus on building out its market share in emerging regional markets, such as China, India, Brazil and Russia. If all goes as planned, he predicted Lenovo "will have the most successful brand in the world."

The key to success for Lenovo has to do with the quality of the company's products as well as getting the word out about the brand, says Mark McNeilly, who is in charge of brand strategy for the company's worldwide marketing. The ThinkPad has earned a reputation of a rock-solid business tool. There is an ease with which that product can be sold. In addition, Lenovo has the rights to use the IBM logo for next five years. "When people think about Think Pad they definitely have a connection with IBM," says McNeilly. "The use of that logo is reassuring to them and so we are going to leverage that as we go forward." The challenge, therefore, is not to convince people what the ThinkPad is, but rather, what Lenovo is.

Lenovo is currently running television commercials as part of its attempt to get the word out. "The purpose is two-fold," explains McNeilly. "One is to continue to build the ThinkPad and ThinkCenter brand and sell product, and the other is to introduce Lenovo as the makers of these products, and making [customers] more comfortable with the company."

I'm dating myself, but I remember when Datsun became Nissan. That name change seemed like an impossible, uphill battle. Who knew the Datsun B210 would become a nothing more than a distant memory and that Nissan would become the big brand that it now is? So Lenovo has a shot. But it's going to be a tough road.

The company is trying to get the word out through its sponsorship of the Olympics: A global brand for a global stage. The company is the IT provider for the 2006 and 2008 (coincidentally, the Beijing) Olympics. Perhaps that connection is just what Lenovo needs to earn itself some gold-medal branding recognition.Lenovo is learning the creating a brand is not as easy as it seems.

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