Brands Are What You Do — Lenovo’s Story

At the 2006 Innovative Marketing Conference, Deepak Advani, SVP and CMO of Lenovo, made the fundamental but oft-ignored point that brands are what you do, not what you say. Describing Lenovo’s brand-building efforts at the Innovative Marketing Conference, Deepak reminded the audience that delivering on the promise is more important than communicating the promise. Along with all the marketing communications, his effort highlights product innovation (e.g., with the Thinkpad as core product), global service and support, and giving back to the larger community.

On the latter point, Deepak described Lenovo’s initiatives to work with Microsoft on combatting software piracy in China (most Thinkpads now ship in China with official versions of Windows, compared with a small fraction just a few years ago), funding the micro-financing group Opportunity International to support economic development, and helping found and support Computers for Kids, which organizes “Geek-a-Thons” to build and donate PCs to schools in the U.S.

All good stuff, and a useful corrective for those who still concentrate on the logo, tagline, elevator speech, and advertising approach to brand building. It’s not that Lenovo is ignoring the the marcom piece; they’re doing a nice job there with an integrated approach — and actually putting relatively more emphasis, wisely, I think, in things like viral marketing and PR versus traditional advertising.

One sour note, though: one of the more “clever” viral initiatives, creating an allegedly independent site with “smuggled videotapes” from the Lenovo research lab, definitely fails the smell test. It’s a cool little site, and apparently generated great traffic, but this sort of manipulative technique is only negative in the longer run.