Evangelists, Advocates, Marketing, Passion and Vision

I have been reading lot of books by Guy Kawasaki and how he worked as a technology evangelist for Apple during the 1980s. For people whom are familiar with Guy, then you would know he is an awesome public speaker. He is a person whom really can sell his ideas and visions to his audiences, whether they are Apple fan or not. Reading his many books about what technology evangelists do and how they can build brand equity through engagement with the public and consumers (evangelism), i then told myself that this maybe what i should do for Lenovo. To build an ecosystem of public support around Lenovo and engage Lenovo with its potential customers by communicating the brand message, but more importantly to give meaning to this brand and how it is different from other computer brand. Basically i want to reverse the trend of computer commodisation for Lenovo, and move Lenovo away from been perceived as another commodised computer brand companies using Intel/AMD CPU, producing the same laptops or desktops that HP, Dell, ASUS produces.

Part of the strategy to give meaning to what Lenovo as a brand ‘is’, through expanding community awareness and to push out the brand messages about how Lenovo is different from other computer brands. Basically we are trying to differentiate Lenovo from the market competitions and make people understand that using Lenovo products will enrich their life, give meaning to what they do, and allow them to leave a permanent mark on the computing history book.

I am trying my very best to expand community awareness for Lenovo in the last couple of years, by evangelising for Lenovo’s cause, more specifically the ThinkPad cause. I want to make people understand that ThinkPad is more than just any other laptop and that while it has similar internal hardware (CPU, GPU, etc), it is also infinitely different in more subtle ways. Just like in reality a $500 dollars Mont Blanc pen is nothing but a polymer resin tube with a Mont Blanc insignia on it, probably not 100 times better for writing then what a $5 dollars pen can do. However, the subtle difference in how Mont Blanc the company positions and market their product, and how they want the users to perceive their product in relation to other brand of pen products; more importantly make people want to purchase their pen at the asking price (or even more for those top of the line models). Mont Blanc differentiates from its competition by positioning its pen as something more than just as a regular pen that you write with, but rather they position it as a ‘writing instrument’ with pedigree and par excellence. They show you all these top model products made of diamond encrusted in gold/platinum casing in the service manual and homepage, which you will probably never be able to see or afford in your life. But they do wet your appetite of hope, that would make you dream about it and suck you into thinking that you one day you will be able to hold it, own it and use it. Just like each week lotto draw sucks in millions of people whom dream about striking it rich with that one ticket, and casino gives you the feeling that by gambling you will have a chance to be more than you can be (rich and living the high life). Okay so hope is what drives people forward and what drives people crazy, so some company use this as a tool to suck you into buying their product or service, but not every company can do this convincingly or subtly to make you want to come back for more. But anyway back to the Mont Blanc pen thing that i was talking about before, in their service guide, it made this statement under ‘writing instrument’ page:

Writing is an expression of individuality. Our handwriting encapsulate our thoughts, through which we exert our influence, reap success, express feelings. The instruments with which one writes are an expression of our lifestyle. Mont Blanc, as the epitome of the finest writing culture and European workmanship, has since 1906 been producing writing instruments from the hands of masters that reflect the timeless aesthetic of the sophisticated, cultivated personality of their owners. 

In that one paragraph, it doesn’t mention that Mont Blanc produces a high quality pen that writes well, or that the company started its shop in 1906 producing good quality pen. If they were to say that in the product positioning statement, then you probably would not want to fork out $500 dollars for a polymer pen. In that light, why not position ThinkPad as a portable computing instrument that reflect the timeless aesthetic of the sophisticated, cultivated personality of their owners?

Another good example of good product positioning is Moleskine brand of diary, notebooks, basically a writing pad of high quality acid free paper that retails for over $30 dollars. When i first bought it for my girlfriend whom was doing Architectural design at Melbourne University, i thought that this diary must be wrapped in leather hide and that the original one must have used Mole’s skin leather for its cover (as what the name seems to suggest). To my dismay (and probably a good thing for the animal) that most of their products just use oiled canvas (or plastic sheets covers with plasticizer added), which i thought was a rip off for a paper product at this price (1). This was until i read into the whole history of Moleskine diary and whom used it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moleskine). Basically, the Italian company that revived this brand of notebooks and diaries positioned their product as this:

Culture, imagination, memory, travel, personal identity

Moleskine® was created as a brand in 1997, bringing back to life the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin. A trusted and handy travel companion, the nameless black notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books.

Today, the name Moleskine encompasses a family of nomadic objects: notebooks, diaries, journals, bags, writing instruments and reading accessories, dedicated to our mobile identity. Indispensable companions to the creative professions and the imagination of our times: they are intimately tied to the digital world.

company_info_01.jpg

The image and the quotes are taken from (http://www.moleskine.com//about_us/company_information_1.php)

Basically what this positioning statement is saying is that the world’s greatest writers and artists use our products to record their life’s finest creations, and if you think you are one of them, or want to be them, do you really want to settle for second best and not carry on the tradition? So use this product and be part of the tradition of greatness. This statement will attract many uber creative types, as these people are the ultimate ‘self actualiser’ (Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs), and they guard their ideas and creations like mother protect their babies, their Moleskine diary is their ideapad (catch the drift Lenovo marketing gurus?). I have seen an artist living on the street with pretty much no possession, yet he still uses Moleskine diary to record down all his creative flairs. Obviously, this is an extreme example of Moleskine customers, but it shows how enrooted this culture of using Moleskine diary is amongst artists, etc.

Another major reason i perceived that the Moleskine diary are used by so many artists, writers and designers around the world, is due to the tradition and habit that was instilled in them in their formative years in school. Okay let me explain this, the reason that my girlfriend got the Moleskine diary for her Architectural design subject was due to unit coordinator’s strict requirement. Basically he stipulated that you can use any cheap equipment for drawing, but the notebook has to be Moleskine, otherwise you fail the subject (actual word the person used). I asked the lecturer why such requirements are placed on student, he said that the high quality paper used in Moleskine minimises smudges from pencil and bleed through from COPIC markers (which is a lie of course). But any how once you use this diary you understand that it definitely has a quality feel to it. More importantly, people working in the design industry give you a different look when you show them your ideas/creations in a Moleskine product. They know you are a connoisseur and have came from an university of good repute. This recognition from peers is the main driving force that drives many students to continue using their Moleskine products despite the high cost. Then as time goes on it becomes a habit and a routine, in some extreme a family tradition that passes from parents to their offspring during their formative years. Another thing that keeps the Moleskine consumers’ passion alive for the product and its brand is through the great community of enthusiasts it have, whom demonstrate creativity and support through writing, sketching, painting, and drawing on the Moleskine products, and these people share their usage habits and creative masterpiece with their fellow enthusiasts, through blogs, social networks, photo/video sharing platforms. The active members or uber enthusiasts then go out and recruit other enthusiast or potential customer to joint the family. Moleskine maintain this level of passion among its enthusiasts by answering every questions that customers ask, and maintain close contact with various active Moleskine communities. Tupperware party anyone? (Danielle you probably know what i am talking about)

Oh yes i do use Moleskine diary and a Mont Blanc pen, even though my hand writing looks atrocious and i can not draw better than a 3 year old. But the recognition i get from using these in the public, is one of the major reason i use them (and yes that confirms the fact that i am quite shallow and uncreative). This was also why lot of executives used IBM ThinkPads, to show you they had made it as a company executive, nowadays not so much.

So you might ask what is said above about Moleskine and Mont Blanc have to do with Lenovo or ThinkPad? Well it does have a lot of things to do with Lenovo and its product positioning/marketing message. But also this shows the correct way Lenovo should interact with its enthusiasts and leverage them to bring in more enthusiasts, while Lenovo marketing switch tactic on product positioning and marketing (Personal Computing Instrument used by great thinkers or DOers). Obviously, i can write all the ideas i have about the tactics in mind, but then i would be sharing too much information with the public.

I am sharing this information with you as a Lenovo product evangelist, spreading the ‘good word’ for Lenovo. However, when i use the phrase Lenovo product evangelist, i do believe in the message i have to bring to the Lenovo consumers, and i do fight for your right as much as i personally could. Even when that is going up against Goliath, making some people unhappy, and risking getting hanged for minor offences or misunderstandings. But this is all in a day’s work for a true evangelist, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. What keeps me back for this marathon run on Lenovo community is my passion about what i do and what i have to say. The day i lose my passion i will quit my role in the community, and yes i have come close to doing this several times, but the feeling of abandoning your cause that you so firmly believe in seems wrong. Also, my ‘fire of passion’ as a Lenovo evangelists had an afterburner put in recently by the Lenovo ANZ social media team (thanks Danielle), as my opinion actually mattered and not drowned out as noise to people. So i guess this made all my volunteer work that i have done and all the time that i have put into the Lenovo community forums worth it.

As i am a great fan of Steve Jobs, i will therefore repeat these few paragraphs as a closing statement (and to show why i am passionate about what i do).

Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.

And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

Whether you like Steve Jobs or Apple or not, but i find these few paragraphs have a strong resonance with what i did for the Lenovo community and i will embark on in the future.

(1) The Moleskine company also cleverly put a positive spin on the fact Made in China fact, by saying that China is where paper was invented and they have sophisticated paper manufacturing industry, as such it is a natural place for the production of the Moleskine product. Clever

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