One of the good reasons to start a business blog is because it helps to think about strategy.
But recently I was convinced that it helps not only to think about strategy but also helps to keep strategy unchanged. Unchanged from short term marketing fallacies.
There is a story.
Strategies of the two legendary laptop makers
The two makers of notebook computers have a huge and extremely loyal fan base.
First, it is Apple’s Mac.
No doubt, Mac has the biggest and the most devoted number of fans. Nobody can compare with them in loyalty.
The second brand is ThinkPad, the former brand of IBM, now purchased by Chinese computer giant Lenovo.
IBM has done excellent strategy with ThinkPad notebooks. They did not imitate Apple, did not start compete on price, but acted opposite to Apple:
If Mac focused on consumer, ThinkPad mostly sold to corporate buyers.
If Mac is white and (almost) only white, ThinkPad is black and only black.
If Mac has touchpad mouse, ThinkPad has legendary trackpoint mouse.
If Mac is fashion machine, ThinkPad – functional and rugged.
Mac has a glossy screen – because of better looking, ThinkPad – mat, because it is better for the eyes when working long hours.
If Mac is for an extrovert who wants to express himself, who wants to shout “I am different”, ThinkPad is for “serious” users – businesses managers, executives, serious computer lovers or similar. That’s why Apple is the most popular between designers and ThinkPad – between business customers.
Mac is famous for one things, ThinkPad – for the opposite. This strategy allowed IBM to form the second biggest group of very loyal laptop users and advocates of this brand.
Actions of marketing leaders and marketing communication are also very different: while Mac counts on the self-loving founder and CEO Steve Jobs, ThinkPad launches modest but very informative business blogs.
One of the best examples of business blog – Design Matters from Lenovo
Lenovo’s Design Matters is one of the best business blogs on the earth. I even featured it in my e-book The New Rules of Business Blogs. Hat tip for David Hill, Vice President of Lenovo, who hosts this blog. I really encourage all of you who want to start a business blog go to Design Matters and check out how a business blog should look like.
All things are best here – focus on topic, passion, writing style, feedback, authority – all things are perfect.
David runs mini pools there and I am sure that it helps him and his team to come up with better design of ThinkPads.
Lenovo shifts ThinkPad strategy
Recently Lenovo introduced a new series of ThinkPad laptop – [tag]ThinkPad SL[/tag].
David Hill posted a post about it – ThinkPad SL Series.
And then something happens in the comment section of his business blog. The new ThinkPad was bombed by loyal ThinkPad users.
Because the new ThinkPad violates almost all mentioned strategic differences.
Lenovo tried to sell ThinkPad not only to serious corporate buyers, who seek durability and functionality, but also to flashy trend seekers, typical customers of other notebook brands.
This new philosophy is best described in this paragraph of David’s post:
“It now features a unique red LED embedded into the ThinkPad signature replacing the typical red dot over the letter i. When powered up it glows constantly reminding everyone who has the ThinkPad in the room. It also cleverly communicates overall system status. When the lid is closed and the ThinkPad goes into standby the LED begins to slowly pulse like a human heart. We spent a lot of time on this feature working with both development and marketing. It’s not easy squeezing a LED into the display cover. In the end I think it adds value and richens the brand experience.”
Do you hear the typical Steve Jobs talk manner? Talk about “[tag]cool features[/tag]” in his newest computer or software?
This new strategy is a mistake. A huge mistake. And fans reacted. Reacted fast.
Disappointment comments from loyal customers
There were a lot of comments from loyal ThinkPad owners. Comments like this:
“…true ThinkPad is always noticed with or without a Red LED – I can spot a ThinkPad in an airport lounge or a conference room from quite a distance instantly, The R61i/e are not systems I would choose but they are still distinctly ThinkPads. This is another example of Lenovo Marketing simply not understanding their own brand – just like the Lenovo logo on the lids.”
And like this:
“Does not deserve the ThinkPad name.”
“I want a computer, not an advertisement for Lenovo.”
“Overall, I would not buy this model.”
“New SL series is a Thinkpad parody.”
And one customer summarizes the disappointment best of all:
First you’ve got rid of IPS LCDs, then of 4:3 format, stereo input and now you’ve messed up the keyboard.
I’ve owned nothing but a ThinkPad in my life, and have gone through very many of them, but this truly is the end of all ends.
Thanks for sending me into “ThinkPad rehab” with this re-vamped 3000 series that has yet to decide whether it wants to be an S30/31 (not in this life) or a Shiny Black Mac…
I’ll stick to my old ThinkPads and won’t be buying any new ones…”
And so on and so on and so on…
Loyal ThinkPad owners were disappointed, sometimes even insulted from such violation of the core values of these legendary machines.
What Lenovo should do now?
No doubt, if Lenovo wants to save the ThinkPad brand, they must react properly.
First, they must admit the mistake for diluting such iconic brand like ThinkPad.
Second, the CEO of Lenovo must write a post in the David’s business blog announcing that it was a mistake to name this model as ThinkPad and then apologize all the loyal customers for this nonsense. Apologize and after that announce the steps they are doing to recover from this mistake.
The announcement must sound similar like “we will get rid off the legendary ThinkPad name from this computer and in the future we will never consider any other compromise with ThinkPad core values. The ThinkPad name will be removed from this model and the notebook will be renamed as the new Lenovo SM series model, redesigning it according to Lenovo notebooks standards and will continue selling by the new name”.
Just look how David Neeleman, the CEO of JetBlue reacted to similar client’s anger. The CEO of Lenovo should act accordingly.
Better be bombed in a business blog than dilute a valuable brand
For a wise CEO such a customer’s reaction in a business blog is invaluable.
Loyal customers understand the key parts of a brand.
If we think more deeply, we will find out that not a corporation owns a brand. The brand is owned by customers, the brand lives in customers mind.
If you are destroying a perception about a brand in customers mind, you are destroying the brand.
If you accidentally make a mistake and do some moves towards brand destruction, your fans will notice. And a business blog is simply the best place to keep conversation with your customers, with your loyal fans, with your prospects.
If you have done a mistake, it is better to be bombed in a business blog and then take actions to correct the situation than in the long run silently dilute your brand.
You must start a business blog
Design Matters remains one of my favorite business blogs and it’s interesting to see how responses influence the decisions of the CEO of Lenovo.
I encourage all my readers to download my free e-book The New Rules of Business Blogs, check the Design Matters and start theyr own business blog. It helps not only to market your product or service, not only to think about strategy, but to stay on chosen strategy too. Each of this three components alone is worth starting a business blog. But there you can have all three in one!
Dear CEO, let’s go and start a business blog!
Disclosure: I am a huge ThinkPad fan too. All my notebooks were only ThinkPads. My heart goes bloody when I see dilution of such a great brand.