If you had told us a few years ago that we would attend an event from Lenovo, we would have laughed at the notion. Lenovo was after all the company that was best known for having taken over IBM’s ThinkPad business and was seen as a bit of a hardware hero with not too much of a “soft”(ware) side. But well, for the best part of an hour yesterday, its executives gently kept skirting mention of hardware, while they launched the K6 Power – the “Vibe” name has been dropped, we hear.
The cynics would say that that was because the K6 Power did not really have anything exceptional in hardware terms. There are more than a few products out there that can match its Qualcomm 430 chip, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage and 13.0-megapixel and 8.0-megapixel rear and front shooter combination at Rs 9,999 (the likes of Xiaomi, Coolpad and InFocus have devices in that range, to name a few). But as someone who has been observing the mobile phone side of Lenovo for a while, the company has been moving away from the spec sheet for a while now.
Perhaps the event that changed Lenovo’s approach was the launch of the K4 Note, where the focus was on the company’s TheaterMax technology that allowed you to view content on the phone as if on a large display using a special pair of glasses (the company insisted it was not VR). The period since has seen a steady stress on experiential elements like sound (an event was hosted in a cinema hall to show off Dolby Atmos sound) and multimedia. Yes, the spec sheet does come into play but it is only towards the end and then too is seldom allowed to be the star of the show.
That was the case with the launch of the K6 Power where the brand followed what is becoming its template of sorts in recent times – starting with an overview of how well the brand is done, interspersed with comments by its e-commerce partner and rounded off by the product itself, with the spec sheet coming in generally towards the very end. We were given a sampling of the Dolby Atmos effect, shown security features on the phone and told about battery life (with even a real life story thrown in for good measure). Yes, the processor and other hardware specs did get a mention, but they were firmly kept in their place. The centrestage was occupied by the “experience” element – the K6 Power was a great multimedia device was the core message. We had no endorsements from hardware manufacturers (unlike in the Z2 Plus where Qualcomm had come on stage for a while). And as always, there was no celebrity to divert attention – Lenovo did have Ranbir Kapoor on its rolls but never rolled him out for events (apologies for the bad pun).
The product and the experience it delivers very much seem to be the stars at Lenovo events. Which seems to be fine on paper, but runs the risk of becoming predictable and monotonous. When Sudhin Mathur, Executive Director of Lenovo’s Mobile Business Group in India came on stage to outline how well the brand had been doing, there was a sense of deja vu among some of the attendees – Lenovo and Motorola events have been coming thick and fast of late, making the regular template seem repetitive. And this in turn seemed to take some of the momentum away from the detailed product presentation made by Anuj Sharma, Lenovo India’s head for product and marketing. “Too many events,” one of our senior colleagues muttered. And that, along with a profusion of competitors with similar looking products, seems to be Lenovo’s greatest challenge at the moment.
But although some are beginning to find its approach a tad tedious, it certainly beats the adjective-laden spec readout that many product launches are becoming. Most importantly, it seems to be working, if the sales of the K Note series are to be believed. They might not make as much noise about “experience over specs” as some of their competitors do, but Sudhin Mathur, Anuj Sharma and Co have managed to put specs on the back foot in most of their launches.
They also have cut back on an accepted – and in our opinion, regressive – practice of handing out “gifts” and freebies to mediapersons at their events. Of late, Lenovo’s events have been marked by some sort of freebie coming with the invite to the event rather than after it is over. This has led to the end of pitched battles being waged for press kits (less for the releases that they contained and more for what accompanied them), but has also generated some angst in some sections of the media and blog community. Not that it seems to bother the Lenovo team. When some people complained about the absence of gifts at the event, one of their executives smiled and said, “It is our badge of honour. The event is about the product.”
Indeed it is. A bit too much, as per some. But we are not complaining.