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The new Yoga 900 in stand mode, displaying its hinge to advantage

Lenovo Tweaks Yoga Positioning

Lenovo has come a long way since it was a scrappy Chinese PC company called Legend looking for a way into the U.S. market from a tiny toehold in Freemont, CA, in 2001. Since then, the firm has changed its name to navigate international trademark law, bought a slew of companies, include IBM’s PC unit in 2005, German PC firm Medion in 2011, and both Motorola’s phone assets and IBM’s x86 server division in 2014. It also underwrote a major ad campaign for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and formed a joint venture with NEC in Japan in 2011. And it has taken on spokespeople from Ronaldinho (the Brazilian soccer player) to Ashton Kutcher (the American movie actor), all while becoming the #1 PC company in the world by unit shipments.

At the heart of this expanding enterprise are great design teams in China, Japan, and the United States, which have kept the pace of product development moving along smartly. The U.S.-based ThinkPad team has contributed mightily to the commercial lineup, and most of its members are still in place today, a tribute to the retention skill of Chinese management. The Beijing-based consumer team has put the company at the edge of eye-catching innovation. Today’s lineup of both commercial and consumer PCs is one of best in the industry. And among those products perhaps the most distinctive (and successful) is the Yoga, first introduced in 2012.

The Yoga gets its name from its ability to twist in the pretzel-like ways of a human Yoga practitioner, giving the user four viewing modes: standard notebook (for productivity), tent (for watching content from a middle distance), tablet (for touch and portability), and stand (for touchscreen apps and viewing video on airplanes).

Lenovo recently introduced the latest revision of its high-end model, the Yoga 900, along with a subtle but distinct rebranding campaign. The product tweaks brings the flagship Yoga up to the exacting expectations of today’s picky notebook buyers. There are plenty of reviews out there, but key improvements address the critical factors of cooling, mechanical design, performance, and battery life. To wit: Lenovo created its own metal-alloy fan, which is 32% larger but 66% less dense than the previous version. So, better cooling and less weight. The trademark watchband hinge, with 813 parts, works better than ever. It moves more smoothly and stays where you put it. A 50% higher-capacity battery (66 watt hours) delivers more life, which is good, because the processor has been shifted from an Intel Core M to a sixth generation Intel Core i (up to an i7), which, while delivering greater performance, also draws more power. The company claims that the Yoga 900, at 14.9mm, is the thinnest Core i convertible laptop on the market. Other features — up to 16GB of LPDDR3 memory, up to a 512GB solid-state drive, JBL speakers with Dolby, and USB C-type connectors — bring the Yoga 900 up to current standards. All this doesn’t come cheap, of course, and the starting MSRP is $1,199, but you get what you pay for.

At the same time, the company refreshed the Yoga Home lineup with its own 900 designator. The Yoga Home 900 is a 27” multi-touch all-in-one for home entertainment. Between the Yoga, the Yoga Home, and the consumer-oriented Yoga Tab, these three sub-lines make up the full Yoga portfolio, which itself represents the leading edge of Lenovo’s premium notebook offering. ThinkPad is still the flagship of the commercial business, but Yoga is holding up the side for consumer and individual buyers.

The products are supported by a new consumer marketing program. Called “Big Play” internally, the new effort eschews the former hard red and black color scheme for a softer palette of pink, orange, light green, and turquoise. Aiming for a trend-setting demographic, the company has created a social campaign with the hashtag #Goodweird and a website that lets visitors upload their own assays and vote on whether a particular piece of content is good, goodweird, or just weird. The company reports engagement activity in 98 countries and says its metrics show #Goodweird ahead of the previous successful campaign, which featured Kutcher using Lenovo notebooks in various amusing settings.

These product launches and the new campaign represent the second wave of activity around the repositioning of the Yoga brand. The first took place in September at IFA in Berlin and included a refresh of the tablet. The third will fall during CES in Las Vegas in January, 2016.

All in all, the company has managed to establish, nurture, and grow the Yoga franchise into a major contributor of revenue, brand equity, and momentum that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

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Technology Analyst

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