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Chinese PC Maker Lenovo Taps H-P's David Roman as CMO

Red-Hot Marketer Hopes Exec Behind 'Computer Is Personal Again' Campaign Can Continue Its Turnaround

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BEIJING (AdAge.com) -- Lenovo Group's comeback as the world's fourth-largest PC maker is getting a major adrenalin shot this week with the hiring of Hewlett-Packard executive David Roman as VP-chief marketing officer.

David Roman
David Roman
Mr. Roman, a former Apple Computer exec, was VP-worldwide marketing communications for H-P's Personal Systems Group, and played a big role in the resurgence of H-P's PC business.

At Lenovo, he is charged with building a brand that seems to be on a roll, with global sales up 33% year-on-year in the last quarter of 2009. Last month, Lenovo posted its strongest results in six quarters -- and its second consecutive quarter in the black -- with a net profit of $79.52 million for the last three months of last year.

Lenovo "became the fastest-growing PC manufacturer in the world among the top five," said Beijing-based CEO Yuanqing Yang. "Now, we have a tremendous opportunity to take our business to new heights. [Mr. Roman] brings to Lenovo outstanding experience in the PC sector, a strong background in building brands and driving demand, and a vision for breakthrough creative marketing that will fuel our growth in the global commercial and consumer technology market."

Before joining H-P, Mr. Roman led international and corporate marketing for Nvidia, an industry leader in graphics and media processors, and held marketing roles at Apple Computers including VP-worldwide advertising and brand marketing.

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"Lenovo represents a fantastic opportunity to join a company on the rise, with a unique global culture, a history of innovation leadership and a bright future not only in PCs, but as a leader in consumer and commercial technology," Mr. Roman said.

Mr. Roman fills a role left empty when Deepak Advani returned to IBM Corp. in March 2009, a dark period for the Chinese company that bought IBM's PC division in 2004. In the U.S. and Europe, Lenovo focused on corporate sales rather than home computers, an approach that fell apart when the global recession hit corporate budgets for IT purchases.

During the last quarter of 2008, sales plummeted 20%, leading to a $97 million loss, and Lenovo laid off about 11% of staff in early 2009. After cutting costs, Lenovo revised its strategy, mainly by focusing on domestic sales in home-market China until the U.S. and Europe showed signs of a rebound. That recovery strategy appears to be working and sales are growing again.

Mr. Roman was hired by H-P in 2005 along with Satjiv Chahil, the senior VP-worldwide marketing, to revive the flagship (but then-flagging) Personal Systems Group, which houses all of H-P's computer products from notebooks and netbooks to monitors and mobile computing devices.

Messrs. Roman and Chahil, working with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, started their mission with hip young red-haired Olympic medal snowboarder Shaun White and filmed his midsection and hands while he seemed to pluck and drag graphics and images from his life onto his personal computer. "The Computer Is Personal Again" campaign was a critical and consumer success, helping H-P overtake chief rival Dell for the No. 1 spot in the world and then the U.S. under the new marketing direction.

Messrs. Chahil and Roman are also credited with pushing a holistic marketing strategy that included incorporating marketing thinking into everything from product design to online ads.

An H-P spokeswoman said Mr. Chahil, who is retiring, is interviewing candidates to replace himself, and Mr. Roman's duties have been divided among several staffers until a replacement is found.

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Contributing: Beth Snyder Bulik

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