Ashton Kutcher: Product Engineer. That's not the name of his next TV show, but his new job title at Lenovo.
After a livestreamed press conference in Los Angeles tonight to announce a partnership with Lenovo, the actor, producer (co-founder of Katalyst Media), social-media maven and angel investor is flying to company headquarters in China, where he will spend several days conferring with engineers and designers on the team producing the company's Lenovo Yoga tablet.
"Ashton Kutcher is the ultimate super user," said David Roman, Lenovo's chief marketing officer. "The super user is helpful to us in defining products and experiences that consumers want. His sense of what technology can do through his own use and the technology he's seen through his other startups [helps us.] And his celebrity helps us in marketing."
The marketing starts with a two-minute video going online tonight, titled "The New Guy's First Day at Lenovo," created by the Woo Agency, that offers a humorous take on Mr. Kutcher going through a Lenovo orientation and a bit of tech hazing. More online and social-media marketing will back the launch of the actor's involvement with the Yoga tablet. This past week, a series of Vines -- without Mr. Kutcher -- created by Digitas teased the device. TV advertising from Saatchi & Saatchi will air globally, but not in the U.S. initially, a spokeswoman said.
Push for younger consumers
Lenovo has had solid success in the U.S. since taking over IBM's consumer division in 2005. It is now the No. 4 PC maker in the U.S. and No. 1 in the world, according to Gartner and IDC. Younger consumers are a key factor in Mr. Roman's strategy to build Lenovo into a power brand. The group will become especially important to Lenovo as it launches more cutting-edge products and readies a smartphone for the U.S. Mr. Kutcher brings than 15 million fans on Facebook and a roughly equal number of followers on Twitter, along with a social media Klout score of 89. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.
While other tech companies like competitor HP have used celebrities extensively, including singer Gwen Stefani, actress Lea Michele and a parade of "Hands" campaign stars, Lenovo's U.S. marketing has mainly focused on product and lifestyle attributes. Lenovo is one of the few consumer tech companies that hasn't yet employed celebrities in the U.S. Singer will.i.am works with Intel; Lady Gaga is backed by Virgin Mobile; Beyonce starred in Vizio ads a few years ago; Keifer Sutherland did video for Acer; and both Zooey Deschanel and Samuel L. Jackson starred in Apple ads for Siri.
So why now for Lenovo? Mr. Roman said it's about timing. The company had been looking for someone who could be more than a spokesperson for the brand, while Mr. Kutcher was looking for a tech company that would allow him to have product influence. In fact, the product engineer job was his idea.
Mr. Kutcher said, in a statement, "This partnership with Lenovo brings together my love of technology and design that makes your life better. I can't wait to dig in and help Lenovo develop future mobile computing products, starting with the Yoga Tablet. Lenovo is all about innovation and strong leadership. Entrepreneurship is part of their DNA, and I couldn't ask for a better fit."