Lenovo CMO on Avoiding the Show Floor at CES (and Why Hiring Ashton Kutcher Wasn't a Gimmick)

David Roman Says TV Star Working on Future Product Specs

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From product announcements to agency and partner meetings to company parties, a consumer electronics brand's marketing chief endures a storm of mayhem during the International Consumer Electronics Show. But Lenovo's chief marketing officer and senior VP David Roman takes it all in stride.

Mr. Roman's advantage? He likely won't step foot on the Las Vegas Convention Center grounds, which are swarming with an estimated 150,000 people touring thousands of booths. Instead Lenovo has taken over The Venetian Hotel's AquaKnox restaurant.

Lenovo's CES showroom
Lenovo's CES showroom

"When we first tried to get into the show [in 2009], there was no room on the show floor. [The Consumer Electronics Association] gave us a deal that we could do our thing here," Mr. Roman said.

Lenovo has outfitted the restaurant with tables for products and a stage where bands perform during nightly parties. It also closed off much of the dining area for executive meetings, creating a back-room vibe befitting a high-roller. The set-up benefits Mr. Roman given the rise of CES as one of the marketing industry's most well-attended, and chaotic, events.

"Today I met with three of our agencies," Mr. Roman said on Tuesday afternoon. CES "wasn't like that before. All of our agencies are here."

CES affords those agency executives a chance to see Lenovo's technology "in a more realistic environment," Mr. Roman said. The PC maker is also showing off newer products, like smartphones and tablets (including a table-sized one), which will necessitate bigger brand marketing efforts. "Our last big brand push kicked off almost three years ago … It's a good time to rethink a lot, and CES is a good place to do it," he said.

Lenovo's table-sized tablet
Lenovo's table-sized tablet

Mr. Roman wouldn't offer specifics regarding Lenovo's marketing plans for 2014, but said that it will entail a lot of content marketing and lean heavily on digital media rather than traditional mass media to better target millennials.

Lenovo's marketing will also involve Hollywood star and tech investor Ashton Kutcher. The brand announced last October that Mr. Kutcher had signed on as a product engineer. News of tech companies "hiring" celebrities -- BlackBerry naming (and recently un-naming) Alicia Keys its creative director, Polaroid hiring Lady Gaga for the same role and Intel appointing Will.i.am director of creative innovation -- is typically met with eye-rolls. But Mr. Roman said Mr. Kutcher's hire is "not a gimmick" and that the "Two and a Half Men" star is actually working on specifications for future Lenovo products.

"We did a product launch in LA [for the Yoga tablet in October] straight after [Mr. Kutcher] had been filming 'Two and a Half Men.' That evening he caught a flight to Beijing and worked two straight days with our engineering team in Beijing," Mr. Roman said.

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