Lenovo ThinkPad P1 portable workstation

The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 and How to Market a Portable Workstation

Workstations are a unique platform in that they are sold as I think PCs should be sold—to the users and not to IT departments. The PC market is coming back to this idea, but workstations never lost it. Workstations tend to challenge and often exceed the prices of high end game machines because their performance almost directly relates to the productivity of the engineer using them and thus the firm’s revenue. Given this high price, the tight focus on the practical application of the product, and the tight connection to the folks that use it, you’d think some of the most compelling targeted marketing would be in this category and you’d generally be wrong.

This is particularly ironic because workstations are, themselves, almost always favored for creative work like developing marketing campaigns. Given the engineers and graphic artists that use these products are often also petrol heads (into cars) in their spare time, a campaign that blends an interest in cars, ties that interest into the performance of the workstation, and connects the two viscerally would be ideal—yet I’ve rarely seen one outside of the work AMD does with the Ferrari team and their Threadripper product.

Well this year Lenovo stepped up with an effort tied to Aston Martin, and it is brilliant.

Let’s talk about that this week.

What Is A Portable Workstation?

A portable workstation has often been a kludge of conflicting concepts. It must be both very high powered and portable—often resulting in huge luggable products that aren’t very portable, or portable products that aren’t very powerful. They still require all the software certifications to do the job, and the result is often disappointing. However, over time the component makers have really stepped up their game and Lenovo’s P1 showcases what may be an ideal balance of performance, portability, robustness, and attractive design in a very impressive product.

Lenovo is relatively new to this segment which is largely dominated by Dell and HP. But, these two vendors seem largely happy with the status quo and generally focus their marketing into other areas—as a result leaving an opening for Lenovo to exploit.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin DB5 James Bond 007
The iconic Aston Martin DB5 driven by James Bond in the movie Goldfinger.

It is hard to think of Aston Martin without thinking of the iconic “My name is Bond, James Bond” line from the movie Dr. No. The back story with Aston Martin and James Bond is that, originally, the movie producers wanted the Jaguar XKE. But, those cars were so popular there weren’t spares for the movie and, for Goldfinger—the third film in the series—they went with an Aston Martin instead. That car has a full weapon load out of oil, smoke, caltrops, bullet proof shield (and glass), and front mounted machine guns. This car is so highly desirable, Aston Martin recently put it back into production with all the toys and you can buy one for yourself for a paltry $3.5M (Sadly, a tad over my crazy money budget).

But here is a company that builds some of the most attractive performance cars in the world, that is also building fully weaponized versions of the most desirable car they’ve ever had, and typically is on the short lust list for most engineers. They’d make an ideal partner to talk about a new portable workstation.

Lenovo’s Brilliance

And that is just what Lenovo did. They partnered with Aston Martin and created a showcase advocacy for their workstation within that company. The only thing that might have been better is to have Q, the weapons master for James Bond, make the P1 part of the mission load out for the next movie (and given their relationship with Aston Martin that is very possible).

The P1 is the workstation that the folks that build James Bond’s car use and they wouldn’t use it unless it worked extremely well.

Wrapping Up

One of the ways to break into a market and create excitement with your products is to create powerful advocacies with people and companies the target customer respects and will listen to. The average car company likely wouldn’t make this cut, but Aston Martin—with its extremely attractive designs and tie-ins to James Bond—is an obvious choice. They apparently love the new Lenovo P1 workstation and are actively advocating for it, which should drive interest to this emerging portable workstation line and shake up the segment.

Nicely done—though, I’m still hoping for a test drive in a weaponized Aston Martin DB5. Also, I too, like my martinis shaken and not stirred.

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