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B-to-B Needs More Humor: Cisco Marketing Manager

Late-Night Comedian-Turned-Marketer Sees Brand Value in Laughter

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Business may not seem funny to most, but it ought to be, according to Tim Washer, a former actor and comedy writer who's now Cisco Systems' senior marketing manager for social media.

Creating brand value is as important as feeding the sales funnel, Mr. Washer said at the annual Business Marketing Association meeting in Chicago, and humor is a key ingredient.

Cisco, with Mr. Washer's help, has already embarked on some comedic videos, one of which came last year with the marketing of its ASR 9000 router.

In another recent example, meant to help warm up chief innovation officers to the company, Mr. Washer himself was filmed playing the role of a server in a video called "Fast IT and the Slow Waiter." In a hidden-camera kind of concept, the unsuspecting CIO was invited to a restaurant with a Cisco sales representative. Mr. Washer not only took his time taking their orders, but proceeded to ask personal questions and even sit down next to the CIO and engage in a conversation. The result was laughter and "a more relaxed environment," he said.

"Most of these meetings usually take place in a board room and no one is usually relaxed there. We decided to do this type of experience and film it," said Mr. Washer."Cisco created a fun experience for the CIO and we believe it will impact what they think about us. Yes it's a risk, but when you take risk you can see a greater reward if you do it right. You need the right people and you aren't necessarily going to have a comedy writer at your AOR."

Mr. Washer also stressed that while it was still unclear how this humor tactic is translating to sales, it is creating a positive feeling, something he says b-to-b brands need to consider more than white papers and data reports.

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