BtoB's Best Marketers: Blair Christie, Cisco Systems

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Last January when Blair Christie took the reins from Susan Bostrom, exec VP-CMO, global policy and government affairs at Cisco Systems, the networking giant had almost 30 areas of marketing-business objectives. Today, it has five. “We were creating more noise than clarity,” said Christie, chief marketing and communications officer, worldwide government affairs, and a 12-year veteran of Cisco. “We were focused on so many different types of end users.” Christie said Cisco's new marketing focus is the core network- ing space (selling core routing and switching products to the enterprise, service provider and small and mid- size business markets), video, collaboration, transition to data centers and business architectures. It hasn't been an easy transition for Cisco. The company announced earlier this year that it would trim expenses by $1 billion through 6,500 layoffs. Sales had rebounded by the time it posted its fiscal 2011 financial results in August. It reported net sales of $43.2 billion, up 7.9% from the prior fiscal year. As Cisco has gone through this transition, the marketing department has been busy re-evaluating its operations, developing an internal “one-voice strategy” and integrated approach for all its marketing, Christie said. “We serve so many customers and in so many different markets,” she said. “This is giving us a hymnal for all of us to sing from.” The integrated approach will be apparent in new executions of its ongoing “Welcome to the Human Network” campaign expected later this year, with ads from agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. Expect traditional media, as well as a strong emphasis on digital and social media, Christie said. Cisco's TelePresence videoconferencing technology also continues to get prominent exposure through paid placements on channels such as CNBC, CNN and ESPN's “SportsCenter.” —Patricia Riedman Title: Chief marketing and communications officer, worldwide government affairs Company: Cisco Systems Years in current job: 10 months Quote: “We are building one marketing communications plan for Cisco. In the past, we were very segment focused.”
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