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Cisco builds ‘Thrive’ site campaign in eight weeks

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Last fall, Cisco Systems' salespeople began reporting how customers were struggling in the difficult U.S. economy. In response, Cisco’s marketing team rapidly created a program designed to speak to practical issues and solutions rather than lofty business ideals.

In January, the San Jose, Calif.-based networking company launched its "5 to Thrive" marketing campaign and Web site (www.cisco.com/newways).

“One of the ways to help customers in a downturn is to help them in a broader business sense,” said Marilyn Mersereau, VP-corporate marketing at Cisco. “We realized there must be some lessons we have learned over time. We asked ourselves, ‘What are we doing as a company to weather this?’”

The Internet Business Solutions Group, an internal consulting group for Cisco clients, along with Cisco's sales and marketing teams, put together a series of best practices aimed to enable businesses to thrive during a recession.

The Web site lists five ways that businesses can be successful in today's economy. The site also features webcasts, videos, a BusinessWeek webcast and other resources.

A new campaign, developed in just eight weeks, was launched on Jan. 20 with television ads on CNN during its presidential inauguration coverage. The same day, a full-page ad ran in the Wall Street Journal. “It’s a brand new day," read the print ad copy in part. "There is no better time to change the way you get things done.”

“There was a presidential election and people are feeling much more positive about that,” Mersereau said. “It is a good idea to attach yourself to something bigger than yourself.”

Cisco typically reserves newspaper print ads for when the company has a major announcement, Mersereau said, adding that Cisco executives consider the "Thrive" campaign to be a major announcement.

Both the TV and print ads direct people to visit cisco.com/newways to find out about the ways to thrive. Some 55,000 people visited the site in the first two weeks. “That is a good number for a specialty site," Mersereau said. "This is all about engaging them at their point: in conversations, registering with us, or taking an assessment.”

Noting that Cisco’s years-old "The Human Network" brand messaging continues—a campaign that itself includes advice for business success—Mersereau said “5 Ways to Thrive” is more specific. “We need to dial them down in these economic times, to a more pragmatic approach,” she said.

The Thrive campaign also brings a lighter touch than “The Human Network” campaign. One video, for example, features various business men and women singing the R&B hit, “I Will Survive.”

Video, particularly personalized Web video tools, is a strong marketing tool for Cisco, Mersereau said.

"Video changes everything on the Web," she said. "People stay longer on our sites when video is involved and our customers post videos back to us. We call this video networking.”

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