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Juniper Networks' CMO talks about taking on Cisco

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Since joining Juniper Networks almost four years ago, Lauren Flaherty, exec VP-CMO, has focused on establishing the networking provider as a category thought leader. Examples of this effort include Juniper's 2011 campaign to introduce its new data center network architecture targeting enterprises rather than telecom companies and stressing deep scholarship and a new campaign this year, “Build the Best,” which focuses on customer testimonials. A more feisty campaign was Juniper's 2009 “The New Network Is Here” program directly comparing its routing, switching and security platforms with those of its major competitor, Cisco Systems. BtoB: Your campaign comparing Juniper with powerhouse Cisco was pretty daring. How did that work out for you? Lauren Flaherty: “The New Network Is Here” was an episodic program, just a few months long, and was actually initiated by Cisco's taking a direct, critical approach to us on social media. I wouldn't remotely characterize it as defining us, but rather validating us in regards to the improved position of the company. When somebody many, many times your size comes at you like that, clearly you've struck a nerve. Longer term, our more strategic work has been how you take a company that is well-regarded by customers for innovation, but not as well known as some of its major competitors, and how you consistently curate and craft a more significant brand impression. BtoB: Tell us about “The New Network” messaging, on which this short program was based? Flaherty: There is a status quo in the category, but Juniper is about innovation—what's new and coming. “The New Network” became a simple handle that we're more about the future and innovation. The feedback we've gotten from our customers is that just adding on another piece of hardware isn't the ultimate solution. They need somebody who's thinking about software, hardware and silicon innovation to be able to lessen the mounting pressures of infinite bandwidth, social, mobile, video and data. “The New Network” has helped us go from a third-tier player into a three-horse race among Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper. BtoB: Juniper has introduced a new campaign for 2013, “Build the Best,” which seems to build on that customer feedback you mentioned. Flaherty: Yes, it's totally customer-facing, about enabling customers to build the best network. “Build the Best” centers on customer success stories and how Juniper supports them. It principally focuses on digital, including social, videos and the Web, but also with select industry and proprietary events. It will be less mass-market but more surgically precise. BtoB: How would you characterize the basic message of “Build the Best”? Flaherty: It's about being authentic, genuine and centered on what matters most to customers. That's especially important in the tech category, which is full of hype. The marketing dilemma in 2013 is how to promote yourself in an authentic way that isn't arrogant. What people are looking for is a trusted brand. The new campaign elaborates on “The New Network.” Customers want to understand how to build it. Now, with the feedback we have, we can tell them how to “build the best.”
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