Cisco’s marketing chief sits down with ITM

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Marilyn Mersereau, senior VP-corporate marketing at Cisco Systems, recently spoke with Inside Technology Marketing about the changing role of sales and marketing within the technology company and previewed some of its 2009 initiatives. This January, Mersereau successfully led Cisco’s launch of “5 to Thrive,” a campaign that aims to help clients navigate the difficult economy.

ITM: What does your media buying plan look like for this year?

Mersereau: We don’t buy media traditionally anymore. We approach major organizations—it could be CNN, for example—and come up with 360-degree programs that offer print, Web, TV and even product integration into a show.

The one thing we are doing better is integrating our products into TV and the movies. You are seeing [Cisco products] on “24” and “The Office” now because of the efforts we made two years ago.

ITM: How do Cisco’s marketing campaigns respond to the economic ups and downs in the marketplace?

Mersereau: I don’t assume what we have now is going to be relevant in three to six months; it is all about remaining agile and nimble. You can’t listen enough to your salespeople and your people in the marketplace. You will get a lot of credit from them, too, the faster you are able to turn that [market intelligence] around and the campaign takes shape. If you do this, you are one of the last people in your company to get cut.

ITM: How has Cisco’s collaboration philosophy impacted the company’s marketing initiatives?

Mersereau: When you bring unusual groups together [Cisco executives sit on various boards and councils], innovation happens. You need that new way of thinking … to produce better results now. You don’t have that luxury of time to try things and see if they work.

Collaboration is the management style of this millennium. Collaboration is how businesses can learn and be innovative, now and going forward.

ITM: What is your b-to-b marketing strategy this year?

Mersereau: We don’t separate b-to-b and b-to-c anymore—that is old terminology. Instead, we look at our audience as users of technologies. We are creating a consumer aspect of this brand more and more. For example, we will come out with new technologies in the future that will allow you to take TelePresence or Web presence into your home, or on a handheld on a train.

ITM: Which marketing technologies show promise for Cisco?

Mersereau: Video changes everything on the Web. People stay longer on our sites when video is involved. Also, instead of publishing a spec sheet about our products, our program managers publish a video of themselves talking about their product. People have short attention spans today.

“[Also,] we market in a lot of new and digital ways. We are looking for the latest and greatest in technological marketing. Every media outlet I talk too—say Google for example—I tell them that we want to be their test market and their pilot project. I want to launch [the new marketing technology] when I am the first mover in a space.

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