Cisco Systems

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Cisco Systems

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif. Brand established: 1984 2005 advertising: $69.7 million 2006 Interbrand/BusinessWeek ranking: No. 18 Brand Value: $12 billion CoreBrand ranking: 26


STRENGTHS: Roth: Moving beyond its “key ingredient” brand model to becoming a household brand. By purchasing Scientific Atlanta, it will soon be one of the more visible household brands as it adorns cable boxes across America. By leveraging its engineering and technology heritage in both b-to-b and consumer environments, it will have a significantly broader brand platform from which to expand. Ries: Cisco dominates the network business with advanced technologies and a great brand name. CHALLENGES: Ries: In high technology, you can always be blindsided by an emerging technology that makes your existing product line obsolete. The only protection is keeping your fingers crossed and prayer. Roth: “Brand Stretch” is always an issue for brands that move out of familiar territory.

Cisco Systems’ marketing efforts historically have targeted technology and business decision-makers, highlighting the strength of the company’s core networking business with campaigns such as “This Is the Power of the Network. Now.” More recently, however, the company has set out to reposition itself as a brand with a softer, more human focus, increasing awareness not just among business decision-makers but also the public in general.

The shift is largely a response to the times and forces such as social networking, said Marilyn Mersereau, VP-corporate marketing at Cisco. Networking is no longer just a platform for business but for the way people work, live, play and learn, she said.

“People’s business and personal lives are mixing,” she said. “Home is no longer just personal life and office is no longer just professional. Devices are allowing you the flexibility to choose to work when you want to and where you want to, when it’s convenient.”

Communicating the human side of networking and communications technology was key in the “PoweredBy Cisco” campaign which featured ads that showed the effects successful networking and communications can have on end users. For instance, one print ad showed a newborn baby and touted the benefits of “ambulances outfitted with smart technology connected to hospital admissions connected to a squirming bundle of joy in Milwaukee.”

Heather MacPherson, managing director at Ogilvy & Mather, Los Angeles, Cisco’s ad agency, said the tech audience has responded well to the more human take on networking. “They’re very open and very appreciative that we created a dialogue around technology that is very human and very understandable, because those are the conversations they’re having at the office with their C-suite,” she said.

Earlier this month, Cisco kicked off a $100 million integrated campaign that included the unveiling of a new logo. Mersereau said the new logo is much easier to read because it no longer includes the word “Systems.” Also, the bridge motif featured in the old logo is now smaller.

As part of the campaign, Cisco will use viral marketing and innovative online tactics, such as posting definitions in Wikipedia. It will also continue to place products on popular TV shows; past placements have included “24” and “The Office.” “Instead of interrupting people while they’re watching TV, we’re trying to engage them and relate to them when they’re in the mood and the place to be engaged,” Mersereau said.

Cisco’s previous efforts and successes have earned it the reputation of being the 800-pound gorilla in its space. But breaking into the consciousness of those outside the technology arena could prove to be a challenge, said Alan Siegel, founder and chairman of Siegel & Gale, a strategic branding and Internet consultancy.

“It’s a great company and they’ve been enormously successful,” Siegel said, “[but] it’s difficult to be an ingredient company and then start selling products to a market that doesn’t know you.” —Mary E. Morrison

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