Close-Up with Lauren Flaherty, exec VP-CMO, Juniper Networks

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Lauren Flaherty joined Juniper Networks, a provider of network infrastructure, software and services, in February 2009, following a stint as CMO at Nortel Networks. Her first challenge as Juniper's CMO was to launch a new brand campaign in the midst of the worst recession in decades.

In the following interview, Flaherty discusses how she succeeded.

CMO Close-Up: What were you charged with when you joined the company?

Flaherty: My initial comment when they put out the release on me was, “We have a well-kept secret here.” The most macro-level charter was: “Give visibility to the capability of the company and really shine a light on Juniper, because Juniper has incredible capabilities; but frankly, we still have a ways to go in terms of getting our market awareness up to where it needs to be.” So charter No. 1 was to build awareness of the company's capabilities and build awareness of the brand. The second thing was, if you're really going to do that, you have to “up-level” the discussion, because Juniper has a very strong engineering heritage and relationships in the labs of major enterprise customers and service providers. We had to start to up-level the company's message so that we would reach strategic decision-makers, because they were less familiar with the company.

CMO Close-Up: What were your challenges in launching a new brand campaign during a downturn?

Flaherty: Before I started, Juniper was about to launch a new brand, and it was going to launch during [February] of last year. Coming in as the new CMO and not having the strategic backdrop of what the rationale was, and not having had an opportunity to understand the real business challenges facing the company, the first thing I had to do was stop the work that was eight and half months out the door, which was a challenge, but ultimately it was the right thing to do. In [February] of last year, we were fresh in the year-end earning cycle, when companies were really starting to show the impact of what had happened in the September [2008] time frame, and the market was extremely volatile. Introducing a brand at that time, unless you had a real strategic foundation about why it would be the right time, would be a misstep. So working with [Juniper CEO] Kevin Johnson and other members of the senior leadership team, we made the decision to pull the plug at the 11th hour. We wanted [the brand campaign] to be much more strategically connected to the overall business direction, which led us down the path where we were not only recasting the Juniper company brand, but we also introduced the Junos software brand, and Junos Space and Junos Pulse. It was a much more cohesive marketing framework and branding framework against the strategy framework.

CMO Close-Up: Which media platforms did you use to execute the campaign?

Flaherty: The key thing was going back to the target. We are grateful for the terrific relationships we have with the traditional technology decision-makers in the networking category, but we needed to build on that. The strategy was two-pronged: Continue to develop and extend relationships with those customers who are faithful to Juniper—so we had a whole ITDM [IT decision-maker] suite of media—and the second prong was, how do you activate decision-makers who we don't have a relationship with that we need to reach. So that made the media strategy pretty straightforward. It was a mix of ITDM, which meant you'd be in trades and heavy in online. In addition to that, we also initiated—which was new for Juniper—much more visibility in The Wall Street Journal and certain business media, including Wired and Forbes. So we started to expand the media platform so we could open a dialogue with new targets.

CMO Close-Up: How has the economy impacted your marketing spending this year?

Flaherty: Because we had decided to hold back on the first wave of rebranding the company, we held back a bit [last year]. The market was not conducive to heavy marketing spend. As we began to really shape the strategy for October and decided to go big with an initiative that was not characteristic of the way Juniper has marketed before, the first signs of relief in the macro-economic environment were just beginning to show. This year, what is working effectively for us is this notion of “rolling thunder.” The way the investments are going are fewer, more strategic initiatives and higher-impact programs to create a “burst” effect. It lets us not only aggregate investment across the various marketing teams but it allows us to leverage investment from other parts of the business to yield greater impact. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that in order to break through the clutter out there, a medium level is not the way to go. The way to go is to package up something significant and relevant, and package it up in a way that it will have major impact.

CMO Close-Up: What is the next step in the campaign rollout?

Flaherty: What's next is mobility. Juniper is really well known for its world-class network infrastructure. What we announced in October was very much about reinforcing the two core advantages of Juniper—the economics of networking and the experience of networking.

Now we want to take that same concept, which is economics and experience of networking, and cast it into where the world is going, which is all about mobility. We went into Mobile World Congress (which was held in February in Barcelona), really talking about how Juniper plays in the whole mobile space. There was a constant flood of banners, billboards and big-tower advertising and marketing, so for all of the key decision-makers who attended Mobile World Congress, we really put a stake in the ground and provided awareness around security and what Juniper is doing in the mobile space.

CMO Close-Up: Are you using social media as part of your marketing?

Flaherty: Being out in social media and actually turning the company on to the notion of how you build communities and how you use social media was something we initiated at the launch in October, and we're extending that. We had an event going on at Barcelona, and from the event we had folks tweeting and putting the word out about what the dialogue was about. It's much more real-time now. In New York [at the company's launch event at the New York Stock Exchange], we were streaming content from the stock exchange event into real-time social networks. The real-time element will become much more important to the media mix. You can opinion-shape on the fly.

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