Susan Bostrom

Published on .

Title: Exec VP-CMO, global policy and government affairs
Company: Cisco Systems
Years in current job:
Quote: “A lot of the marketing foundation we put in place over the past few years—moving more toward virtual events, product integration, high-impact media and streamlining our launches—really helped us in the past year when we had to do more with less. Now, as we come out of that, it's giving us an innovative foundation to continue to build on.”

Susan Bostrom, exec VP-CMO, global policy and government affairs at Cisco Systems, has made it a priority to align the $40 billion networking giant's marketing strategy to its expansive business strategy. In addition to selling its core routing and switching products to the enterprise, service provider and small-business markets, Cisco has moved into “market-adjacent” businesses such as virtual conferencing and physical security, and Bostrom has mirrored that expansion with an ambitious and forward-looking marketing strategy.

“We've tried to find out what are the rivers that are running through our business strategy that we can communicate in our marketing strategy, and that really has been the idea that the network is the platform—the enabler to make these things happen—and that video is what really is allowing that network to bring the next level of human value,” she said.

The company communicates that message through its ongoing “Human Network” campaign, a vast, integrated effort that has delivered strong increases in both brand value, up 25% since 2006 (based on Interbrand rankings), and Web traffic, which has doubled in that time to about 14 million visitors a month.

The campaign has evolved as the economy has ebbed and flowed, Bostrom said, first communicating how Cisco technologies could transform peoples' lives, later addressing the bottom- and top-line impact the offerings could have and, more recently, highlighting the ways in which video can change the way people work and live.

In late September, the company rolled out the latest iteration of the campaign “Together, We Are the Human Network,” demonstrating across all segments how video can bring people together. Cisco talked to customers and determined that in a world of constant communication, people feel connected but not always engaged. “We saw this need to do more and more, but a desire to do it better,” Bostrom said. “The concept that we're introducing is that video is the new better.”

The campaign will continue Cisco's aggressive use of product integration, Bostrom said. (Cisco products have in the past been placed on TV shows such as “24” and “The Office” and in movies such as “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”) Product integration is particularly effective, she said, because it allows viewers to imagine what the possibilities for using Cisco technologies could be in their own lives.

Social media and video are also prominent in the campaign, driving traffic to—or keeping it on— The site, which has capabilities in 85 countries and 40 languages, is central to Cisco's global marketing effort. “We see that as the backbone for getting close to our customers around the world,” she said.

Cisco also has honed its use of combined virtual and in-person events—what Bostrom calls “hybrid” events. The company's annual user conference, Cisco Live, held this past June in Las Vegas, attracted about 13,000 attendees at the live event and 30,000 virtual attendees. In a customer satisfaction survey, 90% of attendees rated the event as above average or excellent.


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