Saturday, June 15, 2024

Best Practice: How Cisco Revitalized Its Brand

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Cisco is heading in a new direction. It is operating in an industry undergoing massive change and seeing wave after wave of new companies and technologies. Cisco is now a relatively old company, and it needed to update its image and brand to reflect how it is today—a more of innovative and socially responsible firm than buyers and investors had come to know it in the past.

Changing an image is hard because we tend to be rather fixed in our perceptions, yet the job still has to be done. I was briefed on Cisco’s massive—and successful—effort last week, and I thought it was unique enough to share as a best practice.

Let’s cover what Karen Walker, Cisco’s current SVP and CMO, and her team, have been doing to change the face of Cisco.

The New Connected World

Part of changing an image is first realizing what your goal is. How do you want customers and investors to see you? And let’s not leave out employees because you want them not only to embrace the new image but also to be excited and proud of it. This image has to both reflect reality as it now is and not damage any aspect of the current image that is keeping all three groups loyal.

When Cisco came to market, the world was largely disconnected, and Cisco was a big part of fixing that. But the current market is less about connecting firms than it is about connecting and securing things. Complexity and security exposures have grown massively with billions of connected people and things, and an equally massive move to digitalization, and yet the primary differentiator of customer experience has remained constant.

Part of the process in determining what Cisco’s new image should be was looking out at the world to determine today’s reality and doing numerous interviews with people and companies to understand both the aspirational aspects of the new image and the parts of the old image that needed to remain unchanged.

The resounding message back from these stakeholders was that, to them, technology was the single most important driver of change in the world. So this concept of being able to help people adapt to change in a reliable, safe and secure, and relatively easy way evolved into the tagline “There’s Never Been A Better Time.”

There’s Never Been A Better Time

This then resulted in a multi-media campaign with an impressive number of key elements. These elements included

  • Global Cinemagraphs—This is a new form of display ad for the Web where there is motion to pull the eye, but it isn’t really a movie. These are kind of cool, and they pull the eyes into the ad better than static images.
  • Global Promoted Social Trends—Using social media, Cisco repetitively showcases messages consistent with the campaign to gradually get readers to begin to pivot and see Cisco in a different light that is in line with the campaign.
  • 360 Degree Video on Social—Tied to the social trend effort above, this element takes readers into a view of particular Cisco projects like the NERV disaster response truck to showcase what Cisco is doing specifically that is new and different and in concert with the image it is building.
  • Social Emoji Campaign—This is specifically focused to resonate the “There Has Never Been A Better Time” tagline by letting social media users use that tagline in creative ways. For instance, “There Has Never Been a Better Time to be a 49ers Fan.” (Though given how the Niners have been playing, I expect that won’t be said much). There is a special social media emoji that can be used as well.
  • Real-Time Social Wall—This element showcases comments and activity related to the campaign so that people, both inside and outside of Cisco, can see how the messages are resonating.

Partners are brought into this as well and monitored as New Partner Activations. Getting partners on board provides leverage and assures that the entire Cisco family is on board and working to advance the effort.

The company is using Tableau to create a digital dashboard so that those managing the campaign can see how effectively the individual elements are performing and adjust resources and ad spending as needed and quickly respond to changing customer interests.

Cisco also integrated its Spark platform into this effort. Spark is the communications and collaboration solution which not only promotes the effort but provides a showcase for customers exemplifying how this tool can be used to coordinate their own campaigns.

It is also one of the first to use Facebook Video Retargeting, a new service from Facebook which uses video to pull social media users into a rich campaign.


Even though this campaign has only been going on a couple of months, the marketing team have already achieved 72 percent of their engagement goals. This equates to over 723,000 engagements with the biggest impact in security, self-driving trucks and smart cities. (I should point out that interest in security is running a little over four time smart cities but less than two times driverless trucks, showcasing both static and changing concerns.) There have been 34,000 partner activations and a whopping 300 million social impressions. Compared to their last campaign, “Tomorrow Starts Here,” they nearly doubled the annual performance of that campaign in just 60 days.

This is an impressive blend of both old and new approaches to driving an image campaign, and underneath it is an impressive set of tools I didn’t talk about which are driving sales to Cisco, which, at the end of the day, is the primary goal of marketing. The campaign-over-campaign improvement in key metrics and positive stock performance during the period the campaign has been running (look at year view), showcases the impressive success of Karen Walker’s team and bodes well for Cisco’s new leadership and business outlook.

It’s a solid effort that I think rises to the standard of a best practice.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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