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Cisco gets gold star for daring to do it differently

As a marketing company, we spend a lot of time trying to get attention for our clients’ latest gizmos.

Just getting prospects to look at your new ad or pick up your latest brochure for the new product (let alone read the first paragraph) is a high bar to clear in an industry awash with new product introductions. From long experience, we’ve learned that earning the right to sell to a customer and get his attention requires real creativity to stand out from the crowd. It often depends on the marketing team having the confidence to try something new.

Most large companies tend to follow a cookie-cutter approach to product launches – for cookie-cutter read dull and uninspiring. So hats off to Cisco, that behemoth of the networking industry, for an intriguing and innovative approach to today’s launch of (wait for it, wait for it, you’ll be surprised by this….) its latest router, the ASR 9000

Late in October, I noticed that Cisco created a fake blog [http://techedgeweekly.com/], purportedly from  a journalist called Ira Pumpfkin working for a mythical trade pub, Tech Edge Weekly.

The conceit was that Ira, under pressure from his editor to get a scoop, was trying to get to the bottom of an upcoming and top secret major product launch.

The site mixes text with five short videos (also posted on You Tube) showing Pumpfkin at Cisco’s HQ unsuccessfully following up the story. There are filmed interactions with John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO and others, presumably from the product team. Links from the site, lead to the launch site itself [http://www.cisco.com/cdc_content_elements/flash/netsol/sp/getready/index.html], which until today contained just teaser copy.

The whole thing was also promoted with some PR, and key industry sites picked up the story [http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/34513?t51hb].

What I like about it is that you don’t expect such a hand-flung, guerrilla marketing approach from one of the most buttoned up companies in the industry. That alone would probably make a good chunk of the target audience follow up.

Moreover, this part of the launch campaign obviously didn’t cost very much – the videos are well-enough-produced, for example, but are nothing fancy. Just right for the You Tube generation. [We've been exploring how to make short videos well and inexpensively for a while: check out some at www.mobithinking.com.]

My only concern about the whole thing is Cisco’s attempt to make the fake journalist, his editor and the interactions with Cisco people amusing. Being funny can be a real winner – and always makes a marketing campaign memorable – but only when it really is funny. When it doesn’t work, it can be a campaign killer. Here the effort falls somewhere in between, probably because the scripts are mediocre – though the network engineers at whom the campaign was directed may disagree.

Despite this small caveat, we say, ‘Bravo!’

3 Responses to “Cisco gets gold star for daring to do it differently”

  1. Brian Ellefritz

    Thanks, Velocity, for the complimentary post. As you certainly know social media marketing is hard work and this was no exception but we’ve been gratified so far with the results including 50,000+ YouTube views and almost double our launch registration goals. Feel free to reach out if you want any more info about Cisco’s efforts; B2B social media offers it’s own set of challenges but we’re learning and appreciate any and all comments and critique.
    Brian Ellefritz, Cisco Social Media Marketing.

  2. Brian Ellefritz

    Hi Scott, not sure if you’re still monitoring this thread but love to update you on some evolving tactics at Cisco, keep you abreast of things. In particular if you’d take a look at the latest video we’ve posted to our TechEdgeWeekly.com “blog”, you can see one of these ideas in action.

    Drop me an email if you get a chance, love to stay in touch.
    Brian
    ellefritz@cisco.com

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