More aggressive marketing helped Cisco go from crisis to confidence

Slightly more than 12 months ago, Cisco recognized it had a problem.

Slightly more than 12 months ago, Cisco recognized it had a problem.

The IT networking company had suffered a couple of bad quarters on the stock market and it was lacking direction. It was under fierce attack from competitors such as HP and there was some doubt emerging about its dominance in markets it had once fundamentally owned.

CEO John Chambers and newly installed COO Gary Moore consulted customers and employees and refocused the business away from its dalliance with consumer markets toward five big product priorities: leadership in core routing, switching, and services; collaboration; data center virtualization and cloud; architectures; and video.

It elevated this month's Newsmaker Blair Christie from CCO to also take responsibility for marketing, reporting to Moore. And it vowed to position itself firmly on the front foot.

Gone was the IT giant's admirable but unsustainable reluctance to criticize competitors - a more aggressive marketing approach was adopted that certainly went down well with Cisco's sales teams operating on the front lines of the business.

It reassessed who the real influencers were in its markets and discovered, among other things, that one of the top bloggers on collaboration, Mike Gotta, actually worked for Cisco.

One year later, there is a new confidence about the place and the company's market capitalization is up billions of dollars. That's an ROI the C-suite and shareholders definitely understand.

Christie's combined marketing and communications role works really well - think Jon Iwata at IBM and Beth Comstock at GE. And it's a model well worth studying as a template for effective communications.

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