Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Cisco Aims to Wake Up Sleepy Brand With New Campaign

Having spent the better part of two years re-inventing and re-sizing itself through layoffs, restructurings and acquisitions, networking giant Cisco Systems has throughout the process struggled to explain itself to the world. No one is quite sure what kind of company it intends to be, and it’s not entirely clear that Cisco itself really knows.

The company intends to change that, at least in one fashion, with the launch of a significant branding campaign combining broadcast, print, Web, social and augmented reality that gets under way today and should run well into next year. CEO John Chambers previewed the “Tomorrow Starts Here” Now campaign at Cisco’s annual meeting with financial analysts in New York on Friday.

The idea appears to be to make networking instead of computing the most important part in the narrative of the Internet’s next phase in growth and evolution. For years, computing has seemed the central player in the march of technology of which the Internet is the logical end result.

Cisco has cleverly attempted to hijack and then enhance the tired-out phrase “Internet of Things,” and has changed it to “Internet of Everything,” implying that everything worth knowing anything about, from traffic lights to trees, will be connected to the Internet in some fashion.

The new campaign — a broadcast spot can be seen below — was created by advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, whose clients include Yahoo, Netflix and TD Ameritrade. It’s also known for doing some high-concept tech ads, like this spot for Sprint connecting 4G cell phones to the wheel, the first supersonic flight and other great scientific firsts in history.

I talked to Cisco’s chief marketing officer, Blair Christie. She said it’s kind of a culmination of a year-long effort to rethink the Cisco brand. You saw some of it earlier this year with bits like the “broken robot” ad, in which a manufacturing robot breaks down, but then gets fixed by another robot, thus allowing the assembly line to “fix itself.”

“From a marketing perspective, the story has shifted toward the value of connections,” Christie told me in an interview last week.

The piece that will get the most attention is the “augmented reality” part, which harnesses an iPhone app that allows people seeing print versions of the campaign to drill down and get to know Cisco more. You can, depending on how you navigate through the app, see several videos or download some white papers. The point, Christie says, is that Cisco is a complex company, and even the masters of the advertising industry can’t tell the whole thing in 60 seconds. More about it and the rest of the campaign here.

Anyway, here’s the video part that I can show you. That Cisco is taking the initiative in seeking to tell its own story better is a good sign. It has suffered of late from the appearance of being an older company that has lost a lot of its mojo. We’ll see if this can help get some of it back.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik