Cisco spends millions on becoming household name

Net gear provider to spend $100 million on drumming its name into the heads of consumers--not its usual audience.

Cisco Systems, the largest maker of Internet networking equipment in the world, kicked off a $100 million campaign on Thursday to make its brand a household name.

Unlike Microsoft, Apple Computer or Intel, the San Jose, Calif.-based company is only remotely known by most people--despite generating $28.5 billion in revenue last year and making most of the equipment used to shuttle traffic around the Internet.

"We're trying to increase general awareness in the company," said Sue Bostrom, Cisco's chief marketing officer. "When we tested audiences, we found that our familiarity is lower than our technology peers."

Cisco's new logo
Credit: Cisco Systems
Cisco's new logo.

The campaign, which includes a revamped logo for the networking giant, will run in magazines and newspapers, and on television, Web sites and mobile phones. However, it does not emphasize Cisco's product line, per se. Instead, it focuses on the company's role in connecting people together through what it calls the "Human Network."

The ad campaign is different from previous Cisco campaigns because it doesn't just target the corporate decision makers who actually buy the company's products. Those people already know Cisco. Instead, it is trying to drive awareness among the masses, even though they aren't the ones who hand over money for its goods. (Cisco has a separate brand, Linksys, that sells products through retail stores directly to consumers.)

Bostrom argues that more of Cisco's corporate products--such as voice over Internet Protocol phones, Wi-Fi handsets and unified communications software--are finding their way into the hands of consumers by way of their corporate IT departments. And she believes that these people, who purchase a lot of gadgets for personal use, have a big impact on which technologies their employers choose to buy.

"Technology that we use in the office is seeping into our everyday lives," she said. "And technology decisions that used to be made by the enterprises are now being driven by end-user demands. It's these end users who are encouraging the technology decisions at work."

The decision to was linked to the fact that Cisco's products are becoming more visible to workers in general. In the past, Cisco's routing and switching equipment was tucked away in closets, where few employees outside the IT department ever saw them. Now Cisco's IP phones and software sit right on workers' desktops.

"The old logo was difficult to see," Bostrom said. "The new logo is simpler and takes up a lot fewer pixels, so it's more visible on end-user devices, whether it's a unified communications screen or a handheld wireless device."

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