Cisco to rebrand itself

Technology giant Cisco Systems is planning a new rebranding campaign complete with a new logo and new advertisements targeted at consumers.

The company unveiled the new logo and brand to employees at a Las Vegas event earlier this summer. And executives are expected to show off the new look to investors and analysts in New York City this week before the new campaign kicks off later this fall.

The idea behind the new marketing push is to "make Cisco more relevant to everyday people", said Tony Bates, Cisco's senior vice president and general manager of its Service Provider Routing Technology Group, during a recent meeting in New York City.

It's no secret that Cisco has had its eye on the consumer market. The company initially got into the market with its Linksys home router products in 2003. And last year it made two key acquisitions-- Kiss Technologies and Scientific Atlanta—to acquire entertainment devices that sit in people's living rooms.

And despite the fact that new consumer electronics products have not yet been introduced in the U.S. market, executives such as Charles Giancarlo, Cisco's chief development officer, have assured me that they are coming.

"The roll-out of consumer electronics has been delayed, because we've seen so much success with the products we're selling through service providers to help them offer IPTV service," Giancarlo said in an interview following the company's fourth quarter earnings call in August. "I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but working to deploy IPTV with Deutsche Telekom's T-online and other carriers has slowed us down on development of products to be sold through retail chains. But the expectation is we will have new consumer electronics products in the next calendar year."

Cisco, which is still often confused with Sysco, a company that sells frozen foods to restaurants, has been trying to pump up its name recognition for the past couple of years with TV commercials and print advertisements in consumer magazines, such as the New Yorker. While I applaud Cisco for trying to get its name out there, I don't really see why it matters much.

According to all the Cisco executives I've talked to over the past six months, the plan is to continue using the Cisco brand to sell the company's traditional routing and switching equipment to large companies and service providers. Cisco will also be the name used to sell the new cable infrastructure and set-top boxes it acquired from Scientific Atlanta, which like Cisco's other equipment is sold to service providers and not directly to consumers. The new consumer products Cisco plans to introduce into the market will be sold under the Linksys brand.

So if Linksys is the consumer brand and Cisco is the brand for products sold to phone companies and cable operators, why does the company need to make Cisco "relevant" to anyone other than those customers? Do they really think consumers will choose Time Warner's cable service over a satellite service because Time Warner uses Cisco set-top boxes and the satellite provider uses Motorola set-top boxes? As a consumer myself, I'd have to say I doubt it.

I'm no marketing wizard; I'm just a reporter. But it seems that Cisco's rebranding efforts might be more about massaging executives' egos than actually selling new products to consumers. Perhaps the top brass wants the same kind of recognition that people who work for Apple, Microsoft or Google get. I'm sure it gets annoying when you tell friends and relatives you work for "Cisco" and they think you work for "Sysco" and ask you about the salmon cakes.

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