Cisco's 'Good Enough' Viral Campaign Hints At Marketing Assault To Come

Cisco is revving its marketing engines behind a viral campaign in which it seeks to illustrate the difference between a "good enough" network -- "slow and cheap," in some of the words CIsco's using -- versus, presumably, Cisco's much-touted network architectures.

The campaign itself says a lot about how Cisco plans to ramp-up its messaging in the face of stepped-up networking competition from the likes of HP, Juniper Networks and others. It's also appearing to rejuvenate Cisco in the wake of a number of public relations headaches -- declines in its switching and routing businesses, a barrage of Wall Street criticism, a Cisco executive exodus, and the recent reorganization of Cisco's consumer division, to name a few -- that have left the networking titan reeling in recent weeks.

Indeed, when the question of what's eating Cisco was posed to channel partners, a number of them told CRN they expected at least a stepped-up marketing offensive following CEO John Chambers' unusually candid "mea culpa" memo in early April.

The push from Cisco started Monday with a widely-circulated, Cisco-made video, in which various, flustered-looking IT managers smack desktops, break keyboards and look generally exasperated at ongoing network outages.

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With tongue apparently firmly in cheek, Cisco goes on to describe a network technology package called "NetNoGo":

"Sometimes you want your network fast, but sometimes you want your network slow. When slow and cheap is your goal, there's NetNoGo," which Cisco describes as a "close to good enough network that guarantees to almost give you basic connectivity" and whose tagline is "Pay a little now, and a lot later." It's a riff on the idea that Cisco's major competitors offer cheaper networking product alternatives -- and in Cisco's estimation, commodity-grade products that don't future-proof a network.

"Sooner or larger, you may be asked to solve your network on the cheap," says a voice-over.

Or, "Mixing NetNoGo with Cisco equipment could cause immediate degradation of QoS and security, so be warned: don't attempt video meetings in excess or try to get too mobile with NetNoGo," the voice-over urges.

Part of what appears to be a series of heavily hyped, targeted messages, the video launched via YouTube and on Cisco's corporate Web site along with a promotional release.

"There are some vendors that say the network still just connects things and all you need is a tactical network, capable of addressing existing business requirements and current challenges," reads the release. "We call this the 'Good Enough Network'. We want to debunk the myth that 'good' is good enough for your business."

Coupled with the video and release is a white paper titled "When 'Good Enough' Is Not Good Enough," which appears to tackle everything from network latency during video streaming to mobile device security in a less-than-sophisticated network architecture.

Cisco is also heavily promoting a webcast, scheduled for Wednesday and to feature Rob Lloyd, Cisco's executive vice president, worldwide operations, as well as other Cisco executives and speakers from the Royal Bank of Scotland, a Cisco customer. Bob Cagnazzi, CEO of BlueWater Communications Group, a top Cisco Gold partner based in New York, is scheduled to participate.

Illustrating the difference between Cisco and "commodity competitors," was Lloyd's main message to partners at this year's Cisco Partner Summit in New Orleans.

"When my competition asks you to join them in commoditizing the network business, they are not asking you commoditize Cisco, they are asking you to commoditize your own business," Lloyd told partners at the time.