"While the speed of change continues to increase across many markets and business sectors, the key to success is the same. Stay close to your customers; understand your customers’ challenges and opportunities; and show your customers how you can help them be more successful."
How does Cisco foster a creative culture of innovation and collaboration inside and outside of the company to differentiate from competitors?
At Cisco, we try not only to lead the way in developing the best technology for collaboration and innovation, but also lead the way in applying that technology to solve everyday challenges in our own organization. One powerful way to drive a culture of innovation and collaboration is to provide employees with the right tools to collaborate, innovate, and invent. We encourage them to explore how to best leverage the tools; and even to take the occasional risk with them, while rewarding those results and findings. For example, we recently launched our new Cisco Quad technology, which grew out of an internal effort, called the Integrated Workforce Experience or IWE, to give our employees a highly customizable, social media platform for collaboration and internal communication.
It’s evident to see that Cisco understands the importance of CSR in business practice. To what extent do you feel that your commitment to corporate citizenship impacts your brand?
A key factor of Cisco’s success as a business is our reputation as a trustworthy, innovative, and visionary leader. If you want to be perceived a certain way, it’s critical that your actions match your words. Our first CEO, John Morgridge, said it best: Doing good is good for business. Our commitment to and investment in strong corporate citizenship is not only a good thing in itself, but directly contributes to a strong and positive brand perception and reputation. Over the past few years, we are seeing that people want to work for, buy from, and invest in companies that act responsibly. But CSR is not just about collecting funds after a quake or hurricane; it’s about Cisco people investing in their communities with their own time and expertise. Over the past decade, Cisco employees have volunteered over one million hours of their own time, where they give back by helping to wire new classrooms, supporting hunger relief efforts, and protecting the environment—to create an even stronger community than before.
Cisco continues to demonstrate its commitment to innovate around the convergence of services and networks. Recent acquisitions of AXIOSS software and newScale will no doubt help strengthen the Cisco service across networks. Can you provide us with insight on how you have managed to successfully balance a diverse portfolio of brands?
Although we’ve acquired many brands over the years, they have all become part of the overall Cisco masterbrand. Our broad and deep portfolio is one of our most significant differentiators, and the key to balancing a diverse portfolio of solutions within our master brands is that all our offerings have one element in common; they are all part of an intelligent network. Together each part of our portfolio, from products to services to software platforms, form a foundation upon which we can help our customers build solutions to tackle their most important business challenges.
What advice do you have for marketers at other companies who are facing similar challenges that you face in keeping ahead of such a fast moving business sector?
While the speed of change continues to increase across many markets and business sectors, the key to success is the same. Stay close to your customers; understand your customers’ challenges and opportunities; and show your customers how you can help them be more successful. At Cisco, we are committed to making the intelligent network one of our customers’ most important strategic assets.
What other brand(s) do you admire and why?
Starbucks and GE are two very different brands that I admire. Starbucks—because it has successfully transitioned its business through challenges and opportunities and truly reignited its brand. It is one of the best at delivering a consistent customer experience across all of their touchpoints—whether it be the coffee itself, the baristas, their in-store experience or their communications. GE, as it is one of the few companies that has successfully balanced an incredibly broad and diverse portfolio of offerings under a single brand with a single brand vision.
ABOUT BLAIR CHRISTIE
Blair Christie is the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Cisco, with responsibility for the company’s Global Marketing, Corporate Communications, and Government Affairs groups. Previous to this appointment, she was Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Communications, focused on shaping the company’s reputation and perception. Her responsibilities included leadership of Cisco’s global investor relations, public and media relations, industry analyst relations, and employee and executive communications. She also managed Cisco’s global studios and Web 2.0/collaboration technology strategy teams, rounding out an organization designed to integrate the message and the medium in communications. She is an executive sponsor for Cisco’s Communication and Collaboration Board, the cross-functional team responsible for guiding the deployment of Web 2.0 and social networking technologies throughout Cisco.