For several months, networking stalwart Cisco has been attempting to remake itself with its “human network” marketing campaign. Aspiring to convince us that Cisco is about far more than bluish boxes with myriad blinking lights, a mass-market media campaign shows Cisco gadgets connecting people, speeding product development, and bringing together smiling students from around the world via the magic of video conferencing. It’s a nice campaign and a good concept. Technology is always a tough sell when it’s presented as commodity hardware or software, versus a business tool with tangible benefits. If Cisco can truly make the shift, they’ll be well positioned if technology spending slows as many are predicting.
Where the human network concept falls apart is Cisco’s own website. Flashy videos with bad guitar tracks drop buzzwords like “telepresence” and “unified communications” without really demonstrating the associated business benefit. One gets the sense that all this stuff is really cool, but it’s unclear what it actually does.
Registering with Cisco for information or support is an arduous process, involving complex forms and browser refreshes that seem to work about 80% of the time. It’s also difficult to navigate through the various “solutions,” which seem more focused on buzzwords than an actual explanation of what that particular “solution” is supposed to accomplish.
One of the biggest dangers to reshaping a company’s image is in not practicing what you preach. If Cisco is living its vision of the human network, I’ll gladly take a pass.