With Tongue in Cheek, Cisco Promotes Geeky Gift for Your Sweetie

A router may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, but Cisco is getting attention for marketing its ASR 9000 as just that.

The company released a 60-second satirical video in late January promoting its ASR 9000 Series Aggregation Services Router as the perfect gift for that someone special this February 14, “because nothing says forever like 6.4 terrabits per second.”

The video has gone viral, with over 130,000 views on YouTube so far.

The tongue-in-cheek video is the centerpiece of a quirky new campaign from Cisco that bears little resemblance to the average business-to-business tech effort. The idea is to generate enough mainstream buzz with the entertaining content that Cisco’s potential customers — information technology workers, mostly — will want to share it with one another.

“If someone is interested in this, odds are they are going to know other people who would be, and they’re going to be much better at targeting then we are,” said Doug Webster, senior director of service provider marketing for Cisco.

He added that the comedic tone would help Cisco stand out from other technology companies making similar products.

“Our customers hear a lot of people using a lot of the same language, and it’s easy to get lost in the noise about ‘innovation,'” he said. “It can be a challenge to differentiate.”

The campaign also includes a fake blog hosted by a tech reporter who’s convinced he’s uncovered something big and secretive being developed by Cisco (that something, not surprisingly, is the ASE 9000.) The company released an Internet-based video game called Edge Quest, in which players pilot a roller coaster-like craft through different levels that represent the increasing demands on IP networks.

“You will have the chance to defend yourself against network intruders, [and] repair damaged packets while striving to maintain a 99.999 percent uptime,” reads the promotional copy for the game.

Cisco choose the quirky Web-based route for the campaign because its target audience is online and it wants the spirit of the campaign to match innovative thinking behind the router, Webster said. But the inexpensive nature of Internet marketing played a role as well.

“We wanted to do things that were going to be cost effective for this campaign,” he said. “We’re able to get much greater scale this way than if we pitched a story to however many people we could squeeze into a hotel ballroom.”

The latest element of the campaign, launching this week, is an Edge Quest tournament, in which players can compete for a $500 gift card and a Cisco wireless home audio system. Cisco has also launched in iPhone app and a fan page on Facebook.

Webster didn’t disclose the cost for the overall campaign, but said the company is spending a fraction of what it would to generate the same impressions through traditional media. He said it would take several more quarters before Cisco could measure the impact the campaign was having on sales.

Webster said Cisco worked with a number of consultants on different parts of the campaign but that ultimately the creative was all produced in house.

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