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Network v. Device: A Marketing Challenge

- April 8, 2008 - 2 Comments

People understand things they can touch and interact with. That simple truth highlights the challenge of marketing the relevance of a network. At Cisco we have had great success marketing the value of the network to service providers, large businesses and more advanced small businesses. We are now focused on extending that effort to consumers. To do this we need to selectively leverage strategies that worked in the past, but also develop new approaches that recognize the differences between audiences. Ultimately the network is critical to the consumer experience. Getting consumers to understand this is the task for Cisco. I’m often asked what does Cisco hope to bring to the consumer market. How are we different than everyone else? This is a wonderful question, but also one that could generate an extremely long response. Sparing the person who asked the question a long-winded answer that includes PowerPoint slides, videos, and primary research results I usually just say-we focus on the network and everybody else is focused on the device. This is perhaps an overly simplistic way of looking at the competitive environment, but it generally holds to be true. If the person is sufficiently engaged and is willing to hear more I elaborate on the benefits of a network-based approach to delivering the experience that consumers want. There are basically (3) areas where the network will have a huge impact on the consumer experience:1.Connect -Most people get this concept. The network is what moves content from point A to point B allowing me to access a webpage or download a video over the internet. However, this is just table stakes. As the network becomes more intelligent, it allows video content to be seamlessly available across multiple devices (Mobile phone, PC, TV) allowing the user to access their favorite content on their device of choice in multiple locations. To illustrate, a child would be able to watch their favorite Saturday morning cartoon. Halfway through the program the family needs to leave to go visit Grandma. The parent would be able to pause the show, load the family into the car and re-start the video from where it left off and play it on the rear headrest video screen.2.Discover -This concept is a bit more difficult. People understand”search” whether that is for a file on their PC, scrolling through their songs on their iPod or entering a word into a search engine. Search works very well when you know what you’re looking for. The concept of discovery is based upon the fact that in a world of infinite content choices it’s impossible for any one person to know exactly what they are looking for all of the time. The consequence of this is that we miss movies, TV shows, short form videos and music that could be of interest to us. For us to be aware of these things we need to be able to tap into the wisdom and interests of people who are similar. This requires the network to bridge across different devices, websites and social networks and the intelligence to establish contextual relationships between individuals and content. 3.Experience -As video becomes more and more prevalent in our everyday lives and is integrated into social networks and communications the quality of that video will become much more critical. Today people are generally willing to sacrifice quality for the novelty and convenience of watching a funny user generated video on YouTube. But with advances in HD consumers will come to expect a higher quality experience. Higher resolution, instant access with no delays and real-time interaction. Certainly devices will evolve to better display video, but ultimately the more important evolution will be in the networks ability to provide the best possible multimedia experience.If you think about some of today’s most popular devices and websites, they typify the walled garden approach. To use the device or participate in the social network you consciously choose to abide by the rules of the walled garden. This minimizes consumer choice and creates layers of products/services that don’t work together. This is the dilemma faced by the consumer electronics industry. Consumers are saturated with devices and now want those devices to work together.Our challenge is to develop products that bridge across these walled gardens and help consumers understand the role and importance of more powerful networks and the services delivered over them. View Michael Kisch's profile on LinkedInTo learn more about visual networking go to: WikipediaSign-up for Cisco’s new web series Digital Cribs.

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  1. I agree that there is a saturation of devices and widgets and information networks, but while there is a lot of it, overall it's pretty fantastic. The way the world communicates is changing and it's exciting to watch. People are figuring out how to connect to each other, and the heroes of this new generation of communicators are going to be the ones that figure out how to help people connect better, easier, faster. The walled garden is like social internet v.1 and the ones that knock down the walls to make v.2 will be the winners in the competition to grab the public's attention. I can't wait to see what happens next.

  2. It's definitely a very exciting time. We are about to see big changes to both the networks and the devices. In the end we as consumers are going to benefit. Thanks for the post.