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Cisco's new aggression

Company now pinpointing faults of specific competitors, like Juniper, in marketing campaign

So Cisco's taking the gloves off. After promising to become much more aggressive in defending its installed base and market share as it restructures to regain lost profits, Cisco is naming names in its effort to marginalize the competition.

Cisco this week launched a campaign to point out what it claims is rival Juniper Networks' shoddy record in delivering on product and technology promises. In a YouTube video, blog and web site, Cisco is not holding back when it comes to illuminating the industry on Juniper's record of living up to its pledges.

In it, Cisco lambastes Juniper for not delivering - or delivering fast enough -- on the marketing hyperbole it issues months or even years before a product rollout. Case in point is the QFabric data center and cloud switches - Juniper stoked the industry fires for at least two years before coming out with its initial product, the QFX3500 node, which some found to be underwhelming in light of the market buildup.  

The strategy is a departure for Cisco. The company has typically taken the high road when it comes to bashing the competition, almost taking pains not to mention a competitor by name when implementing marketing programs or replying to reporters' requests for comment.

But things are different now that Cisco is in a bit of a bind itself, having eliminated 12,000 jobs and virtually exiting the consumer business after it distracted the company from its core business and eroded profits. Oh, how the competitors took delight in jumping all over Cisco when that situation emerged...

No more Mr. Nice Guy. Actually, the first inkling of this new aggression reared itself at Interop last May, when Cisco called out HP by name when introducing the Supervisor 2T for the Catalyst 6500. You might recall Scott Gainey, Cisco director of marketing for Unified Access Solutions, making these remarks during the Sup 2T launch:

"What kind of innovation have we seen come out of HP? We are literally squeezing the competition here. We are beating them on price, we are beating them on performance. The competition is on notice: Cisco does intend to compete and we intend to compete aggressively."

So instead of generically referring to the competition when prodded, or focusing only on its own merits, Cisco is now naming names. Perhaps it didn't have to do that when profit margins hit targets and market share did not decline. But now that the heat is on and the pressure high, specific targets are now being lit up.

What's Juniper's reaction? Here's an e-mailed statement from the PR department of Cisco's rival:

"We're not going to comment on a competitor's publicity stunt.  Customers tell us they want an alternative to the legacy approach, and we're focused on delivering innovation for them. It appears as if Cisco has once again lost focus."

Or perhaps brought the sources of its newfound aggression into focus.

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