Cisco brand strategy / positioning case study

Cisco Brand Strategy Analysis

Electronics & technology communications equipment, software; Manufacturing

Owner of the brand:
Cisco Systems, Inc.

Key competitors:
Juniper Networks, Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, ZTE, Amazon

Brand essence

Building the bridge between the hoped-for and the possible.

Brand values

Innovation, connectedness, optimism.

Brand character

Innovative, high-tech, pioneering, corporate, serious, positive.

Dominating archetype

Cisco was set up in 1984 by two Stanford University employees, Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner. According to the company’s corporate story, Bosack and Lerner were a couple who, driven by the need to communicate with each other while working in different buildings, managed to connect their computers to one another via a multiprotocol router (“a love story that changed the world”[1]). This invention was the start of an entire category of networking hardware, which to this day constitutes the core of Cisco’s offering (routers, servers, modems, wireless access points and controllers, switches, etc.). Today, Cisco is one of the biggest Silicon Valley companies but its business model, as well as its product range, has evolved significantly since its launch.


Over time, Cisco’s offering expanded (thanks to both organic growth and acquisitions) and started to include (besides communications equipment) products and services representing categories such as collaboration (e.g., phones, video devices, conferencing solutions) and security (e.g., firewalls, authentication methods), with a steadily growing emphasis on the Internet of Things solutions. Cisco recognized that it could grow by focusing more on software and services and less on hardware, and by implementing a business model relying to a greater extent on recurring subscriptions rather than one-off sales. However, networking hardware is still at the heart of what the company does. Chuck Robbins, Cisco CEO, explained to CNBC: “80% of our engineers are software engineers and they always have been. The whole notion that we are becoming a software company is actually not the truth. The reality is that we are taking some of our software assets and we are adding new software assets (…). But at the heart, we still build a lot high performance hardware because without it the Internet wouldn’t run.[2]


In 2018, Cisco announced a new brand strategy which revolves around the idea of connectedness, the theme which was also present in the brand’s previous communication platforms. This time, to explain how people can benefit from being connected and having many things connected to each other, the company is using a metaphor of a bridge both in its narrative and in its new tagline, “The bridge to possible”. At the heart of the new positioning lies the notion that Cisco’s technology “is creating a world of potential”[3] as it builds the bridge between “what is hoped for and what can be”[4]. The company even calls itself “the architects of possibility”[5].


In the past, Cisco ran a number of brand campaigns, each based on a different communication platform. In 2017, it was communicating “The network. Intuitive”[6], explaining what an intuitive network is (“constantly learning, constantly adapting, constantly projecting”[7]). A year before, the company launched “There’s Never Been a Better Time”[8], taking an optimistic stand on technology and what it can achieve. Prior to that, Cisco was focusing on the Internet of Things with “Tomorrow Starts Here”[9] and earlier it had been positioning itself as “The Human Network”.


Cisco’s brand strategy uses the characteristics of two brand archetypes: the Hero, as the company focuses on building the bridge between hopes and possibilities and thus improving the world, and the Innocent, as it consistently expresses optimism with regard to how technology can make the planet a better place.

Most important campaigns

1. “Cisco Customer Experience (CX) for Cloud” (2019)

2. “The network. Intuitive.” (2017)

3. “There’s Never Been A Better Time” (2016)

4. “Hackers Of Troy” (2012)

Official brand statement:

A love story that changed the world.
It began, like a lot of things do, with a basic human desire — the need to connect.

He liked her and she liked him. But both he and she worked in different buildings on the Stanford campus. Until one day, they figured out how to connect their computers together. Keep in mind, the year was 1984 and this new connection of theirs went on to become what we know as the network. It also started a company, Cisco.

Between every problem and its solution, every question and its answer.

Suddenly everyone — businesses, governments, technologists, artists, thinkers, doers, dreamers and makers, everyone, everywhere — found themselves a way forward, between what is hoped for and what can be.
Suddenly, imagination was connected to realization, vulnerable found protected, chaos met wonder, and the power of one was united with the power of many.
Suddenly, between hope and possible, there stood a bridge. Strong, reliable, enduring. And the world changed.

If you can imagine it, we will build the bridge to get you there.”[10]

Interesting facts:

Cisco’s name is an abbreviation of San Francisco and its logo icon represents the Golden Gate Bridge.

In 2002, Cisco was the most valuable company in the world worth $555 billion.[11]


1. Forbes on the “Bridge To Possible” campaign
P. Moorhead, “Cisco Unveils New ‘Bridge To Possible’ Branding Campaign”, Forbes, Nov 2018,

2. The Drum on why and how Cisco wants to become a marketing organization
S. Lim, “‘We Want To Become A Marketing Company’: Meet The New Cisco”, The Drum, Jn 2018,

3. The Drum on Cisco’s previous brand campaign
D. Zanger, “’There’s Never Been A Better Time’: Cisco And GSP Get Optimistic In New Work Featuring Ewan McGregor”, The Drum, Jun 2016,


Want to hear more?

Sign up here for our weekly

BrandStruck Express News.

Check the newly added brand strategy case studies and get our latest blog post.