Cisco is plowing ahead with solutions for strictly business to prosumer to consumer, hardware products that scream “smart, connected, portable.” The company is backing into new WiFi-enabled video and in-home utility metering consumer markets without the hoopla and noise of brand-building consumer product launch advertisements… at least not to the degree that we see from GE, SONY, and other mega-brands.
Cisco’s Flip brand of portable video camera is juiced with WiFi and will soon have improved, on-the-fly editing. The brand was acquired in 2009, and it’s the first chance we’ve had to see how Cisco runs a purely consumer integrated marketing plan into and for a channel structure that’s comprised of all the leading consumer electronics resellers, online and in-store. The majority of Flip-ers won’t know or care who makes it, which is why I was surprised to see Cisco advertising the product, minus the brand name, during World Cup matches. See its airy, clean, uncomplicated, un-Cisco website.As for Cisco Cius teleconferencing tablet, it’s one new product that’s squarely in Cisco’s business solutions and prosumer comfort zone. Cius is an easy add-on for the company’s behemoth reseller channel to accept and promote. I like what Cisco’s done with Cius: they truly get the hassles faced by today’s prosumer knowledge workers, who make their living both on-site and remotely. While leading a go-to-market launch at an enterprise software developer, several times a week my teammates and I would clutter a conference table with assorted notebooks, smart phones, intercoms, video hookups, journals, and water bottles. Tablet-sized devices for prosumers would streamline such meetings, and remote participants would be much more easily accommodated. A friend who works at Cisco has told me for years how their regional offices are focused on “hoteling” work spaces… walk in, plug in, work, leave. (no Dilbert cartoons or Pretty Pony collections here!) The Smart Meter solution is a tablet-like interface that promises smarter use of utilities and powered devices in the home. Unlike Flip and Cius, the channel strategy for this product is comprised of utility providers and related systems integrators, on a regional and local basis. It will be a partner-led, “referral” sale to end-user consumers by these utilities, and by specialist contractors in the building trade. The market space looks wide open for Cisco to grab top share right away. If prompted, consumers have preconceptions of which leading electronics manufacturer would be best in class for such a remote monitoring product – GE, Siemens, Motorola – but it’s first-in, best-dressed when it comes to grabbing top brand share in a new market. Channel resources from Cisco will have to be strong on consumer education and revenue-building rebates and incentives.
So, Cisco has two new ways of selling products (mass retail, utility providers) for three new product ideas, which means shifting how they sell and support products. And, how they educate and motivate a more complex, multi-tier channel sales and support ecosystem. Of the 3 releases, I think they’ll have the biggest challenges in dealing with the tumultuous electronics retail channel… the Flip product idea is up for grabs, and Cisco may turn out to be loss leader during the next three to five years. No matter, though.. a portable, video-driven solution will only strengthen Cisco’s place in the connected workplace, and completely jives with its broader product portfolio. Win-win, eh?