ORLANDO: Cisco, the networking and services giant, believes that thought leadership can play a vital role in helping it respond to the evolution of a new customer journey.

Blair Christie, Cisco's svp/cmo, discussed this topic at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, Florida.

And she reported that the increasing importance of digital channels on the path to purchase means showcasing Cisco's deep expertise is now a key tenet of the firm's strategy.

"For us, thought leadership is incredibly powerful. It's not just something marketing does: it drives sales," she said. (For more, including how Cisco is leveraging content marketing, read Warc's report: How marketing helped drive Cisco's brand transformation.)

One data point informing this strategy came from the Information Technology Services Marketing Association, which found 45% of buyers believe thought leadership is "critical" when choosing the players that end up on a bid list.

"Thought leadership," Christie added, "is not just something that is fun. It's not something that's done just at a brand level. It's not just something that marketing does. It's actually quite powerful in a customer journey."

Building a thought-leadership platform takes time, but has become an essential ingredient as Cisco's own purpose develops.

"We needed to shift our brand to something that was much more focused in solutions and business partnership, as opposed to technology and a vendor relationship," said Christie.

"If you don't have that platform, it's very hard to orchestrate everything that you're doing."

The marketing department obviously plays a central role in delivering the material driving this initiative, but it is far from the only team involved.

"It's not just a marketer's responsibility: sales, in our world, is thinking about this all the time. But it does have a huge implication for us as marketers in how we position ourselves and what our charter has turned into."

Cisco is two years into its thought-leadership journey and, according to its marketing chief, has already witnessed some extremely favourable results.

"We see tremendous growth in the awareness and in the business partnership reputation that we're building," said Christie.

Data sourced from Warc