Cisco’s San Francisco Billboard Is Absolutely Destroying the Competition

Marketing Masterpieces: short essays on product marketing

The billboards on Highway 101 are signs of the times.

On the road from Silicon Valley to San Francisco you’ll see dozens of ads from star tech companies. Right now, categories such as teleconferencing, email marketing, and AI each have multiple companies competing for your attention with billboards.

There are also several companies in the suddenly hot infosec space vying for eyeballs.

logrhythm billboard messaging software

LogRhythm informs commuters: “They will get in. They can be stopped.” LogRhythm is a security information and event management (SIEM) vendor based in Boulder, CO, and has parked its message a few miles north of the airport.

Invincea marketing security software billboard

Just ahead is a billboard from Invincea, which explains that “you can’t defeat what you can’t detect.” As “the #1 performing next-gen antivirus”, Invincea is based in Fairfax, VA, and was recently acquired by Sophos.

Cylance marketing billboard highway 101

At the 101/280 split, Cylance instructs us to “prevent cyberattacks with artificial intelligence”. It’s the second of two billboards Cylance, a unicorn company from Irvine, CA, has on this stretch of road.

And then Cisco drops the hammer.

Cisco marketing leader billboard

The billboard is currently the last of dozens B2B technology ads on this famous highway. “50 different security vendors?” Cisco asks. “That’s like a house with 50 doors”.


Swallowed by the Leader

Cisco’s brilliant mic drop is a golden example of industry-leader marketing. Cisco says that mixing and matching security technologies, even from best-of-breed vendors, just creates new risks for your business. If you buy this argument, you will probably only buy security technology from Cisco because it may be the only company that can sell you a complete package of security products.

Cisco marketing leader security technologyAnd these other vendors only bolster Cisco’s ad. After seeing a billboard every minute for some kind of security technology, maybe you’re getting concerned about digital threats. You’re starting to think about what your business needs. But it’s hard to differentiate the other players based on their messages and branding. And just imagine the research and vetting you’ll have to do to understand their technologies, decide which you need, and get them to play nicely. Then Cisco comes along and reminds you that you can make one call, to a company you already know, and be done with it.

I’m sure Cylance, Invincea, and LogRhythm make excellent products. But Cisco just took them to school. Their top-dollar billboards are going to do little more than feed Cisco’s funnel.

One lesson for tech companies may be not to buy billboards out of town. All of these Cisco competitors are based outside the Bay Area. I suspect that some Cisco marketer, maybe on their drive home, noticed the pileup of security billboards and recognized an opportunity to drive home a winning message. A billboard can be put up in a few days if the space is available on a short-term basis.

Cisco has made awesome use of a premium billboard (one that Apttus had last year). Let’s see if it shakes up the B2B arms race on the road from Silicon Valley.


All photos taken by the author (not while driving).