CMO Shuffle Hits Cisco

The CMO shuffle has now hit Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), where former Chief Marketing Officer James Richardson has left that job to become Senior Vice President (SVP), Commercial Business, a "new role created to accelerate Cisco's opportunity in its fastest growing customer segment made up of small and medium-sized businesses." Does that count as a promotion? (See Cisco Names New CMO.)

It's yet another chapter in the ongoing rotation of big-company CMOs, a role that seems to be suffering an identity crisis.

What are we talking about? Rewind to September 2005, when Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) CMO Ron Spithill departed. We sent our "Special Investigations" team into Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to compare the search hits for six top telecom CMOs, to see how anonymous they were. (See Your CMO Is Who?) The answer appears to be: Barely anybody pays any attention to these folks.

Spithill's departure was followed by the removal of Clent Richardson, who was, until December 20, CMO at Nortel Networks Ltd. , but became a victim of new CEO Mike Zafirovski's boardroom clearout. Clent Richardson, by the way, topped our Telecom CMO Hits Chart, so his relatively high profile didn't help him. (See Nortel's Clent Came & Went.)

But back to Cisco. Replacing James Richardson is Susan L. Bostrom, who has been at Cisco for eight years, most recently as head of the firm's Internet Business Solutions Group, a business unit she founded. Previously, Bostrom was at National Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE: NSM) and the old AT&T, among other technology firms.

Her task is to "focus on extending the company's strategic positioning, branding, advertising programs, and associated growth initiatives as the company targets a broader customer base. She will be responsible for expanding marketing's role as a stimulus for Cisco's growth strategy and cultivating new opportunities in both new and existing market segments," states the Cisco press release.

Someone tell the Juniper guy
It's worth noting that our original list of six CMOs at top telecom equipment companies did not include a CMO from Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) because the company didn't have one at the time.

But, perhaps in a bout of envy, Juniper has just appointed a new CMO, Jeff Lindholm. (See Dolce & Others out at Juniper.)

Who's next?
Any other CMO shifts on the horizon? Martin Harriman, currently head marketing honcho at Marconi Corp. plc , might have reason to be nervous. That's because he's about to become an employee at Swedish giant Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), which is set to complete its takeover of Marconi (minus the services arm) next week, a spokesman for the British company tells us. (See Ericsson Buys Bulk of Marconi.)

Ericsson already has a CMO -- Bert Nordberg, who took up the role on April 6, 2004. Nordberg, who was on our list of six, is favored to retain the title, and so buck the CMO trend by retaining his job... for now. Who knows when the curse will strike?

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

infojunkie 12/5/2012 | 4:08:47 AM
re: CMO Shuffle Hits Cisco In many companies a CMOs job is to organize and coordinate the marketing function, not to be the spokesperson - that's the reason for the low visibility.

Also, many of these folks are former "operational" (read sales or general management) heavyweights, which has 2 implications:

- they do not have a deep technological or product understanding, so not the best fronting the external audiences
- probably deep inside consider the CMOs job as a powerless paper function and long for returning to a "proper" position of directly managing people and P&Ls
fiberous 12/5/2012 | 4:08:44 AM
re: CMO Shuffle Hits Cisco One thing, not many folks in the industry who
want this job. It is a hot seat. This is the
job for the fall guy - perfect for the company
to screw up and blame it on the CMO.
Either that or the title "chief" gets into
their head and messes things up and they move
on and become CTO.

Also, most people use this as a stepping stone
to get to the CEO level. This job always has
someone who is interested in another job.
It is a perfect job to shake out the
"techie" charaterization that is a negative
at the CEO's level. After all, techies are
usually not selected for juries these days for
their logical thinking.

Watch out for folks who have made heading
marketing a career..........these are folks who are stuck and cant make it past the drain hole.
They can be spotted very easily when they
often saying "when I was at....."

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