Cisco, IBM Know the Billion Dollar Headline Always Works

If your business reaches an inflection point, here's the trick for making headlines and generating buzz: Always use the term "billion" as in "One Billion Dollars" or more.

Remember IBM's $1 billion Linux push from 2000? That headline went viral even before social media was invented. But IBM didn't stop there. Instead, Big Blue re-wrote the same headline in 2013 -- making a $1 billion bet on open source for Power Systems. This time, social media took the headline global. 

If it ain't broke don't fix it. So, IBM recycled the headline yet again in 2014, betting $1 billion on cloud tools

Stealing a page from Steve Jobs ("good artists copy; great artists steal"), Cisco Systems is copying (er, stealing?) IBM's approach and adding a zero. Yup, Cisco says it's making a $10 billion bet on China expansion.

Read between the lines and Cisco is basically saying, "We need to buy our way into a market where our management has underperformed and the government doesn't trust us. Maybe money -- a lot of money -- will help."

On the one hand, the Billion Dollar Headline always generates eyeballs and buzz. But on the other, the media does a lousy job actually looking at the numbers.

  • How exactly is Cisco spending $10 billion in China -- over what time period?
  • On how much infrastructure?
  • On how many people and employees?
  • On what R&D?
  • Is this "new" money -- over and above what Cisco traditionally spends in China?
  • If this is "new" money for China -- what other Cisco programs is the company cutting to funnel dollars toward China expansion?
  • If this isn't "new" money and instead simply discloses what Cisco has always spent in China, why is this news?

Alas, most of the coverage lacks those details. That's not Cisco's fault. The media, generally speaking, doesn't take the time to ask for the details behind the headline. But hey. The word "Billion" sounds awfully impressive...

Subscribe: Want to receive our blog headlines in your inbox each business day? Then subscribe to our enewsletter. Thanks to those who already have.