Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

It’s COMCASTrophic!

COMCASTrophic (n): Poor “denial-of-quality-service” to paying customers. Disregard for customer’s time and patience.

Here’s my 2-part rant. Customer Pain & the Marketing takeaway.

Customer Pain:
Against my better instincts, I decided to upgrade to Comcast’s Digital Silver Package! And ended up wasting my entire Saturday afternoon, trying to jostle my schedule to accomodate three visits by two technicians and the problem is FINALLY resolved. Eight hours of my weekend wasted trying to get my cable fixed!

The Marketing takeaway:
1. Customer Touchpoints: All points of product/service delivery need to be as perfect & customer-friendly as possible, because your brand is only as good as your customer service rep or technician. If they screw up, basically YOUR BRAND is screwed. After a little investigation I figured out that the technicians who visited me yesterday were contractors who’re paid by the # of jobs and the in-house technician today was paid by the hour and so was willing to spend an hour trying to sort things out.

As Hank Brigman, President & CEO of TouchPoint Metrics rightly points out:

Whether an ad, Web site, sales person, store or office, Touchpoints are important because customers form perceptions of your organization and brand based on their cumulative experiences.

For an introductory & fascinating look at Customer Touchpoint Management or CTM, take a read of this iMedia article: “Defining Customer Touchpoints“.

2. Match the Hype w/ Service: Hiring the best minds in advertising and delivering crappy customer service does not further your brand image but rather works against it. Esp. since these customer touchpoints are priceless in stressing the quality of the brand and maintaining that relationship.

Advertising’s gotta evolve. Keep it real in your advertising and your audience is going to respect and trust you for it. Look no further than the recent spate of Dove ads that emphasize reality with their self-explanatory “Campaign for Real Beauty“.

Summary: Best Advertising Campaign of the Year, One Comcastic Exec, and a sampling of 1.06 million + 1.8 million + …. disgruntled users (on Google alone). And you call that Comcastic!

My $.02: Cut the hype, Walk the Talk, and Start a Real Conversation w/ Customers.

(Hint: Start a Business Blog in each of your service areas/zip codes)

Filed under: Social PR

The Doc fires back!

I hope some of you enjoyed my Daily Fix write-up on Doc Searls’ argument against marketing. My Daily Fix article had a fair amount of participation from the MarketingProfs community and for that I am thankful. While tracking similar arguments, I noticed that Doc Searls’ had responded to Hugh Macleod’ take on the same topic.

Here’s the gist. 5 points:

1. Doc was preaching to the choir:

Remember I’m writing this essay for Linux Journal. Our core readership is approximately 100% technical.

These people, on the whole, dislike and distrust marketing. When they look for products, they want unvarnished truth and facts, as fast and directly as possible. When they make products, they want those products to be as useful as possible.

2. Techies hate marketing:

Too often what they are told to make, by their own marketing organizations, turns out to be something that customers don’t want, or is off-base one way or another. There is general agreement among technology creators that many mistakes could be avoided if makers and users were in closer touch. But the “strategic” imperatives of marketing often get in the way. Because strategic stuff tends to be detached. In more ways than one.

3. Doc is confusing me:

In many companies it is not only bad form for the actual makers of technology to talk or relate with the actual users; it is also bad form for marketing to do the same. Because that’s sales’ job. Sales people are the ones who touch the customer. Not marketing. And certainly not engineers. The world has changed, but the bureaucratic templates haven’t.The engineers themselves are also conflicted. To a large degree, they like their isolation.

Yet nobody really is isolated. That’s the key point here. What do you do in a world where everybody is essentially zero distance from everybody else?

4. Doc is like the rest of us — marketers:

I’ll cop to being hyperbolic in the way I put some of the points I made in the piece.

5. Did I mention, Techies hate marketing:

But The System is either breaking or broken, by the fact that The Net removes distance. It obviates org charts. It makes many “strategic” decisions ludicrous when practical alternatives are beyond abundant, and inherently unmanageable.Too much of marketing still acts as if the Net isn’t there, or has not caused profound and utter disintermediation of what marketing did for decades. That’s why many techies hate it.

I believe the marketing community is united in its response to some of Doc’s comments and conclusions. I’m sure many progressive tech marketers (e.g. Tara Hunt, Jeremiah Owyang, etc…) believe that the marketing/pr/advertising landscape is radically metamorphosizing into one that Doc envisioned via the Cluetrain. However, I believe none of it obviates the need for Marketing esp. in today’s corporate world. You need marketing to be your voice to your customers and prospects because as Tara explains, in many cases your techies and the customer may be speaking different languages.

So, once again, “Thanks, Doc” for the Cluetrain. It IS changing the world of marketing.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Top 5 Blogosphere Smackdowns

Where would television be today without Reality TV? Where would the blogosphere be today without web celebrity smackdowns?

Without further ado, I give you, the Top 5 Web Celebrity Smackdowns in 2006 (ranked in order of TechMeme link popularity & updated as of 07/27/06).

#5. The LongTail Smackdown

Contenders: Lee Gomes (WSJ) vs. Chris Anderson (Wired)
Time Frame: In-progress

But I’ve looked at some of the same data, and some more of my own, and I don’t think things are changing as much as he does. It would be wonderful if the world as Mr. Anderson describes it were true – Lee Gomes

But Lee Gomes has tried mightily to find flaws with the Long Tail theory and deserves a response of some sort. I asked him to quote the jacket copy in full context, but it apparently wasn’t convenient to his thesis to do so, so he didn’t – Chris Anderson

Please note, though, that I at least clearly laid out the two approaches; nowhere in his book does Chris let on how small, as a percent of sales, his tail really is. I’d like to correct an extremely serious misrepresentation Chris made at the end of his blog posting, to the effect that Anita Elberse of Harvard “urged” me not to characterize her work the way I did. This is manifestly false – Lee Gomes (via Nick Carr’s Blog)

Funny take on the debate by Chris Pirillo.

#4. The Digg Smackdown

Contenders: Jason Calacanis (Netscape) vs. Kevin Rose (Digg)
Time Frame: In Progress

Clever PR stunt, but man, in the end I believe it’s going to do more damage for Netscape than good. Jason, I know AOL has given you access to their war-chest, but honestly, take that money and invest it into site development. Hope this helps – clone on! – Kevin Rose

On the latest DIGG Nation (minute eight), Digg co-funder Kevin Rose goes on a massive attack of my plans to hire a dozen top social bookmarkers, but he doesn’t seem to have a point about it. I’d actually be interested in hearing what he thinks about paying folks to do social bookmarking, but instead he just personally attacks me – Jason Calacanis

#3. The “Web 2.0” Smackdown

Contenders: O’Reilly vs. Tom Raftrey
Time Frame: May 25, 2006

Basically O’Reilly are claiming to have applied for a trademark for the term “Web 2.0″ and therefore IT@Cork can’t use the term for its conference. Apparantly use of the term “Web 2.0″ is a “flagrant violation” of their trademark rights! So Tim was aware of the event in February but decided to wait until 2 weeks before the conference to set the lawyers on us – Tom Raftrey

I apologize to Tom for the unnecessary lawyer’s letter, and ask that he apologize to me for the way he stirred up the mob. I then explain the back story behind the registration of the Web 2.0 mark, and our current thinking about what to do about it – Tim O’Reilly

#2. The Web Journalism Smackdown

Contenders: Robert Scoble vs. “The Irritant Journalist
Time Frame: March 27, 2006

Mr Raymond Vardanega, the Marketing Director, of Acer Australia has confirmed independently of SmartHouse Magazine that “We have also been told that up to 60% of the Vista code will have some form of re writing or changes made.” – Smarthouse Magazine

Apple Computer founder and CEO Steve Jobs sold 45 per cent of his Apple stock this week. Jobs sold 4.57m shares at a price of $64.66, netting him a cool $295m – The Register

Some bloggers don’t know who is a credible journalist and who isn’t. Hint: anything the Register writes is NOT credible. But, we should now start deriding people who link to non-credible sources. I will. Anyone who links to that jerk down in Australia anymore is simply not doing bloggers any favors – Robert Scoble

#1. The RocketBoom Smackdown

Contenders: Amanda Congdon vs. Andrew Baron
Time Frame: July 5, 2006

Contrary to what has been said on Rocketboom, I’m not on vacation. So here I am on Unboomed, as I apparently have been Unboomed! – Amanda Congdon

We wanted her to get to L.A. to pursue her personal opportunities as soon as possible, but her demand to move this week without waiting any longer, without a justification, and without an adequate proposal for a plan for how the show itself would work, we were unable to uproot Rocketboom from NYC at this time – Andrew Baron

I am disheartened by Andrew Baron’s decision to spread misinformation. He knows I cannot move to LA without a job…but insists on spinning things this way to shore up his assertion that I am “walking away” from Rocketboom. I did not walk away. I did not accept Andrew’s idea of “partnership” – Amanda Congdon

These might have been battles between big-name blogosphere contenders but who wins? Of course, us the readers. Where else can you expect such drama AND also be invited to participate via comments!

Which of the above is YOUR FAVORITE? Chime-in.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

HP catches the Virus

It’s really neat to receive a scoop from a blogger-friend (Thanks, Eric) on a hot news item before mainstream media outs the story. The story in question is HP’s recent forays into viral ad campaigns. In my opinion HP’s unique ad style started with the “You + HP: digital photography” ad series. Here’s further proof of similar ads (albeit viral):

1. HP’s European Viral Campaign (via Eric Kintz):

HP has had a phenomenally successful viral blog campaign in Europe during the World Cup Soccer Tournament. Here’s how it played out: On the eve of the World Cup Soccer 2006 craze, HP launched the Fingerskilz vlog, which purported to be home made videos of bored workaholic Dave B, and some of these videos you’ve gotta see to believe. Really cool stuff…

Anyway, long story short — here are the download stats for the viral videos thus created and spread over the web:

6.3 million hits, 180,000 unique visitors, average visit duration of 5.45 mins. It has also been selected in the top 6 World Cup virals by Boreme, a site that tracks virals. A google search produced 22,000 results and the blog has been featured on a number of publications, online and offline as well as in the blogosphere.

(Source: Eric’s blog). Those are pretty decent numbers for a marketing campaign and no wonder, HP’s enthused by the results.

To get a 3-D overview of the story & the buzz, check out TechMeme’s trail, which includes a NYT write-up as well.

2. Current HP Viral Campaign

The most recent viral ad campaign by HP is targeted at the MySpace generation and is called Personal Palmistry. The cool part about the viral ads seems to be that they are all strategically tied into an underlying theme, which in this case is “the Computer is Personal — again”!

On the flipside, the challenges corporations face with viral campaigns or blogs for that matter is in building the trust with the target audience. If the results of the above ads are any indication, it probably is possible to build that trust when companies initiate the conversation.

Do you know of any other Fortune 500 companies, experimenting with the viral phenomenon? Feel free to comment.

In my opinion, HP along with AMD & Apple represent the “Silicon Valley Renaissance” where Tech Giants from the past, are riding a wave of “resurgent coolness” — due in large part to great products and stellar leadership.

Old IS Gold in good ol’ Silicon Valley!

Filed under: Miscellaneous

The Doc hates Marketing!?

Alrighty then, I got my first post uploaded on MarketingProfs. It’s a response to a recent Doc Searls article on Markets without Marketing or as I see it: The Future of Marketing.

To read my entire response to Doc, check out my first MarketingProfs article: Doc Searls hates Marketing?!

Five Blog posts of related interest:

1. The initial post by Scoble that drew my attention to the Doc Searls article

2. Does Scoble hate Marketing?!

3. Our very own Mack Collier’s response to Doc

4. Tara Hunt’s response to Doc’s article that echoes my marketing sentiments

5. Hugh Macleod’s response to Doc — along similar lines

Happy Reading!

I’ll soon be out with the first iDea interview w/ Jeremiah Owyang. Stay tuned…

Filed under: Uncategorized

MarketingProf. I am. Now.

Sorry for the ambigous yoda-speak. I can barely contain my excitement (how dramatic!?) on being invited by Ann Handley (over at MarketingProfs) to contribute on a regular basis for their blog – The Daily Fix. I’m all the more excited because I’ll be joining the ranks of Mack Collier, Karl Long, David Armano, Eric Kintz, Ann Handley herself, all members of our Viral Community and contributors at the Daily Fix.

Psyched. I am.
Firstly, a HUGE thanks to Ann for considering the content I’ve created over here at Marketing Nirvana as being enjoyable. More encouraging is the fact that she decided to add me to the roster of content-creators for the Daily Fix.

Marketing content. Exclusive.
I’ve decided to create exclusive content for MarketingProfs, which you won’t find here on my blog, because I think that way I’d be able to preserve the uniqueness of content on both blogs. Of course, I’ll be religiously updating Marketing Nirvana with information on my MarketingProfs posts. So do see me at both blogs.

U 2. Thanks.
Most importantly, thanks to the readers of this blog, whose contributions and participation enables me to tap both hemispheres of my marketing brain to create marketing content that you and I care about.

So stay tuned for my first post on Marketing Profs…

Filed under: About Mario Sundar

Miami “Vice is Good”

It’s time to shine a spotlight on some exciting news happening in the backlot of the Viral Community. It’s a known fact that in the recent past, a few movie studios have been messing with their core target audiences (read bloggers) by shutting down a few fan blogger sites. The negative publicity generated by one such incident, has movie studios recalibrating their PR machines to giving Paramount (hint, hint) importance to movie bloggers.

Back to the Viral Community’s backlot: Chris Thilk from Movie Marketing Madness (MMM) who has been a good blogger friend of mine, received a call from Universal Studios regarding the release of the movie “Miami Vice”. Upon receipt of this info, our very own Mack, raised a clarion call to fellow bloggers to evangelize the movie via their respective blogs.

I for one, consider this a great example of stirring the blogosphere to raise some awareness about movie marketing best practices (a la “Snakes on a Blog“). I wish Chris the very best in utilizing this opportunity to propel forward his standing as a movie marketing guru. I also can’t wait to read Chris’ review of the movie and who knows, this blog post has actually made me want to check out Miami Vice.

Sometimes, it’s good to be bad!

Filed under: Uncategorized

The Rise of Corporate Podcasts – 5 Facts

Well, we knew this was going to happen, but the speed with which it’s happening is surprising even to me (Full Disclosure: my current agency dabbles in corporate podcast production).

Some of you may have read my earlier post where I predicted the future of customer references gravitating towards multi-media and this analyst report is further proof that the transformation is actually taking place. For those of you from Corporate America, I’d recommend reading the entire FREE report. But for the time-strapped among you, below are the five facts I found encouraging & useful to all corporate marketers.

1. Podcast usage gains momentum

Duh! moment, but “hear” are the numbers. 53% – Have experimented with podcasts in varying levels

Among those 53%, 41% claim to have listened to more than one podcasts and is the fastest growing segment. What interested me the most was the fact that 32% of those who listen to podcasts have seen a “significant increase” in podcast usage over the past 6 months.

2. Preferred choice for listening – Computers NOT iPods!

I have written about the ambiguity caused by the term “podcasting”. I’ve seen that in effect while talking to corporate marketers as well. Everyone mistakes podcasts as being suitable only for their iPods or mp3 players but it is now proven that:

68% – listen to podcasts on their computers
32% – listen to podcasts on iPods/mp3 players

3. Majority listening to technology-specific topics

Of those who listen to podcasts regularly, 72% are listeners on technology-specific topics. Of course, that’d have to be true since the survey was conducted among business/IT professionals. But, the fact remains that they ARE listening to tech-relevant podcasts.

4. White papers are podcast-friendly

Paul Dunay, Director of Global Field Marketing for BearingPoint (his blog) had experimented with utilizing podcasts to increase white paper downloads and had met with considerable success. This McCann report further validates that.

Here’s why?:

60% – would rather have white papers delivered as podcasts

5. If you want me to listen, better make it worth my while!

If you are in the business of creating content you better create podcasts that are hear-worthy. I hear this all the time: first from Scoble and now from this report, which proves that “among “frequent listeners”, 57% reported there aren’t enough podcasts of interest at this point”.

And remember: If you don’t make it interesting, nobody will listen. As always, CONTENT rules!

(Source: Emerging Media Series: The Influence of Podcasts on B2B Technology Purchase Decisions Analyst Report by KnowledgeStorm and Universal McCann via Dana Gardner’s Blog)

Filed under: Uncategorized

Is Corporate Blogging bad for your brand?

— and how to protect your $ billion investment, your Corporate Brand.

Since today is Link Day, atleast on this blog, I thought I’ll provide 5 links to interesting articles on Corporate Blogging culled from the blogosphere:

1. Lessons in Corporate Blogging by Nick Carr on Business Week

2. Fortune 500s adopt blogs faster than Small Growing Companies by Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasions

3. As a continuation on data mining corporate blogs, I stumbled upon this list of British Corporate Blogs posted at Corante by Suw Charman, author of the Choc’n’Vodka blog.

4. How do Blogs affect brands and vice-versa by Zachary Rodgers at Clickz

5. Robert Scoble’s interview on Corporate Blogging (via Global PR Blog Week)

Happy Reading!

Filed under: Business Blogging, Miscellaneous

Many Bloggers. 1 iDea. 1 Community.

iDea Interview Series questions. Last Call.

Many of the regular readers of the blog may recall the iDea series that I announced a month ago. For the uninitiated, iDea is a concept series of interviews I’ve conceived as a bridge between bloggers (marketing and tech). It’s essentially a set of 10 questions culled from many bloggers that I’d pose to a marketing influencer. The resulting interview will be podcast on the blog the following Monday. I’ll be conducting the first interview this weekend, with Jeremiah Owyang – web strategist and author of the “Web Strategist” blog.

I’d like to thank every blogger who’s been kind enough to send in their questions. I’d also like to make one last call for those who are still interested in participating in iDea. I’ll surely be highlighting the blogs of those who’re sending in questions, since after all, iDea is all about the community.

Here’s a sampling of questions:

What should companies blog about? Only the company and its products or more broadly? How to measure the return of those initiatives?

Send your questions to under the following format:
1. Question/s
2. Blogger
3. Blog

Jeremiah just returned from an invigorating Internet Strategies Symposium where he discussed Internet Marketing Strategies. He is currently in Oregon for the Webvisions conference. Seems like he’s all set to field any question of yours.

Moving forward, once the iDea Series audience reaches a critical mass, it may be ripe for LIVE multi-user podcasting! What do you say, Tracy? As I said, let the marketing iDeas explode.

Filed under: Uncategorized