Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

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

Top 25. Check. TechMeme’d. Check.

My fascination for the Viral Garden‘s Top 25 Marketing Blogs started over a couple of months back, and shortly thereafter became more pronounced with my vow to find myself in it, when I grow up! The Top 25 rankings are assiduously maintained by our fellow marketing blogger and a great friend of mine; the Viral Gardener himself, Mack Collier with some great support from the Alexa rankings.

Imagine my surprise that after a few months of intense blogging, I’ve finally made it into the Top 25, “making one of the biggest debuts ever, coming in at #19“. What makes it even better is the fact that MarketingProfs’ Daily Fix, where I contribute, made it into the Top 10. Way to go, Ann!

On my wishlist, I also aspired – “to be on TechMeme” and my wish was granted a few weeks ago following the TechCrunch party when my post was TechMemed, although they spelt my blog wrong. In related news, my goal to crack the Technorati 100,000 is surpassed by my current ranking that hovers around 35,000. I have miles to go as a blogger, but the crazy overtime spent online is more than compensated by the fact that I’ve found a few fellow marketing maniacs.

Congratulations to Ann Handley, Karl Long, David Armano, Ben & Jackie at the Church of the Customer, who’ve all made huge strides in the Top 25. Thanks to Eric for his kind words and Kudos to Mack for maintaining the ranking, which is a great source of inspiration for all marketing & advertising bloggers. And of course, THANKS to all the readers for continuing to read!

Signing off. Mario.

Filed under: About Mario Sundar

Podcasting Do’s and Don’ts

Here are a couple of recent posts on podcasting that will surely be of much interest to all marketers. Some of these articles provide a great place to start for corporate marketers looking to add podcasts to their media mix.

(i) My thought process was triggered by a FutureLab post by our very own Karl Long (Experience Curve) on the “Uncommon Uses of Podcasting“. Karl provides a great overview of some of the uncommon ways he sees podcasts being used effectively. Think Entertainment (Music, Travel Tours, Cooking Lessons, etc…)

(ii) On the other end of the podcast usage spectrum, check out a recent Marketing Sherpa article (which I stumbled upon via Paul Colligan) that clearly defines the do’s and dont’s for corporate marketers interested in testing the waters. Some of the findings are in agreement with the recent McCann report that I blogged about, but the good news seems to be that finally podcasting has broken into the mainstream, 2 years since its debut.

Here’s a synopsis of the 5 Do’s and 5 Dont’s:


1. KISSE (Keep it Short, Simple & Entertaining):  the article recommends 10 – 20 minutes per podcast. My take is that even if you decide on a 30 minute podcast, break it into smaller audio chunks (5 minute segments) thereby offering more options to the listener
2. Use a strong voice and a distinct style for your podcasts
3. Try different guest stars; there can be only brand voice but many interviewed
4. Do pick a content-specific title: It’ll be helpful for search-engine optimization needs. Also, providing the transcript of the podcast or a summary will be helpful for the same reason
5. Create a podcasting calendar


1. Do not repurpose existing content as a podcast
2. Do not make sales pitch podcasts
3. Do not create one-off podcasts; it’s a waste of time
4. Do not burden the podcast with lengthy advertisements
5. Do not read from a script; or atleast try not to sound like you are reading from one

Feel free to download the entire article here (Free until Sep 1, 2006).

Do you have any suggestions based on your experience?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Branding Redux | 3 New Rules

The title is kind of misleading. Branding never dissappeared to find itself in the middle of a resurgence right now, but the rules of branding keep evolving and adapting to the needs of a generation. I happened to recently read an article in the Chief Marketer on Simon Williams’ (Sterling Brands) The 10 New Rules of Branding. Here are the three rules that I totally agree with:

1) A brand with no point of view has no point; full-flavor branding is in, vanilla is out.

This idea is similar to a recent Marketing Profs article by our very own Mike Wagner, titled “Hate my Brand, Please“. Mike was calling upon the same principle of defining your brand via your identity and what you stand for. Some of the examples of “polarizing brand identity” as I would like to call it has also spilled onto movies and politics.

In movies, two of the biggest money earners in 2004 happened to be “Passion of the Christ” and “Farenheit 911“. Movies catering to the opposite ends of the political spectrum, yet succesfully and subjectively preaching to the choir. Politically, the same year, take the example of the two opposing candidates: George W. Bush & John Kerry. Irrespective of your political affiliations, there is reason to believe that George W. Bush is a much more effective brand because everyone knew exactly what he stood for. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Kerry, which I personally believe was the primary cause of his undoing in the 2004 elections .

2) Today’s consumer is leading from the front; this is the smartest generation to have ever walked the planet.

I believe we are probably as smart as our preceding generations, but one thing’s for sure — we’ve been enabled with superior technology that helps us make smarter choices. For ex. think about our car purchases. Long gone are the days when we were subject to the whimsical and sinister ways of the car salesman! Nowadays, we have the support of the KBB, Craigslist,, and a million other myriad websites that help you make the right choice.

Even car manufacturers are slowly but surely learning their lesson with haggle-free car sale. Take for ex. Scion (from Toyota) and of course Saturn that pioneered the process. I for one, purchased a Scion tc without negotiating the price and I’m more than glad with the Experience. Isn’t this what being a brand ambassador is all about?

3) Customize wherever and whenever you can; customization is tomorrow’s killer whale.

Customization is not tomorrow’s killer whale because it’s today’s killer whale. Clear your mind and think about the ugly designs on MySpace or the butt-ugly Crocs, or the wierd looking Nikes, or the Box Scion or the personalized Jessica Simpson tunes! Today’s customer wants to be pampered and is getting it. Technology is helping make that easier and things are going to get crazier as we further spill into the 2010s. Welcome to the Minority Report!

Feel free to disagree. Send me your thoughts or just comment below…

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Wanna have Lunch 2.0?

Close on the heels of my Stupid 2.0 post, here’s an invitation to a Bay Area geek/marketing fest being put together by my good friend Jeremiah at Hitachi Data Systems. For those who’re wondering, what the heck is Lunch 2.0? Here’s a primer:

It’s a Web Expo and a free lunch all rolled into one! Check out ten web companies that will show off their data-intensive websites at this upcoming Lunch 2.0 –and yes, this is a free event to all attendees and exhibitors. It’s all happening on Tuesday, September 12th.

Who should attend?
* Geeks
* Tech Marketers
* More Geeks
* To meet Robert Scoble, Thomas Hawk, Shel Israel
* And, there shall be music by Pandora

When is it?
Sep 12 (Tue Noon — It’s Free Lunch!)

How do you get there?
Map this

How do you register?
RSVP by adding a comment at the end of this post. It’s that simple.

I’m going to be there to check out some cool new technology (the inner geek in me is excited) and to meet good friends Damon, Shel, Hawk and Jeremiah!

Be there!

Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m with Stupid 2.0!

What drew my attention to marketing 2.0s “stupidity” is a provocative, albeit interesting post by Noah Kagan (via Cameron Olthius ). The post outlined the Top 5 Stupid Trends of Marketing 2.0 with sufficient rebuttal from Cameron.

Here’s my take:

1- Our product is Viral & 3- You need a blog.
Noah’s kinda right. Not all products are created equal and ergo not all products are viral. However the fact remains that viral marketing or the social collaboration software that spawned it, is by far the greatest outcome of this entire (for lack of a better word) web 2.0 evolution.

By the same rational, not all companies need a blog. However, I don’t see any better way for a company to connect with its core target audience (read prospects and customers) than with a blog. It could be used as a link connecting users across the various stages of the sales cycle. So, a prospect can connect with a customer and vice versa. It also adds an aura of genuineness & credibility to the company and implies reciprocal trust from the consumer.

2- Paying $10,000 to advertise on TechCrunch for a month.
Noah’s probably right. $10,000 for a month, seems steep by any magazine’s standards. TechCrunch is inching towards a feed readership of 100,000. Comparatively a visitor and tourism guide with average circulation of 100,000 and combined circulation of 800,000 charge $6600 for a full page back cover. However, let’s not forget that TechCrunch may afford the opportunity to target your most coveted tech-savvy core audience and therefore commands a higher price.

4- Digg will save us.
Noah’s right. Digg cannot save you, nor can TechCrunch, not even MySpace, if you have a terrible product. Viral Marketing, Community Marketing, and Customer Evangelism necessitates a killer product and if you don’t have that, I’d recommend focusing your resources on upgrading before further spending your ad dollars.

5- Oh don’t worry, we have a MySpace Badge.
Noah’s right, but I am confused. I don’t quite get how a MySpace Badge or widgets can work wonders (although Cameron provides a few examples) but the cause of my befuddlement is that Noah himself advocates the use of MySpace Badges in an earlier Top 5 post of his (Thanks, Ryo).

All contradiction aside, what do you (Noah as well as all readers) think, are the Top 5 Smart Trends of Marketing 2.0? Mack (Viral Garden), any thoughts?

In completely unrelated news: I wanted to announce my affirmation that Ze Frank is Ze Real Deal when it comes to vlogging. Here’s why I think his show rocks:

…because it’s easy-to-watch, insanely witty, satirical, musical, hilarious, Seinfeldian and really, really, really ridiculously smart (any way, I’ve run out of words). And all this he does without batting an eyelid. Simply put, Ze is ze Jon Stewart of the blogosphere (or is it called the vlogosphere now?).

Case in point: Watch as Ze and Jon dissect the same issue in their own inimitable styles.

Filed under: Uncategorized

‘Are we there yet?’ Party!

Quick Update: Well, Marketing Nirvana’s just got TechMeme’d as part of the “TechCruncher’s Ball” discussion.

Whoa! Another Silicon Valley “Web 2.0 Movers & Shakers” event (750 registered attendees!). Is this Bubble 2.0 or are we on the cusp of a huge tech revolution?

But I digress, the event was a great opportunity to meet good ol’ friends – Shel, Jeremiah and Tracy as well as meet a few new friends.

from l – r; Hawk, Shel, and me
(Source: Jeremiah Owyang)

Here are some more cool folks I had a chance to chat with:

1. Guy Kawasaki (Garage Technology Ventures): It has been a long time since I made my acquaintance with “the guy” himself, at an AMA event. If you’re an avid reader of his blog (such as I am) you’ll notice that Guy’s back with some really informative posts.

Being an “essayist” kind of blogger (as I aspire to be), we share similar concerns on how long these posts take to get done. I look forward to many more conversations, Guy.

2. Robert Scoble (Podtech): Yes, Scobleizer was there too, easing into his role as blogger/vlogger. Chatted up podcasts, vlogging etc… with him. It was great to get some think-time on where he saw the medium going.

3. Will Pate (Flock): Flock is a browser where Firefox intersects with Myspace & the rest of the social networking blogosphere. Will is the community ambassador at Flock – here’s a Flock snapshot back in the day, and was eager and enthusiastic about demoing and answering questions.

4. Scott Brooks (Concept Share):

from l – r; Scott, Tracy and me
(Source: Jeremiah Owyang)

Scott is the evangelist/co-founder at Concept Share, a god-send to designers & ad agencies to coordinate design projects with their clients. Pretty cool idea. Coming from an agency background, I can understand the benefits that’d accrue to the design community from freelance designers to larger ad agencies.

Also had a chance to meet-and-greet Gabe Rivera (TechMeme), Thomas Hawk (Zooomr), John Furrier (Podtech), Scott Beale (Laughing Squid), and Craig Donato (Oodle).

If you want more pics, check out the entire Flickr set here.

Also, check out cool party updates from Thomas Hawk, Jeremiah Owyang, Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Scott Beale, Dead 2.0, Vincent Lauria, Alex Moskalyuk, Noah Kagan and of course, the man himself – Michael Arrington.

Thanks, Michael, for putting together a fantastic event. Good luck on recreating the magic in New York!

Trivia: The event was held at August Capital on famed Sand Hill Road, “a symbol of private equity in the United States that may be compared to that of Wall Street in the stock market.”

Also, for several years during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s, commercial real estate on Sand Hill Road was more expensive than almost anywhere else in the world.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Well, it all came true…

Quick Update: Not exactly all came true exactly as I envisioned. The BO results were much lesser than I calculated, and dramatically different from what the media had hyped about. Per my calculation, it seems like a quarter of the blogger population should have watched the film to yield just $15.3 million only! Now back to the post…

Well the results are trickling in…and it’s all good. To be honest, Snakes on a Plane was never on my movie viewing list but after the recent reviews — I’m going to catch the film, probably tomorrow. Any film that has a Rotten Tomatoes score greater than 70% is on my list.

For the uninitiated, Rotten Tomatoes is a great website that aggregates movie reviews and gives it a score based on positive or negative reviews. To give you some perspective, Inside Man averaged 89%, Talladega Nights 72%, GodFather 100% (Duh!), Lord of the Rings 93%

… and Snakes on a Plane – Critics 72% & Users 94%

Even CNN was effusive:

This is an event. It’s a rare example of a film not just living up to the hype, but surpassing it. And it’s the best time you’ll have at the movies all summer, if not all year.

Here’s more. Check out the Rotten Tomatoes page on SoaP, right here. And more importantly, check out the movie in theatres — once for the blogger in you and once for the inner “Rocky Horror” movie fan in you.

In short, it looks like “Snakes on a Plane delivers exactly what it promised and then some. And how often can you say that about a movie these days?”

Have a great weekend!

p.s. For the skeptical among you (Paul?), here’s a “C-” EW review, however I thought that this was an interesting conclusion to that review —

As Snakes started, a few cheers went up, but the sneer never quite disappeared: It was applause as a form of one-upmanship — a desire for entertainment, yes, but also a celebration of the audience’s superiority, its power over the movie. More potent than anything in Snakes on a Plane is the fantasy offscreen: that if enough people talk up their desire to see this film and, at the same time, take an overt delight in what an unabashed piece of junk it is, they will fuse with the hype, with the movie’s mystique. They will not just watch Snakes on a Plane; they will own it.

Filed under: Uncategorized

The Question still lingers…

My MarketingProfs post – Top 10 CMO Blogs, had a counter-post by Roy Young (Director of Strategy and Development for MarketingProfs), regarding why he thinks CMO blogging may not be the best idea. I thought it’s an interesting argument he puts forth and I’m also quoting some responses to his idea right below.

Observing that few CMOs blog in a recent post, Mario Sundar argues that it’s “imperative for CMOs/VPs of Marketing to blog, since they are expected to be the voice of the company.”

I disagree. Blogs are another communications medium, and C-suite marketers who are focused on communications do not stay in the position very long.

I interviewed successful CMOs for my forthcoming book, Marketing Champions and found that they are not concerned solely with getting the word out about the organization’s products and services. CMOs are most concerned with creating and keeping customers for cash flow now and in the future.

Well, Roy, It’s unfortunate that CMO tenures don’t last more than 2 years. However, I see that as the strongest reason to archive a company’s voice via a permanent blog. And, if the CMOs main priority is “creating and keeping customers”, I don’t see any better way to connect with your prospects & customers than with a blog. There’s nothing more assuring to your customer than the fact that you listen to them. And, a blog is definitely one of the ways you can show that you’re listening.

My good friend, Ann Handley opines:

Leaders like Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, and Cisco’s John Chambers spend (or spent) a third of their time with customers. Such leadership behavior “sends a distinct message to the organization that all employees should focus on providing customers with higher levels of value,” Hellenbeck writes.

And no — Hellenbeck isn’t talking about blogs, exclusively. But why ignore such an opportunity? Why shut a direct window to your customers?

Kevin Horne freaks out at the thought of C-suite execs blogging:

I take Mario’s comment to the extreme – as a shareholder I don’t EVER want to see a C-level blogging. They are being paid millions – I’ll get their “insights” from the quarterly report transcripts.In my humble opinion, the best blogs are from those a level or two down in the organization – those who actually touch customers, products, and fellow employees – the “inner workings” so to speak. Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz is an exception – one of the few inner workings guys to get promoted to the C-suite.

Well, Kevin, I hear you. It’s a scary thought to contemplate C-suite execs blogging like I do, but I believe it’s a strong symbol to have C-suites blogging the salient points of their annual report (for eg.). It’s an open channel of communication with your customers. What better way to receive feedback on your products? It’s like an army general having real-time feedback from the war zone. Priceless intelligence.

This comment from our very own Mack, sums it up:

The point is, as Hugh MacLeod once said, that blogging makes things happen indirectly. Start blogging and you start talking to your customers. They start talking back. You start to better understand them, they start to better understand you. They realize that you are listening to them, you realize that they just want to be heard. Their expectations of you begin to change to meet your limitations, your processes begin to change to better meet their wants and needs.

End result? Sales increase. Costs go down. Customer satisfaction and service goes up. All this happens indirectly.

The Catch-22 is that companies truly can’t see the benefits of blogging until they start, and many don’t want to start until they KNOW they can make money off it.


Filed under: Uncategorized

SOAP Dollar$

Update: Check out MarketingProfs on how much I think SoaP is going to make this weekend. As a bonus, you also get to read Mack’s take!

So, how about a pop-quiz, before we start off this awesome week in August. Tons of blogosphere ink has been spilt on what’s assumed to be the greatest buzz marketing campaign ever. Snakes on a Plane or SOAP in short has spawned a barrage of user-made videos, a blog, contests, millions of articles from the mainstream media (here’s my favorite from Esquire) to mass hysteria on the blogosphere.

What’s important however is to remind ourselves that all this brouhahah better mean something in the only race that matters — the race for the top spot on opening weekend which is August 18th. Now, I’m a big movie afficionado and my guess is that SOAP is gonna make anywhere between $30 – $40 million.

Here’s a poll from one of my favorite movie websites –

How much do you think SOAP will make on opening weekend? Chris?

Take a guess. Post your comment here. It’ll be interesting to see if we marketers are right on the money.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Link Lovers (August 06)

Taking a cue from my good blogger friend, Paul McEnany, I’d like to start off this week with links to ten of my favorite marketing posts in recent times. Also, I just added my entire blogroll to my Technorati favorites. If you have a Technorati account, feel free to add Marketing Nirvana to your Technorati favorites. Much appreciated.

Without further ado, here are my 10 favorite marketing posts of August 06 :

1. Mack Collier: What kind of a blogger are you? The Godfather or the Diamond in the rough? Take a read and decide for yourself.

2. Tricia Mangan: Corporate Blogging in the Music Industry? You think it’s bad in the high-tech industry, take a trip down blogging blues within the music industry.

3. Emergence Marketing: Francois’ link to a MarketingSherpa study on Corporate Blogging rules. Do the results support the need for corporate blogging? Check out the lukewarm results for yourself here.

4. Karl Long: At the Future Lab Blog, Karl from Experience Curve contemplates the 3 rules for Viral Marketing. A must-read for all viral marketers.

5. Mike Wagner: From Marketing Nirvana to Marketing Porn! I know…you want to read more.It’s alright. Go ahead!

6. David Armano: For all you bloggers running around like headless chickens wondering what to blog and what not to, David’s got a great post on taking a break. I hear you, David.

7. Church of the Customer: More SOAP Craziness. Brace yourself for a barrage of blog posts as the darling of the blogosphere, releases on August 18th. It’ll be interesting to see to what extent the buzz amplifies BO results.

8. Creating Passionate Users: Have a product you don’t utilize to it’s fullest capacity. You’re not alone. This post made me re-think my decision to buy a digital SLR camera. Pretty Powerful, eh? Check it out here.

Two of my Bay Area friends/marketers have re-ignited their blogging and boy, does it look exciting:

9. Tracy Sheridan: from Waxxi is back in the blogging saddle. Can’t wait to hear her thoughts on the evolving podcasting industry.

10. Damon Billian: a fellow clue-train fan and community marketer par excellence (think eBay, SimplyHired, etc…). Here’s to future conversations via his blog.

Also here’s wishing our very own Mack, all the best in cracking the Technorati Top 100!

Filed under: Uncategorized