Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

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

Oscars 2007 | Apple has everyone at “Hello”

The Superbowl for women (well that’s how some advertisers view the Oscars) had 5 technology references in its primetime telecast that just ended a few minutes ago on the West Coast. I thought it’d be interesting to take a quick birds-eye view of the technology that received sponsored and unsponsored recognition at the Oscars 2007:

1. The Apple “Hello” iPhone ad vs. the Microsoft “Wow” Vista ad

As Macworld had speculated, Apple came out with it’s simple yet effective “Hello” ad campaign at this year’s Academy Awards 2007, built around snippets of film sequences which featured memorable movie characters saying “Hello” and ending with the simple, terse, and curiosity enabling picture of the iPhone — Copy reads: “Hello”, coming in June.

Microsoft, on the other hand, blundered through various different “Wow” inducing scenarios which did nothing but confuse the viewer as to what they were talking about. The ads ended with — Wow. Microsoft Vista 2007. What am I supposed to make of it?

The 3 major reasons why the Apple ad scored a brilliant victory over the Microsoft ad

* Consistency – all ads featured the same scenes with the same ending, reiterating the message, while the Vista ads, bun(d)gled different Wow scenes that only made you wonder what this ad was all about and didn’t provide a clear answer?

* Simplicity – Apple ads are known for their simple, clear messaging and the Hello ad was no different

* Relevance – the Apple ads were relevant to the occasion (The Oscars) with sequences from films thrown into the ad, while Microsoft’s was all over the place.

All I can say is, Apple, “you had me at Hello”, while Microsoft, I’m still not Wow’ed.

Here are reviews from Scott Goldberg (Digital Media Wire) and Philip Michaels (MacWorld)

Check out the iPhone Oscars ad here.

2. The Designers behind “An Inconvenient Truth” – Duarte Design

Al Gore’s, “An Inconvenient Truthtook home 2 awards, but what is not known, is there is a Bay Area, Silicon Valley based design agency behind the stellar Keynote presentation that is at the heart of this Al Gore documentary – Duarte Design (via Presentation Zen).

Here’s some background into the technology used for the presentation:

Al Gore’s presentation was in fact using Apple’s Keynote presentation software (the same software Steve Jobs presents from) and did so for numerous reasons. Some of the videos dropped were HD, they played and scaled extremely well and was something our team couldn’t even begin to think about doing in PowerPoint! (via Presentation Zen)

Now, all I’ve to do, is add “An Inconvenient Truth” to my Netflix queue 🙂

3. YouTube reference:

YouTube was referenced by Gwyneth Paltrow before giving away the award for “Best Cinematography”, yet another sign of the company’s phenomenal growth in the past year, becoming a pop cultural milestone in the life’s of thousands of wannabe film-makers.

4. MySpace Reference:

Another mini-reference to MySpace, by host Ellen Degeneres in the middle of some light banter with Hollywood heavyweights Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg. Yet another social networking company that has carved out its image in the minds of millions in the past couple of years.

Did you notice any other references to technology at tonight’s Oscars 2007?

Feel free to share.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Larry Ellison on Apple: circa 1997

Flashback: In 1997, Apple was mired in questions surrounding it’s future, unsure of its footing within the computer industry and counting down its days of glory. In the words of Sir Wikipedia:

On July 9, 1997, Gil Amelio was ousted as CEO of Apple by the board of directors after overseeing a 12-year record-low stock price and crippling financial losses. Jobs stepped in as the interim CEO and began a critical restructuring of the company’s product line.

At the 1997 Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would be entering into partnership with Microsoft.

Here’s the 38 mt. video of that MacWorld Keynote 1997 that started it all:

Two things to note in the video —

On Business Strategy: Between 14.23 mts and 18.26 mts, Jobs plays a taped presentation of the new board of directors discussing what Apple’s strategy should be. I found these quotes of Larry Ellison priceless, keeping in mind, how uncertain Apple’s future at that time was and how prescient his words seem on hindsight.

Larry Ellison (Chairman/CEO, Oracle):

I think Apple needs to worry less about competing with Microsoft and worry more about doing things that are different; that’s back to innovation, its back to creativity, its back to vision.

Apple is the only lifestyle brand in the computer industry. It’s the only company, that people feel passionate about. The important thing is to build products that are wonderful, or as Steve would say “build insanely great products”

And that insanely great product was a tiny little music player that changed the way we listened to music.

On Leadership: It’s easier to be a leader when things are fine than when things are in the doldrums. When Steve Jobs made the presentation in 1997 (above video), he was returning to the company he’d helped found, after being ousted in a coup in 1983. Steve’s comeback was an attempt to stem losses at Apple in ’97 amounting to $ 1.6 billion.

Adding to the tension was a satellite presentation by Bill Gates announcing a partnership, which was booed (31 mts into the video) by the Macolytes in the audience. You’d do well to watch the final part of Steve’s sugar-coated reproach, which will go down as one of the best impromptu responses ever:

Where we are right now, we are shepherding some of the greatest assets in the computer industry, and if we want to move forward, we have to let go of a few things here: we have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose, OK? We have to embrace the notion that for Apple to win, then Apple has to do a really good job.

And, boy did they do a REALLY good job or what?! Let me end with a quote from Jobs on being ousted in 1985:

You have probably had somebody punch you in the stomach and it knocks the wind out of you and you cannot breathe. The harder you try to breathe, the more you cannot breathe. And you know that the only thing you can do is just relax so you can start breathing again.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Would Jack Welch have blogged as CEO?

I’d like to think so. Recently, fellow blogger Paul Dunay, stumbled upon super-CEO Jack Welch at a HSM Group conference and asked a couple of questions on our behalf (via Stowe Boyd):

On CEO Bloggers writing blogs:

CEOs have to be candid with their people; it’s a lot easier to be candid when you’re the guy at the top than when you are trying to move up the organization. But lack of candor is the biggest problem in companies today.

On adoption of new web 2.0 tools:

Just be authentic. Be clear in your vision, and have one message and one view that are authentic.

So would Jack Welch and Peter Drucker have blogged? I’m not sure. But, I think, web 2.0 and its tools affords his ideas on corporate communications to be tested more rigorously than ever in a closely watched blogosphere.

It’s now time for CEOs to walk the talk.

For More Jack:
Check out Jack Welch interviewed by Stanford GSB’s Dean Robert Joss, which culminates in a Q&A session from the students. You’ll definitely see the “candor” and “authenticity” themes replayed.

Watch Video (63 mts.) | Read Q&A Summary

Filed under: Business Blogging

Just a few site enhancements

It’s been a while since I’ve analyzed the health of “Marketing Nirvana”, and I thought I’ll provide a quick checklist. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of RSS subscribers of the blog shoot up to twice the “normal” average since Google released its Reader numbers.

I’ve also added a couple of sidebar widgets (to the right ->) to enhance your content consumption, while you’re here:

1. In addition to “Recent Posts”, you’ll also see the “Top 10 Posts” of all-time

2. I plan on indulging more in photography and so I’ve added the Flickr widget. I’ll soon be adding my Flickr photos to it.

3. To do: I’m hoping to convert my RSS feed to Feedburner. Although, I’m hesitant about doing it at this stage, I believe it offers an enhanced feature set. Also, I don’t have to lose those already subscribed to the current feed since I could redirect them to the Feedburner feed

Feel free to send any suggestions you have for improvement or topics you’d like me to blog about —

Filed under: Uncategorized

Movie Marketing, Moving Forward?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on another one of my favorite marketing topics – movie marketing. Recently, John Dodd’s from the “Make Marketing History” blog was one of the lucky few to catch an early screening of upcoming movie – Frank Miller’s 300.

Commenting on the post-screening Q&A session with “personable, unpretentious and funny director and informed and passionate questioners (comprising graphic novel fans and bloggers)”, John concludes that all this social media should be made available to the movie’s target audience – copyright-free.

It’s the sort of sociable media that should be intrinsic to the marketing of the movie and not just be destined to be a DVD extra and this time it won’t be because, as the Warner executives with whom I drank afterwards explained, they are trying to facilitate the needs of bloggers by providing access to a media website from which they could freely extract clips, trailers and official images. The film of the Q and A will be added to it

Welcome to targeted movie marketing:

Well, John, I think that’s already arrived to a great extent thanks to MySpace and YouTube. I just checked out 300’s MySpace Page and it has 194,967 friends! Imagine as a movie marketer, your ability to invite almost 200,000 of your most passionate core, word-of-mouth audience for special screenings.

That’s where MySpace’s Black Curtain Screenings plays an integral role. I’ve already written about these screenings when I wrote about Borat’s Black Carpet and it’s initial craze. These are no-brainer ideas to maximize your marketing to evangelists of your movie.

I couldn’t agree more with John that user generated social media content related to the movie should be packaged as a free “social media kit” that bloggers can use to evangelize the movie. I think Warner Bros. already has some behind the scenes footage on 300 here.

Do you know of any other movies that create customizable social media kits? Chris?

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And the award to best use of social media in politics

Scoble’s question a month ago on which of the three democrats’ election campaigns has really ignited conversations, still remains unanswered, so instead I thought I’ll take a stab at finding out how successful their campaigns have been at driving traffic to their website?

A cursory glance at all three websites of the leading Democrats — Edwards, Clinton and Obama, shows that they all follow the beaten path of new media. However, if I were to rank them in terms of how focused the sites are on social networking, here’s my ranking of the three sites: 1. Obama (MyBarackObama), 2. Edwards (OneCorps), and 3. Clinton.

Of what use is all the buzz if we cannot measure its impact. The closest approximation of the its effectiveness is to compare the Alexa rankings of the individual websites (given below). It looks like Clinton (blue) and Obama (red)’s sites had a spike in traffic around the time their websites/campaigns launched but Edwards’ site (green) seems to be trailing.

Also, check out this article that provides a detailed overview of my space colliding with the political space (via Church of the Customer)

So why do you think Edwards reaching out to bloggers didn’t have the desired effect?

Filed under: Uncategorized

A fellow believer in Netflix’s community!

This post is a great add-on to my earlier post on how only Community can save Netflix given Blockbuster’s increasingly aggressive poaching behavior.

It’s always nice to stumble across fellow bloggers who’ve had similar experiences. Here’s Rohit from Influential Interactive Marketing:

Ultimately, the thing that is keeping customers loyal for Netflix won’t be the interface or even the innovations – but the very vocal customer evangelists they have. When I am a Netflix customer, I feel like part of a community.

Rohit goes on to cite examples of Netflix’s community responding to Blockbuster’s tactics with their:

…customer experience videos on YouTube proclaiming Netflix far superior to Blockbuster, the Hacking Netflix blog dedicated to all things Netflix and glowing reviews about their new download service.

My reasons for staying with Netflix are similar to Rohit’s:

(a) the strength of Netflix’s international/indie cinema DVD offerings

(b) community?

However, as much as Netflix’s community of users rally around Netflix, I have to say, the service still lacks certain basic features of community that newer movie sites like Flixster have.

Ignoring the fact that Flixster’s target audience is the Myspace crowd, I’ve been surprised by the tons of community features it has compared to Netflix. They’ve even improved upon basic Netflix features such as their ratings/reviews.

Also, I don’t hit the roadblock of being forced to chat only with my friends who are Netflix subscribers. I’ve added 6 friends on Netflix (collected over the past 2 years), while I have 18 of my friends join MyFlixster (in less than 2 weeks).

Here’s an idea: Netflix should give their users the option of adding friends to “MyNetflix” (EVEN if they’re non-subscribers) to experience enhanced community features (similar to Flixster), and it’d be a great opportunity for Netflix to impress my friends by offering a vastly superior online community experience vis-a-vis Blockbuster’s price incentives.

Until that happens, wanna join my Flixster?

Filed under: Miscellaneous

The Fall of Scrybe; The Rise of Gmail

Note: The title of my blog post refers to my personal preferences in selecting a calendar/time management tool.

As you may have read in my recent posts, I’d been trying the beta version of Scrybe as a calendar tool convinced by it’s very effective 2 minute preview on YouTube. Slowly but surely my interest in Scrybe has waned because not because Scrybe was less useful, but because another tool was becoming more useful:

Cons of Scrybe:

1. It opens in another browser window

2. It takes time to load (as compared to gmail and my GTD plugin — see below)

3. The only reason I continued using it were the to-do lists and the intuitive interface

Pros of Gmail:

4. One-stop shop: Gmail was making it easier for me to add events to Google Calendar, while I crafted the email or responded to an email, thus taking care of my calendar needs from 1 interface.

5. The FINAL NAIL: While I found the to-do lists on Scrybe to be both pleasing to the eye and easy to use, most of my action items originated from my emails (gmail). When I stumbled upon the Firefox/Gmail plug-in for “Getting Things Done” (GTD), I didn’t have further reason to continue using Scrybe.

For those of you, who haven’t yet tried David Allen’s GTD principle, check out 43 Folders’ intro w/ tips. It may just change the way you manage your time & your life.

Also, here are 3 blogs that’ll help you enhance your quality of life/work:

1. 43 Folders

2. Lifehack

3. Zen Habits

Are there any other valuable blogs I’m missing?

Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s Community — First, Next and Last!

Congrats to Noah Kagan for pulling off an eventful community eventCommunity Next, last weekend at Stanford. Way to go, buddy!

So who’s Noah?: I’ve heard a lot about Noah and his enjoyable/informative blog, shared a blogosphere chat with him, and finally had a chance to meet him at my bday party last month.

Here’s Matt Marshall on Noah: Noah Kagan is one of those young guys who always seems to know what is going in Silicon Valley. He’s given a lot of thought about community building. He recently left Facebook, is working on various projects, and writes a blog at (via Venture Beat)

In the midst of all the great posts covering initial thoughts, the fun, the party, more thought posts (more on this later), I couldn’t resist highlighting Noah’s 2 cents on building community through “Community Next”:

I am saying when you want to create a community you can do it successful in 2 ways:

1- Active participant. You always have a drinking group and you say let’s put this on a website. Then more join and more join and so on. Bamn. Done. Community.

2- Have something Killer.
No, not literally. Make an awesome product. Make an event or site that people want to talk about it. Create a system for it. Allow them to give feedback. Provide tools for people to develop it. Bamn #2. Community is formed.

That definitely is the place to start while creating communities… Well said, and well done, Noah! See you at a community event/party soon 😉

Anyone else attended the event and have a scoop to share? 🙂

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Another reason to LOVE Google Reader!

Y’all know, I’m a BIG fan of Google Reader and gmail.

Here’s a nifty tip that I gleaned from the blog Google Operating System that shows how to (a) pull up your entire list of feeds/labels and (b) search for specific feeds/labels while reading posts in Google Reader. Quite a time saver and a ton of fun… I’m impressed.

a. Pull up the entire list of feeds by typing gu

…and pull up labels by typing gl

b. Once you’ve done that, just continue searching/typing for a specific title of blog/label you’d like to switch to. It’s that simple and cool…

So here’s searching for a specific feed, after typing gu

….And here’s searching for a specific label after typing gl

My next post describes another reason to love Gmail.

Do you’ve any specific Google Reader tips you’d like to share?

Filed under: Uncategorized