Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

The Marketing Gym

This week I missed out on blogging on one of the days and it wasn’t until I read Mack’s blog posts that I had the urge to blog again. It’s true, I just realized that my motivation to blog is incentivized by the participation of fellow marketing bloggers from all over the world. It’s kind of like gym partners who help you stay focused and regular at the gym — thus, Marketing Gym!

It’s celebration time at the Marketing Gym. I’ve got to first congratulate two of our blogger friends – Mack Collier @ Viral Garden and Ann Handley @ MarketingProfs for being a great source of inspiration and for guiding their respective blogs successfuly to three months in the blogosphere. As Ann rightly pointed out blog-years are like dog-years and so wish you guys and everyone involved many more dog-years in the business of blogging! Great job!

I’ve been around for only one-third the time they’ve spent online (and it does seem like forever) but in this short space of time, I’ve been able to interact with quite a few smart, interesting and very generous bloggers. Here’s a sampling of “the community” who via their participation and example, inspire me to continue blogging every day:

* Jeremiah Owyang – Web Strategist
* Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba – Church of the Customer
* David Armano – Logic + Emotion
* Karl Long – Experience Curve
* Tracy Sheridan – Waxxi

and for so many other bloggers whom I’ve encountered through my blogging journey:

* Shel Israel – Naked Conversations
* Alain Thys – Future Lab
* Francois Gossieaux – Emergence Marketing/Corante Blog
* Doug Hudiburg – Marketing Pathway
* Tara Hunt – HorsePigCow
* Munjal Shah – Recognizing Deven
* Les Chui – Chiropractic Blogger
* Chris Salazar – Intern Blogger
* Gene Hall – Genealogy Blog
* Parker Trewin – Sales Genius Blog

…from web 2.0 marketing to Genealogy — it’s amazing to see the diversity of bloggers in the blogosphere. I look forward to continuing this conversation with all of you…

I’ve been planning a special monthly post and very soon I’ll let you guys know what it’s all about. All I can say is that it’s going to further involve the community and all its members in a much more participatory manner via this blog.

All i can say is that it’s about iDeas! (How much more cliched can it get?)

Filed under: Uncategorized

Podcast Debate – Quick Update

I know some of you may be wondering what happened to the podcasting debate started earlier this week by Peter T. Davis and followed-up by Scoble. I added my 2 cents to it and Peter came up with another post yesterday, where he reiterated his question.

Is the audience big enough to get the attention of advertisers? I don’t know. Is it a fad? It sure looks like one to me.To get back to the point, what you’re missing, it’s not enough to tell people that we can do it. We can do a lot of things. Why should we do it? And, I don’t mean why should someone produce a podcast, I can think of a thousand reasons. But, the real question is why should I (or anyone else) listen? You need to convince people how it’s going to benefit them.

Rather than re-state my response which you’ve already heard, I thought it may be a good idea to highlight another blogger’s take on it. Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communication + Technology, has responded succinctly to Peter’s questions, echoing some of my thoughts on the topic. Below is a snippet and here’s the entire comment.

First, it’s not a question of whether people will listen to podcasts. The medium is less than two years old and has in excess of 10 million listeners. As new tools make it easier to subscribe, more people will listen.

He then goes on to conclude that:

Part of the appeal is niche content that you can’t get through mainstream radio. My podcast deals with public relations and corporate communications, a topic you’ll never find a radio station embracing as a recurring show. But we (my co-host and I) have enough listeners to make it worth our while to continue doing the show (we’ll record our 150th on Thursday

I’d have to agree with Shel Holtz on the fact that Podcasting is another example of the long tail wagging and proving that Chris Anderson is right — again. As for podcasting, the question that keeps ringing in my mind is: Do we marketers, need to “convince people how podcasting is going to benefit them”?

I believe, if Marketing is defined as “an organizational function for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers“, then it is our responsibility to evangelize the benefits of podcasting to our customers.

What do you think?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Resident Viral Music!

This one you’ve got to listen to. I had to get this off my mind since I think it’s such a cool idea. Have you listened to music by “The Residents” — “an avant garde music and visual arts group formed in the early 1970s“? They are also “known for their secrecy, singular art, and embrace of new technology” — no wonder that shows in their latest project. (All quotes from Wikipedia)

So here’s the scoop on their latest web CD project (via CNN) that retails at $14.99. It contains (brace yourself) 2 BLANK CDs. Now, here’s what’s cool. The CDs contain a unique code which enables you to access their 5-episode web music series through their website. If you don’t like all episodes, you can download individual episodes for $1.99 each! Not only that, customers “will also receive digital extras like ringtones and mobile wallpaper as well as materials that can be burned onto the blank CD-Rs”.

Here are 3 reasons why I think it’s great viral marketing:

1. Customizable

If youth marketers haven’t gotten the memo from MySpace, Youtube & Scion, I don’t know when they will. The primary reason for MySpace’s success lies in its ability to create a virtual environment where users can showcase their identity with no hassles and no questions. Yes! The website is ugly but who cares. The same holds true for Scion, from the Toyota stable. The car is a HUGE success with youngsters because it affords them the flexibility to “pimp their ride”, as “The Bard” is wont to say. The customer or user wants options and the smart marketer will pander to this basic need. Ask and THEN thou shalt receive a million options!

2. Unique:

Users like to associate themselves with unique products or campaigns. Case in Point: How many of you have had a chance to see a recent ad for Sony Bravia? Well, just Google “Sony Bravia” + “Jose Gonzalez”. That was the hook for a recent viral email marketing campaign. Not only is the method of eliciting interest – “UNIQUE” it actually lends a certain coolness to all parties associated with the ad – both Sony and the artist.

Is this a sign of changing times for music marketing?

3. PULL vs. Push:

Viral campaigns are evangelistic. I haven’t stopped raving about the Sony Bravia ad to all I’ve met and now I’m talking about it on my blog! An important caveat however is that you’ve gotta be REALLY good or REALLY bad or REALLY funny to be a VIRAL success. There is no middle ground here. Choose one or the other as a marketer and position your product so that interested targeted audiences can PULL them into their lives. As a marketer, you can help facilitate that!

As for the Residents expirement, the jury is still out, but my bet is on them successfuly wooing their target audience. Only, Time will tell.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Here we go again…Podcast debate…

Today, techmeme has an interesting discussion on Podcasts…Guess why? Partly because of Scoble’s recent response to an earlier post from Peter T Davis.

Since I focus for a bit on corporate podcasting as part of my day-to-day work as well as my interest in all developments this side of the web 2.0 world, I thought it’d be “smart” for me to respond to the questions regarding the viability of podcasts as an effective content dissemination medium, but I thought I’d do that in conversational style (Imaginary, of course, but all quotes are verbatim from their respective blogs):

————————
Peter T Davis: “I’ve been following some podcasts on and off for the past six months or so, and have begun to question whether it’s an efficient use of my time

Me: Why do you say so, Peter?

Peter T Davis: “In the time I can listen to an average podcast, I could have caught up on my 50 favorite blogs, or read a chapter in a book, or read the latest issue of Red Herring magazine.

Me: You’ve got to be kiddin me?

Peter: No! “I do read super fast. It’s a habit I learned as a grad student. You learn to read fast in grad school, or you get crap for grades. Podcasts deliver information slowly.”

Me: C’mon Peter, you must be reading (I mean hearing) really long and boring podcasts! And in my opinion that’s not an ideal use of podcasts…Let’s see what our friend Scoble has to say on this…

Scoble: Peter “is right“.

Me: Really?

Scoble: Well, not really, be”cause I’d love Peter to explain to me how he reads RSS when he’s driving or Or, as someone told me recently, while walking in the Scottish Highlands. Or, try exercising while reading a Tablet PC.

Me: Well, my guess is that Peter does that really fast as well and he probably doesn’t walk in the Scottish Highlands . What do you say Peter?

Peter: “Well, sure, I bet there are a couple of people out there somewhere who’d want to listen to a podcast during their daily commute. But, I really have a feeling that this is a classic case of filling a need that very few people need filled.”

———————-

OK, I can’t take it anymore! This imaginary conversation is getting to me. But there were a couple of interesting points brought up by this. I know I’ve covered podcasts briefly in my earlier post on Podcasting 101, but let me attempt to clarify some of the more modern uses of podcast atleast in the corporate arena (particularly since I meddle with such technology in my day-job).

1. There are 3 kinds of podcasts I see increasingly:
a. Amateur podcast: You and I can create any podcast we so desire and can inflict unbearable torture on the common public.
b. Professional radio content: Check out NPR’s Podcast directory. Need I say more…
c. Corporate podcast: These are sometimes created by Fortune 500 companies but are increasingly being crafted by professional podcasters such as Podtech.net.

2. Erstwhile, podcasts were boring, long, and unbearable but times are a changin! Here are some innovative usage of podcasts:

a. Bearing Point: By far, the best and most effective utilization of corporate podcasts. Check out a case-study of how they used podcasts to increase downloads of white papers. For more on how they did it, check out “How to use podcasts to build brand buzz” by Paul Dunay on his blog. Paul is the brains behind Bearing Point’s experiment on Podcasts.

b. NPR – By far , the best and most effective utilization of podcasting to back-up their existing radio shows (see above).

c. Podtech.net (where Scoble is joining shortly) is one of the three fast-growing web-channels were you can reach out for professional technology content. Think NPR meets Google! I’ve spoken to John Furrier a few times in the past and I think he’s really the MAN w/ the PLAN. His hiring Mr. and Mrs. Scoble, really proves he knows a lot about great PR.

Summary:

Podcasts is to audio content what TiVo is to video content; anywhere and everywhere. You should be able to pull-up audio content you’ve heard anywhere and listen to them anytime at your convenience. In my opinion, ideally a podcast should be around 5 minutes in length unless it’s super-interesting content (think NPR, MTV). Even if you’re listening during your commute you are inclined to doze off on the wheel after 15 minutes on a topic. NPR does a great job providing feeds for all their daily news items. So if I can only listen to half a news item/interview I go back home and download and listen to the rest.

Currently, podcasting is a great addition to your existing media of communication with your target audience. However it’s still evolving and I’m sure it’ll be a focus of both corporate and radio channel interest down the road. I’m glad it’s getting its share of the spotlight following Scoble’s arrival. It may be the start of good times for the podcasting industry in general. He brings a dose of genuineness and serves as a reality-check for this fast growing industry. Check out Scoble’s accurate and self-deprecating take on his new company’s Podcast’ness. Kudos for infusing some reality into this space, Scoble.

Mark Ramsey, are you hearing me? Any thoughts?

Quick Update: Check out my friend Jeremiah’s 2cents on this podcast debate. In particular, I like his spin on podcasting, which he defines as “an Ambient Medium“.

Filed under: Uncategorized

This and that…

This….

As a sequel to my previous post on movie marketing, check out this blog on movie marketing that I stumbled upon via Viral Garden – Movie Marketing Madness.

…and that…

A blog-shout-out to Mack Collier for mentioning Marketing Nirvana as a blog he enjoys reading. I appreciate the fact that Mack is a great participative blogger apart from contributing to 4 different blogs, some of which have crept into my daily reading habit: Viral Garden, MarketingProfs: Daily Fix, Beyond Madison Avenue, etc…

Mack has come up with his weekly Top 25 Marketing Blogger rankings which he culls from the Alexa web traffic rankings. Someday when I grow-up I hope to be on that list!

I was also pleasantly surprised & enthused by comments on my blog from MarketingProfs bloggers Ann Handley, Karl Long, and David Armano (whose post I'd recently responded to).

Thanks to everyone. I'm excited about being a part of this virtual "Land of the Marketing Blogger" and look forward to many a happy blogging exercise down the road.

Maybe we should organize an Annual Marketing Bloggers meet. I can help with logistics if Bay Area is chosen as the location. Just let me know and we could set some thing up.

In the meanwhile, all you marketers: Keep blogging and keep reading!

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Word-of-Mouth Movie Marketing: How-to?

How many of you haven’t enjoyed the movie “Napoleon Dynamite“? I bet atleast some of you would agree that it was a cool-lil flick that opened small (investment: $400K) and went BIG (BO: $45 mil; DVD sales: $104 mil). How about the sophomore effort of its director Jared Hess – “Nacho Libre“? It opened kind of BIG (2 weeks back) but then is slowly losing ground.

Some of the more recent “small” Indie films have gone wildly successful — thanks to unprecedented grassroots marketing. Cases in point: “The Passion of the Christ” and “Farenheit 9/11“. A cursory analysis of the “Passion of the Christ” phenomenon yields my 5 Commandments for creating a viral-movie-phenomenon (inspired by an article from the Hollywood Reporter & Jackie Huba‘s The 5 Steps of how a story spreads):

The 5 Commandments

(i) Thou shalt choose a topic or theme that is extremely close to the hearts and minds of a vast cross-section of the movie going public, thereby controversial. Religion or politics offer easy bait.

(ii) Thou shalt keep the movie making a closely guarded secret and let out some juicy tidbits every now and then. Always let rumors fly and stoke anticipation.

(iii) Upon completion of filming, show the movie ONLY to a handful of reviewers (not to all-and-sundry media), containing a mix of those you think may adore it and some who’d hate it – and I mean absolutely HATE it!

(iv) Thou shalt enable a press-frenzy around it which shall snowball due to lack of screenings. Slowly, expand your screenings to other leaders from within your target audience.

(v) Thou shalt “Go grassroots”: The Passion benefited from an enormous word-of-mouth from every possible quarter; the website being a critical component. Motive Marketing was the agency behind the successful web marketing for Mel Gibson. Check out the agency’s website here, and also check out similar successes that agency has spawned:

1. The Passion of the Christ
2. The Polar Express
3. The Chronicles of Narnia

In related developments, bloggers are playing an active role in creating buzz for upcoming films. Check out the hot new meme that is “Snakes on a Plane” by Jackie Huba.

Most importantly, thou shalt be passionate and shalt not worry about breaking conventions. Irrespective of the content of the movie, it took courage for Mel Gibson to pour in between $30-40 million of his own money and to be dumb enough to break just about every unwritten rule that Hollywood studios have carved out over the past years.

Word-of-mouth Movie Marketing is only for passionate risk-takers. Not for the passive risk-averse types. Or as Jon Heder says: “Just follow your heart”.

I wonder what my friend Mack Collier (Viral Garden) thinks about my take on Movie Marketing virally. Also, John Moore from Brand Autopsy has a nice article on movie marketers.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Jakob Nielsen hates RSS!

Self-proclaimed and universally acknowledged web-usability guru, Jakob Nielsen categorically stated his dislike for some of the newer-fangled content distribution mechanisms such as RSS in his recent interview for WSJ. But why?

Here’s what he said (italicized) and what I think

(i) RSS is not well-recognized. 82% don’t know about it. “News feeds” are better.

That’s understandable and maybe it’s the right time to start calling it something more understandable such as “web syndication” or “news feeds” or whatever seems to connote the right ideas.

(ii) Jakob prefers newsletters to RSS news feeds

Now, this I don’t get; nor do I agree with because it’s flawed and confusing. All the qualities that Jakob cites as reasons for email newsletter adoption, actually ring truer for RSS news feeds.

By his own admission, the best content dissemination mechanisms have got to be
Timely – Check
Targeted – Check
Very Good – Check

Actually, RSS newsfeeds have a great way to provide targeted information than email newsletters. Since LONG newsletters are off-putting to your customers. Imagine, if you’d a way of breaking that further into categories/newsfeeds your target audiences would like. Actually, the next version of RSS is iRSS or individualized RSS which takes “targeted” to a new level. Check out Paul Dunay’s post on iRSS recently.

(iii) When the interviewer stated that blogs could do the same here’s Jakob’s response:

Certainly you can have blogs that function as newsletters, updated on a regular basis. But they don’t tend to do that. They don’t tend to have that same sort of publishing discipline: having a publication schedule and surveying this week’s or this day’s events. They could, of course, but they don’t tend to.

Most business-related, corporate newsletters I know of have a frequency of around one-two a month while most tech bloggers, blog religiously once or twice a day!!!

Jeremiah asks the right questions in his lead-in to this post a couple of days ago. I also happened to see J on techmeme today (albeit briefly..well no, look he’s still there) and look forward to his headlining techmeme in the near future. He is going places. Mark my words.

As for now, he’s gone to the Supernova conference and is blogging Live! or so I think. Check out his related posts here.

Quick Update: Here’s Andy Beal (from the blog Marketing Pilgrim)’s take on Jacob/hates/RSS.

I guess one of the reasons Jakob’s comments have elicited such widespread surprise is that he’s considered a web-usability guru and the fact that he doesn’t get RSS baffles many bloggers world-wide.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Presentation styles: Watch and Learn

I almost took the title of my previous post seriously and thought of skipping a post today; but the blogger in me has responded. This will be a short post though:

1. One of my favorite design blogs: Design is a topic that is very close to my heart, because I feel the success of a marketing campaign is closely linked to the effectiveness of ads/images that a company creates. Just take Apple for example. In my pursuit of great blogs on design I stumbled upon Presentation Zen. I just realized that my blog name has a similar feel as the Zen blog, but I digress… Garr Reynolds has created a constantly fascinating blog that any creative person (designer or not) can learn from. Also, feel free to check out presentation tips that you can find on Garr’s website for cool stuff.

2. A recent post from Presentation Zen: One of the key selling points of Presentation Zen are the links that Garr provides to presentations by leading marketing gurus and pioneers to enunciate different presentation styles. Check out the most recent post where he shows video samples and discusses the presentation styles of Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki and Tom Peters.

3. Another GRRREAT presentation from the Guy: It’s from Guy Kawasaki…Need I say more. It’s a streaming video of the presentation that he made at TiE. Check out the video here.

That’s it from me for today… Signing out…

Filed under: Uncategorized

Blog less; it’s good for the soul!

Really!? I just read this recent post by Eric Kintz on the MarketingProfs blog (Boy! Am I spending too much time there?!) where he articulates precisely why he thinks blog frequency doesn’t matter no more!?

I wonder, what my friend Jeremiah has to say on this.

I have divided my response into four categories: I AGREE, ON THE FENCE, I DISAGREE & I COULDN’T AGREE MORE WITH YOU

So here goes:
——————–
I AGREE (+ 2 POINTS)

(i) Traffic is generated by participating in the community; not more posts:

At the outset, I’d have to agree with Eric’s statement, that participating in the community plays an integral part in generating interest around your blog in addition to regular posts. I however do believe that the community is the genesis of blogging, meaning I don’t participate in the community to increase traffic but it’s the other way around — I participate in the community and hence blogging is a great way to connect with my peers. I learned a lot from my peers at the recent blogger’s meeting in San Francisco and I can’t wait for the next one.

(ii) Traffic is irrelevant to your blog’s success

Well, this would have to depend on how you view it. I’m sure none of us starts a blog thinking, I want to be the next Robert Scoble, but go for it, those of you crazy enough to think so! In the end, it’s all about the Long Tail, people! Blogging is a phenomenon because it caters to niche audiences world-wide, so I’ll have to agree that traffic really is irrelevant for most of us, bloggers.

ON THE FENCE (0 POINTS)

(iii) Loyal readers coming back daily to check your posts is so web 1.0

Well, it’s true that loyal readers have subscribed to your blog and so are probably not gonna be miffed at you for not posting every day. However, not seeing regular posts, may turn your loyal readers away to other blogs. A case in point: I was a loyal Jeremy Zawodny reader — until he starting posting lesser. I’m sure Jeremy has better things to do, but blogging lesser does cost you readership.

I DISAGREE (-6 POINTS)

(iv) Frequent posting

drives poor content
quality is actually starting to have a negative impact on loyalty
keeps senior executives and thought leaders out of the blogosphere
threatens the credibility of the blogosphere
will push corporate bloggers into the hands of p.r. agencies
creates the equivalent of a blogging landfill

I agree that more is not necessarily better, but then a good blogger continues blogging well, while a bad blogger remains bad whether it’s 1 post or 100 posts. I also don’t see how any of the above reasons (for e.g. keeping senior execs out of the blogosphere or pushing corporate blogging, etc…) are reasons why blog frequency doesn’t matter any more. Maybe I’m missing something here?

I COULDNT AGREE MORE WITH YOU (+ 4 POINTS)

(v) I love my family too much

Now this, I get! Right-on!

—————–
In summary, I believe blogging frequently is not a caveat but is surely a necessary evil since whether you have just 1 reader or a 100 readers, your loyal readers are looking for interesting content from you. And if blogging every day is going to maximize my return on investment, meaning satisfied “content readers”, then that’s what I’ll probably end up doing.

Personally, since I’d rather have a balanced blogging life, I’ve come to rest at 5 posts a week. I normally make it a point to blog on Mon-Tue-Wed (since that’s when the blog stats point north) and then I choose 2 random days the rest of the week depending on interesting marketing posts I read. However, I’d have to add that it’s been only a month or so since I started I can’t wait to see how things progress. I’ll keep y’all posted! Keep reading though!

For more Eric, check out “The Marketing Excellence” blog.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Did somebody say Marketing Nirvāna?

First things first — thanks to Alain Thys (FutureLab) and Mack Collier (Viral Garden) for stopping by to say “Hi”. It’s a pleasure reading their respective blogs and I can’t wait for more constructive marketing discussions via our blogs.

Back to more Marketing: “Integration” – the biggest challenge for marketing executives across corporations all over the world. I just read an interesting post on Integrated Marcom by David Armano (MarketingProfs) on the importance of Brand Experience vs. Brand Messaging. The genesis of David’s thoughts originated from a piece on iMedia – “A Quick Guide to Integrated Marketing” (by Denise Zimmerman).

Quoting portions of the iMedia article, David concludes that
“If marketers really want to “integrate”—then we will talk about experiences as well. Until then it’s partial integration at best.”

I’d have to agree with David that brand experience is of paramount importance to marketers, particularly in this age of two-way integrated marcom. Let me clarify…

If a channel is “a method of communication or interactivity that attracts, engages, or raises awareness among consumers.”, here are examples of current channels:

ONE-WAY

(i) Radio
(ii) TV
(iii) Movies
(iv) Mail
(v) Email

TWO-WAY

(vi) Social communication
– Offline (such as Events, Teller, etc…)
– Online (such as RSS based Blogs/Podcasts, Webinars)

Every channel facilitates a touchpoint with your prospective customer. So if a touchpoint is “How customers interact with a business or brand”, you can see from the above list that social communication is the only way to precipitate that interaction.

So as a marketer you have the two options: either communicate one-way with your prospects or communicate two-way by engaging your audience with your product/service and getting to hear their feedback on the same. The easiest way to achieve that on top of your slate of marketing events would be via web 2.0 methods such as RSS Marketing, business blogging, and multi-user interactive podcasting (check out Waxxi & their next interactive podcast here), which are becoming increasingly important in elevating the effectiveness of your marketing messages.

I believe that the above-mentioned methods will qualitatively add to the brand experience that you as a marketer strive to include in your integrated marketing mix.

Feel free to check out my 101 series on RSS Marketing, Podcasts, Community Marketing and Search Engine Marketing.

Just in case some of you are left wondering, how large companies in the real world successfully integrate their marketing communication efforts, check out this case study (thanks to iMedia Connection) on how Food Network Channel and Sprint/Nextel wrought Marketing Nirvāna!

Filed under: Miscellaneous

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