What Velvet Buzzsaw Can Teach Us About Marketing

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The avant garde horror film is bold marketing in action.

This weekend I saw the Netflix Original film Velvet Buzzsaw - starring Jake Gyllenhal, Rene Russo & Zawe Ashton. While it did not premiere to the sort of virality that Birdbox saw in its first week, Velvet Buzzsaw was nonetheless chosen as an Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival (2019) and has spawned its own niche cult following on social media.

And it’s no wonder why….

Quite simply, it’s a deceptively simple story on paper made visually stunning through its use of art as a backdrop.

No-spoiler synopsis: It’s about a mysterious series of paintings which haunt a group of art critics and dealers.

No-spoiler review: It’s a fun and enjoyable movie that you will love for its imaginative plot and effects; even if you don’t like horror films.

Like other similar arthouse fright fests, like 2016’s Neon Demon, a dreamy thriller full of dayglo colors, or 1977’s Suspiria, an Italian film in an older genre called Giallo - which often (but not always) combined neon palette Art Deco styles with is spooky atmosphere, Velvet Buzzsaw shows us the importance of standing out in a crowded niche.

Without the art, fashion & gorgeous ambiance of Los Angeles, Velvet Buzzsaw would just be another horror film. Although there was a time when the Halloween or Scream franchises were new, that time is no more. Traditional horror is a dime a dozen.

Similarly, as a marketer, in order to convert you need to first captivate…Which means you need to stand out.

For example, if you’re a real estate agent offering VR tours of out-of-state properties when your competitors haven’t even made the switch to VR, that could be the difference between a possibly interested client and your next sale.

  • In a sea of content in similar genres, the best way to get a leg up on the competition is to stand out. What differentiates your value proposition from the next person? What differentiates your content from theirs?

  • If it’s not something you already possess, it’s certainly something you can learn through researching others in your niche.

  • Figure out what you can do better than your competitors…Or even what you can offer that they don’t. And this doesn’t just apply to their social media or websites, but anywhere they have a digital footprint.

  • Explore your competitors’ pain points and brainstorm ways to turn them into strengths for your brand.

5 Ways to Leave Your Job Gracefully & Like A Boss


At some point in your life you are going to leave your job.

Every job has its halflife; a period of time in which the perfect opportunity loses its sheen and becomes another day at the office. (That is, unless you’ve truly found your calling. For which, I commend you…)

For example, a few years ago I worked in sales. In the beginning my daily routine was challenging and consisted of cold calling and upselling.

Because I had minimal experience with either, I had to learn from the ground up. While I was articulate and likeable over the phone, my delivery was not perfect. So every day I devised to beat the number of open prospects and closed sales I got the previous day by working on how I pitched my company’s products to others. Over time I increased our revenue by leveraging this product knowledge…

But it was slow at first.

Before I had a roaster of frequent customers, I had to develop relationships with purchasing managers in order to build trust (a little Shakespearean B2B courtship).

But I had a goal.

At its peak, I came to work with the same level of enthusiasm and perseverance each day. I was satisfied with my role. Week to week, I could see my professional growth in action.

I rewrote my pitch several times and then stuck with the one that produced the best results.

I grew a higher tolerance for rejection (hang ups) and even minimized the amount I received as I got better with pitching.

I anticipated all of the possible roadblocks to closing deals and had an answer for each one.

I even took on roles outside of my job description (unofficial bookkeeper for a few months) and mastered new software in the process (Magento, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Braintree), etc.

But after nearly 2 years, the well went dry.

The well is my role in sales and the water symbolizes the fuel it had given me every day. The passion, energy and euphoria.

Quite simply, there was no more room for growth. And before you ask if I tried to articulate my desire for growth to management, I did.

My routine became so predictable that all of the roads formed through neuroplasticity (via Wired) had been worn into a dirt path. I wasn’t learning anything new.

So, when I was in a good position, I left.

It was not an overnight decision (i.e. I left when I was in a good position). There was a great deal of preplanning that went into it.

To help you gauge your own security with your current role, I have devised a 5-point checklist on when and how to leave your job gracefully. This list is followed by a few tips on how NOT to make your grand exit.

Got any more? Feel free to share.

  1. No More Juice


A good day’s work will always come with a bit of stress. But a job should never become so routine that it feels like a chore. Or a bore.

If there is nothing else motivating you to get up every day, save a paycheck, I would reevaluate your position’s long term benefits. Personally, I aim for roles that are challenging; that will take some time to master and thus I will learn from every day. But I am also working on aligning myself with organizations whose work I support. Being passionate about a company’s offerings, mission or some other key aspect of what they do is essential to your overall sense of well-being and purpose.

Note: A job can be repetitive but not feel repetitive. The point at which repetitiveness becomes a depressing stagnation depends entirely on your own feelings. Are you passionate about what you do? If so, then the fact that it’s repetitive does not mean much.

However, understand that these feelings develop over time. Like water that gradually gets hotter, a job that was initially be “great” might turn into something else altogether later.

2. Money in the Bank

It goes without saying, regardless of how we feel about our jobs, we should never blindly leave one without having a safety net in place. An emergency fund is the backup plan you need to comfortably search for better-fit roles on your own terms. Ideally, you want to be job searching while you are employed. But everyone’s circumstances are different. Essentially, you want to save up your own cost of living (via Ally Bank) over the X amount of months that you will be searching for a new position. Rent + Groceries + Bills + Transportation (to interviews)..

The general rule of thumb is to have funds saved for at least 6 months to a year. Also take into account how long it has taken you to find a new role in the past.

3. Have Another Job Lined Up

Not so fast.

While most people are quick to start applying to new jobs, it is important to focus on the quality of roles that you are applying for. If you were unhappy in your last position, sit down and brainstorm what sort of roles you are interested in now.

What about your last role made you unhappy? Was it your job description or the industry sector?

Does it make sense to apply for the same role with a different company? If you are an unhappy burger-flipper, will a change of scenery really make a difference? Perhaps. But don’t make a mad dash towards your next gig. It’s not a race.

4. More Valuable Ways to Spend Your Time

The difference between a career and a job is passion.

If you are spending huge chunks of your time at work daydreaming about what you could do with all of that time — Start developing your app ideas into MVPs, finally get your small business off the ground, or taking courses to further develop your skillset, analyze the time that goes into your job and determine if the time you have left to devote to other things is truly worth it.

If not a part of your long-term career goals, your job should help you with your financial obligations while you pursue mini goals that will help get you to where you want to be; Until you can make your career your 24/7.

5. Too Attached/Afraid to Leave

Lastly, if you have found yourself in the grips of fear, unable to leave your job because you are not sure you can navigate the same rocky terrain to find a new one, you probably have an unhealthy attachment to your work and insecurity about your employability that is keeping you from growing.

Provided you have that safety net (new job or money) and a plan, take a chance and roll the dice. Have confidence in your skills and abilities.

Now for the Don’ts:

As for things you should definitely not want to do if you are preparing to exit from your job:

Don’t Burn Bridges. No matter how you felt about your job, leave as graciously as possible.

You don’t want to find out your last employer from Save-A-Lot is a 2nd degree connection with the technical recruiter from your dream company. Never give anyone a reason to give you a bad review. Edit: Though I’ve seen quite a few thought leadership pieces from folks on LinkedIn who think otherwise, and have recently come upon this quote:

“One of the hardest things in life to learn are which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.” ~Oprah Winfrey

So, I am willing to admit that my thoughts on this subject may just my millennial optimism. I haven’t experienced the horror stories of employment yet. But anyways, my gut feeling tells me that departing from roles as gracefully as possible will benefit me down the road…

Don’t Ghost . If you haven’t already, offer to connect with your employers and coworkers on Linkedin. You never know when you might need their help or expertise in the future. (But, of course, this depends on the nature of your relationships).

Don’t Clock Out & Never Return. Give 2 weeks notice. Don’t just walk out the door. Follow through until the end. (Or, if you absolutely can’t give 2 weeks notice, at least call and say so?)

Don’t Do Anything illegal. Duuuh.

Lastly, Don’t Apologize…Expressing gratitude and giving ample notice ahead of your departure is a must. But you do not owe anything outside of that. Don’t let things linger. If it’s time to move on, move on. Never say, “Sorry” for doing something that is in your best interest.

3 Ways Extended Reality (AR, VR and MR) Will Change Social Media

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Within the past few years we’ve seen exponential growth in the number of companies dedicated to or experimenting with AR, VR & the hybrid world of Mixed Reality. Gaming, medicine, education & marketing are just a few of the industries that have made use of these technologies.

From a joint project by Oculus and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles which uses immersive VR tech to train med students for pediatric emergencies, to language-learning software company Mondly creating the virtual pen-pal experience, to even the surprisingly viral applications of the ARkit to the food industry, these technologies have paved a brave new frontier where solutions to old problems are accessible to anyone with an imagination.   

Yet despite progress made in other areas, and with the exception of Snapchat (Which is technically an augmented reality-based platform), social media networks have largely yet to incorporate AR, VR or MR outside of marketing ads and photo-taking features.

However, the potential for Extended Reality (The collective term for AR/VR/MR) to shape social media networks is huge. So here are my 3 predictions for how these technologies will influence the future of social media:

1. Social media networks will evolve from their static place on the net into, as an optional choice for users, an arena with Second Life capabilities.


What if Twitter was a place you went to in VR, rather than a website you visited?

Your next Twitter chat would take place in a room, perhaps on the University of Twitter campus where each room is a hashtag; Or even in a city where different neighborhoods represent certain interests. You could swing by the #Bandersnatch cafe on Film Row to discuss the implications of time in the latest Black Mirror film, or go to CBGB’s to see a VR performance from one of your favorite new indie artists.

Much like the future of gaming and filmmaking is the hybrid worlds of immersive storytelling, the future of social media is socializing in Extended Reality. In this way VR social networks will add a new and unexplored level of engagement for users and brands alike.

Side note: My original thought was that everyone would have customizable full body avatars and given the choice to shop for 3 outfits to start. After which there would be a paid upgrade (Nudge Forever 21, Express, et al for the VR shopping experience).

2. Extended Reality will force brands to find new ways to interact with current and prospective customers.

When you’re walking in the park and an animal has a side quest for you…

When you’re walking in the park and an animal has a side quest for you…

Much like how AI has powered the automation of customer service, Extended Reality would make it necessary for brands to develop new tactics to reach consumers. For example, paid advertising might take the form of a travelling VR salesman or woman (or if you’re an adventurous brand, an animal or mythical creature); where the ad is actually an animated demonstration of the product, an embedded Youtube video ad, etc.

Depending on the budget, this could be automated via AI . But like fake followers, brands would have to take steps to ensure their AI salesperson does not come across spammy and inauthentic.

3. The creation of new jobs, like VR Brand Ambassador or VR Marketing Manager.


As with any product, the realms of Extended Reality would require people well-versed in their technologies, as well as the brand's own products and services. Would this initiative be taken on by the current tech department, who would allot a budget towards educating their workforce? Or, would it would be a job outsourced to a contractor?

Gamers, preferably with experience in social media and marketing, would be a prime target for this role. Years of experience have taught them how to game. Now they’ll level up to using their gaming skills to engage VR users - current & prospect customers alike.

If not strategizing a brand’s marketing plan in the real world, their work week would consist of logging their hours in all of the locations (buildings, billboards, etc) their brand owns. Working on marketing campaigns, SEO, interacting with users, answering questions, tracking user acquisition and data analytics (VR foot traffic, mentions, etc), conducting market research, etc etc. Testing as many variables as they can to optimize the brand’s performance.

If the gamer has no experience in marketing, they would work closely with the CMO, Marketing Manager, or whoever else designs or oversees the actionable campaigns they would use in the VR world.

Likewise, the need to design new environments and characters, or update old ones would call for partnerships with game developers, big or small. Both would work with influencers and micro-influencers on creative campaigns.


The technology already exists...VR study abroad, language learning and similar platforms have already given us a taste of what this simulated experience would look like and the way it would enhance the dynamics of human interaction. But there are many applications of Extended Reality to social media networking sites that have not yet made an appearance. Perhaps some of these changes will come in 2019, with established social networks or new players coming onto the market.

How do you think Extended Reality will change the social media platform?

Originally published on LinkedIn, December 19th 2018