“Russian Doll” – Netflix review

I just finished watching the new Netflix series, Russian Doll, created by Natasha Lyonne (from Orange is the New Black), Amy Pohler and Leslye Headland.  I’d give it a B+ rating, and overall it was quite the satisfying experience…

First off, I love Netflix shows that are less than a half hour per episode.  The Russian Doll episodes range from 24 to 30 minutes, and there’s just something about ending the day with a quick iPhone fix to take your mind off the day’s madness.  I feel like watching 5 minutes of a top Colbert, Kimmel or Fallon clip doesn’t do the job, but watching a full hour at the end of the day gets you to bed late and thinking, “why did I stay up to midnight to watch that?!!!”.

I digress.  Russian Doll is not a mainstream Netflix series for everyone, it’s not Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black or House of Cards.  This is a trippy, indie movie-like experience that is for those that like an edgy, thoughtful mind$%)@.  If you’ve read anything about it or watched the trailer- they fool you into thinking it’s a 2019 version of Bill Murray’s, Groundhog Day.  Not so much.  It’s a little bit Kubrick, a little bit Christopher Nolan and even a bit Hitchcock. 

Who would have expected this from the quirky drug addict character from Orange is the New Black, Natasha Lyonne?  I was pleasantly surprised, and there’s a whole lot more in that package than I expected.  She helped create an uber intellectual, clever series here.  And Amy Pohler’s contribution is the icing on the cake, she adds a dose of comic relief that can be a nice break while your head is spinning from the rabbit hole this one goes down.

But what I want to give Russian Doll the most credit for is how it mirrors life itself, by posing a number of those big ‘unanswerable questions’.  To me- it’s the unanswerable questions (“why are we here?”, “what’s our purpose?”, “what’s the key to life?”) that are the most interesting to explore.  And in these little half hour snippets, she tackles those in a most interesting fashion.  And as any great artist would do, they don’t attempt to serve up those answers in a nice, pretty package.  They leave them as open as the sky is wide, and leave you scratching your head saying… “what was that all about?”.  Truly brilliant.

Why is Ticketmaster Spamming Me About “Air Supply” Tickets?!!!

Despite the fact that I sell Marketing Personalization Software for a living, this post is not about work.  It’s about my ‘personal’ experience with personalization. 

Every Sunday night, I have a ritual where I check my personal email for the week.  There’s usually nothing too interesting, but I check it to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.  And as I’m sure you can imagine, I get a whole lot of spam.  I try to unsubscribe from as many email lists as possible from time to time, but it seems as though I can’t escape the endless flow of spam coming into my inbox.

However, the other week- there was one email that suddenly caught my attention.


I recently went to a live performance of Dax Shepard’s, “Armchair Expert” podcast with Thomas Middleditch, and it was drenched in awesome sauce!

So this made me think- wait.  Why don’t I go to more live shows like this?  I live for music- why don’t I go to more concerts?  My kids are at an age where they would love to go to a concert- what am I waiting for?!!!

Back to the Ticketmaster spam.  I constantly get uninteresting spam blast emails that have no relevance to me whatsoever from Ticketmaster.  I get emails for Beach Boys, UFC, and acts I’ve never heard of- who do they think they’re targeting?!  Mr. Ticketmaster- this is not for me!

I decided to go on a mission and figure out what’s going on here.  I went to the Ticketmaster Preference Center, and found the culprit.  In case you weren’t aware- Ticketmaster’s default settings automatically sign you up to receive all alerts.  And the (air quotes) personalized emails you receive, are solely based on all the online tickets you’ve purchased, dating back to what appears to be 1996- when the website was launched.

Needless to say- basing my preferences and emailing me offers that are dating back to my fresh out of college days, does not match my current interests by any stretch.  I’ll take partial responsibility here, I should have manually updated my preferences.  But couldn’t an organization as ginormous as Ticketmaster/Live Nation, with their big budgets for technology find a better way to personalize to someone like me?

To fix this atrocity, I deleted all the 90’s Indie Rock bands that I no longer appreciate, and replaced them some of my latest faves- including “War On Drugs”, “St. Vincent” and “Andrew Bird”, along with some others that the family would appreciate.

But it still begs the question- why is this such a manual process for me this day in age, with all of today’s AI, Machine Learning and Automation technology?

IDEA:  Could Ticketmaster hook up with Spotify, and develop an API to update my weekly concert emails to reflect what I’m listening to?  This would then tie together the real-time changes in my listening habits, and match them to the latest concerts in the area.  It would ensure that I’m not missing any great local shows (i.e. how did I miss Flaming Lips playing Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery?!!!  Still bruising from not being aware of that one..).  And it would ensure that Ticketmaster doesn’t leave any money on the table- they can feel confident that I’ll go to every show that interests me, without missing any awareness. 

And of course, the bigger question is.. am I willing to give Ticketmaster access to my Spotify listening data?  In this case, probably yes.

With all this said, I finally updated my preferences to match exactly what I want to be notified on going forward.  And I regret to say, after updating my preferences, here were the emails I received this week:

  1. Christina Aguilara
  2. Ex-Hex (um, who is Ex-Hex?!)
  3. Air Supply

I promise you that none of these were listed as my preferred artists, I swear!

So clearly, Ticketmaster has some work to be done on their Preference Center, but I’ll keep an eye on this, and it will be interesting to see how it evolves…

“Led Zeppelin is the Greatest Band of All-Time.”

I just finished reading the definitive rock classic book, Hammer of the Gods, covering the history of Led Zeppelin from start to finish.  Ironically, I finished it around the same time as the 50th anniversary of their first album and the day Led Zeppelin was born.  In reading the tales of their debauchery and excess, I thought it would be appropriate to throw down a claim equally bombastic to their legend:

“Led Zeppelin is the Greatest Band of All-Time.”

In staking this claim, I mean it in the most literal sense.  Pound for pound, best band.  Most committed.  4 equally matched band members, aligned to the goal of rocking as hard as possible, at risk of having your eardrums bleed.  Committed to turning whatever city they were touring upside down by the time they left town.  And if any of the band members had been different, it literally could not be Zep.  And to prove the point, when their 1st member died (Bonham, from having 40 drinks in a 24 hour period), the band ended.  Bonham died.  Zep is over.

From Day 1 in January 1968, from Track 1- “Good Times Bad Times”, and with their first album, Led Zeppelin 1– was a band on a mission.  They entertained other fellow journeymen that shifted from band-to-band as often as I change my socks.  They considered other members to be in Zep, like Moon and Entwhistle from the Who, and Steve Winwood as lead singer.  But that magic moment on August 12, 1968 in the west end of London when Page Plant Jones Bonham first jammed, they knew this was it.  This was the band they would commit to until they would crash and burn.

And they had plenty of naysayers and critics, but in my opinion- this was their greatest blessing.  While The Beatles and Stones were critic faves, for a long time Zep could only appeal to teenage kids, while the critics would pan them.  But this is what provided Zep with the mission of proving them wrong.  After Led Zeppelin III hit rock bottom with the critics, it provided the fuel to create their masterpiece- Led Zeppelin 4, “Zoso”.  Without the challengers, LZ4 may have never been created.

So what makes Led Zeppelin the greatest so-called band of all time?  One characteristic is the distinctiveness of their sound. Could you ever mistake them for another band (“who does ‘Black Dog’ again- is that The Doors?”, I think not.)  While true that they were taking from blues and folk influences, they always made them their own.  Take “You Shook Me” from LZ1- a classic blues track, yes.  But could you ever mistake Bonham’s pounding for another?  Or how about at 4:20, when Page launches a grenade via Les Paul and explodes this blues tune in between your 2 earbuds?  Would these songs sound the same if you were to remove one of the essential ingredients?  The answer is no.

What if you replaced Page with Clapton?  No Zep- that’s more like The Yardbirds.

What if you replaced Bonham with Phil Collins?  They tried that at Live Aid, it bombed.

Or what if you replaced Plant with David Coverdale from Whitesnake?  Page tried that, the bastard.  Truly sacreligious.

To drive it home further- I’ll compare Led Zeppelin with what many might consider the top contenders for ‘greatest band of all-time’:

The Beatles– Not the greatest band of all time.  I’d categorize them as the greatest assemblage of 4 songwriters of all time.  These chaps created some of the most timeless songs, bar none.  But as we all know- we don’t label their tunes by the band, we label most by the songwriter.  “I Am the Walrus”- Lennon’s song.  “Yesterday”- McCartney.  “Here Comes the Sun”- Harrison.  “Octopus’s Garden”- Ringo.  And when you compare each member pound for pound with Zep, it’s no contest.  Starr/Bonham, Harrison/Page, come on. Were the Beatles amazing, yes of course.  Were they committed to taking over the world as one, single unit. Not as much as Zep.

The Stones– This band’s gone through 7 members over time, so they just don’t have the pure core that Zep had.  When I think of the Rolling Stones, while they’re chock-full of great songs and albums, I actually think of them more as a business.  For decades, they’ve been filling stadiums, selling their brand and trying to prove that they can be the world’s biggest band longer than any other.  But they didn’t invent a genre (heavy metal) like Zep did.  When they re-create the blues and soul, they’re just not as inventive.  One of the greatest, for sure- but not the best of all-time.

Some of you may agree, some may not.  But after reading 360 pages of Led Zeppelin’s legend, and now going through and listening to their entire recorded catalog song-by-song, I have to give them the credit their due.  Led Zeppelin is the Greatest Band of All-Time.

Black Mirror / Bandersnatch: Movie Review

I just finished watching the groundbreaking Netflix’ Black Mirror episode, BandersnatchBandersnatch is an interactive film to be watched on a device (ala iPhone), and it enables you to make click certain choices throughout watching, and changes the storyline based on your decision.  If you grew up in the early 80’s, this is like the high tech version of The Abominable Snowman and The Forbidden Castle “Choose Your Own Adventure” paperback books.  The average viewing is 90 minutes, but it can range from 40 to 150 minutes.  So while I say I finished watching it, what does that even mean?

Bandersnatch re-invented storytelling as we know it.  Sure, I suppose it’s a bit gimmick’y, but if the technology is developed thoughtfully, I think it can truly create an entirely new experience.  The risk is to fall into the trap of the recent iterations of 3D and Virtual Reality, which were the latest shiny objects that haven’t substantively enhanced the storytelling experience.  But what I feel to be different about this interactive approach is how much more engaging and immersive it is.  Not just the way it ‘looks’, but the way the story unfolds.  It felt personal.  As I made the choices, I felt like I was making ‘my story’, not the one that the writer or director were forcing on me.  As I made my choices, I even found myself self-reflecting a bit (“wait, am I a bad person to choose the red pill???”).  The only concern here is a potential privacy issue, where Netflix may be gathering quite a bit of data on my decision making. But that’s a whole different story.

In addition to this fascinating new TV tech, I love that it was the Black Mirror series pioneering the possibilities of interactive film.  I am a huge fan of Black Mirror.  It is undoubtedly the heir to the Twilight Zone throne for the current era.  It continues to push the boundaries of the possible, in a very dark and creepy manner.  It explores just a smidge past the boundaries of today’s technology, and poses brilliantly freaky ‘what if’ scenarios.  All with top notch writing, directing and acting.  The cinemography is a rare gem where you could take a snapshot from just about any scene- and frame it on the wall as art.  The scores and soundtracks are timely, lush and eery at all the right moments.  The Thompson Twins, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Kajagoogoo all setting the scene for Bandersnatch’s 1984 era storyline.  Brilliant.

I thought it would be worth mentioning that I just finished watching most of this year’s Best Picture contenders for this year’s Oscars, and while a few of them had some merit, I have to say that TV series’ like this Black Mirror episode take the cake.  Look at some of the current TV and streaming series, and they’re clearly doing a much finer job than today’s movies.  It’s often said that the smaller budget, art house movies of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are a thing of the past.  The movie studios are no longer financing what were great movies, and from what I can see- it looks like TV has taken over where they left off.  And when you add this kind of groundbreaking technology to superior writing and directing- movies are sadly getting left in the dust.

So I certainly recommend the latest Black Mirror interactive film, Bandersnatch.  And I look forward to seeing how Black Mirror, Netflix and the future TV and movie industries take full advantage of this fascinating new way of telling an old fashioned, good story.

Everything You Wanted To Know About… Prospecting for 2019.

Are you having trouble getting motivated to prospect here in the new year (fun!)?  As I’m putting my plans together for 2019, I was curious to learn how things have changed as calls, emails, social and other tools have evolved, and how the buyers are responding.  Here’s a summary of my top findings…

1. The best time to prospect is between 4:00 and 5:00 PM.

Takeaway: Many sales reps make the mistake of calling during lunch hours. It turns out that most people are not receptive of a sales call when they are on their break, so call in the late afternoon.

2. Thursday is the best day to prospect. Wednesday is the second best day.

Takeaway: Don’t let this stat stop you from prospecting on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and the weekend. Every day should be a prospecting day.

3. It takes an average of 8 cold call attempts to reach a prospect.  

Takeaway: Prospecting is hard and most of us hate it. But if you give up on a prospect after too few attempts, you are passing up a potential sale. Be persistent and determined.

4. 3 out of 4 managers will take action from a cold call or email alone (DiscoverOrg)

Takeaway: Give your prospects the information that they need to make an informed decision. Once you have successfully created value, your prospects will want to follow through by moving on to the next step of the process.

5. Five years ago, the average voicemail response rate was approximately 5%, and it’s falling. (InsideSales)

Takeaway: And you can bet that that percentage has gone down even more since then. No one likes listening to their voicemails. Save yourself (and your customers) valuable time by getting them on the phone. This ensures that you will be able to address their questions and concerns in real time.

6. Email is almost 40 times better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter (McKinsey)

Takeaway: Although this stat is really about email marketing vs. social media marketing, it’s a good reminder of the general importance and power of email. It is worthwhile to improve your ability to craft impactful emails with effective subject lines and calls to action.

7. 70% of salespeople stop at one email.

Takeaway: If you send more emails, you’ve got a 25% chance to hear back. (YesWare)

8. More than one-third of email recipients use the subject line alone to determine if they will open the email. (Convince and Convert)

Takeaway:  First impressions are everything and the subject line of your email is your introduction to your potential customer. Let them know right away that you have something that is valuable and worth their attention.

9. 78% of salespeople using social media outsell their peers.

Takeaway: If done right, social selling really works.

10. Salespeople who actively seek out and exploit referrals earn 4 to 5 times more than those who don’t.  

Takeaway: Referral-based selling is a surefire recipe for success. A referred customer is already pre-sold on the credibility of the sales person, product and company which makes these types of opportunities the warmest sales leads.


https://blog.thebrevetgroup.com/21-mind-blowing-sales-stats, Brian Williams, PhD