Conversation Piece

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

“Virgil, we need to talk” are not the words I relish waking up to on a lazy Sunday morning…especially when the one uttering such missives is my lovely bride. It can only mean one thing—I’m in trouble. It’s been one of those weeks and I don’t really need more strife, so I rolled over and pretended to sleep. Unfortunately, twenty years of marriage means that Mrs. Winston is wise to my games and she wasn’t having it. So, I peeled myself out of bed, jammed my feet into my favorite slippers and headed downstairs for some eye opening java. I sat down at the kitchen table and braced myself for Mrs. Winston to innumerate my misdeeds. And then she surprised me. She sat down, took my hand and said she wanted to talk more…in general and that ““Better Conversation Week”” was coming up and seemed like a good time to start. Well, that was certainly a relief…for about ten seconds, which is precisely how long it took me to realize I’d have to start having deeper, more meaningful conversations (or at least interesting ones) with my wife. I hate Sundays.
“Better Conversation Week” starts November 22nd and is the perfect opportunity to start dialoging with your spouse about something other than what is for dinner and how the dog is digging up the yard again. Perhaps you can explore new topics such as the latest book you’re reading, world politics or the new exhibit at your local museum. Instead of haranguing your children about homework, try engaging them in meaningful dialogue about their favorite author or iphone app.

Better conversations aren’t just for home use—this week is an opportune time to engage your customers in conversation about your business. Pick up the phone and start asking them what you can do to make them happier. Look for conversations already in progress on the web—visit message boards and blogs and “talk” with your core audience to learn about their needs and discuss how you can meet them. Communication is also the best way to motivate your sales force. Find out what makes them tick and you can inspire them to do their best and close the deal. Why not celebrate better conversations at work by gifting your team with a fun, fresh gift like Hexi-Sell Decision Dice? The conversation starting dice are made of solid wood and engraved with catch phrases like, “Pound the Pavement” and “Close the Deal.” This gift is sure to bring a smile to any sales rep’s lips and will keep the conversation going for years to come.

Join The Winston’s as we celebrate “Better Conversation Week,” because as Ordway Tead once remarked, “Conversation is the fine art of mutual consideration and communication about matters of common interest that basically have some human importance.” Well said.

Thanksgiving

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

The holiday season is in full bloom—I know because my wife is panicking about all the leftover Halloween candy and the stores are stocked with Christmas decorations. Although I enjoy the holiday season in all its glory, I find it a bit off-putting to hear Christmas carols every time I go to the drugstore to buy earplugs. I think that’s why I like Thanksgiving—there are no songs to sing, presents to buy or trees to erect. Thanksgiving is about three things: giving thanks, spending time with family and friends and eating until your pants no longer button.

We are hosting the annual Turkey Day meal this year and Mrs. Winston has already begun practicing her famous, or infamous, stuffing recipe and searching for the perfect pumpkin pie. I am the designated turkey maker and have been researching deep fryers. I have been told that deep fried turkey is the juiciest, most delectable and fastest way to prepare a turkey and I look forward to finding out for myself. It may not be the healthiest preparation, but Thanksgiving is the one day when calorie counting is not allowed. Since my family and I eat healthfully the other 364 days of the year, I don’t feel too guilty about splurging in the name of tradition. In fact, I’m downright thankful that I can.

I hope you find an abundance of reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving, but if you need some help, Rush Imprint has a plethora of promotional products that should do the trick. For those clients in cold climates, the Danbury Ice Scraper is a cool choice that will have the recipients thanking you on frost filled winter mornings. It’s a practical, thoughtful gift that will insure you are at the top of the list come Christmas time.

Well, I’ve got to go—the department store down the street is having a sale on deep fryers and I want to be first in line. As Thanksgiving approaches, remember the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” 

(Don’t) Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

The “Great American Smokeout Day” is coming up on November 19th and my wife is bugging me to take the opportunity to put down my pipe once and for all. I’m not going to try to justify my habit. I know that smoking, in any form, is not healthy but it’s my one vice and I am loathe to give it up. Truth be told, I don’t even smoke it every day; I just like the way I look holding it. I often use it as a prop—gesturing with it to make a point or puffing on in with a scowl as my daughter’s date stands in front of me nervously shifting his feet…it makes me feel more scholarly and more intimidating. It also reminds me of my grandfather. I used to sit at his knee as he waxed poetic about promotional products and puffed on his pipe. I thought he looked smart and distinguished and I looked forward to the day when I would be old enough to puff on my own pipe. Somehow smoking my pipe on a cold winter’s eve makes me feel close to the old man—may he rest in peace. I guess that is why Mrs. Winston is after me to quit—she doesn’t want me to end up too close to him, if you get my drift.

I suppose I can at least try to quit—after all, Mrs. Winston is usually right about these things, though I wouldn’t want her to know that I think so. So, on the third Thursday of November, I will join thousands of Americans as they try to kick the habit and put down their pipes, cigars and cigarettes once and for all. I know it won’t be easy, but if it will make my wife happy, I’m willing to give it a go. In the mean time, I’m looking for a new prop. I am torn between a yo-yo and a pocket watch. I am not sure it will look as intimidating as my pipe when my daughter’s date shows up to take her to the dance, but it will have to do. I know my stress ball will get quite a work out as I look for an alternative way to relieve my daily tensions. If you have customers on your list that could use a little stress relief, a stress ball in the shape of their favorite hobby makes a great gift. They will think of your company as they squeeze their way to relaxation. And what could be better than associating yourself with stress relief?

Well, I’ve got to go pack for my trip to Las Vegas where I am master of ceremonies at the Promotional Products Ball. It promises to be an evening to remember. Until next time I leave you with an Irish proverb, “Smoke your pipe and be silent; there’s only wind and smoke in the world.” 

The Godfather

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Jack LaLanne, the “Godfather of Fitness” celebrated his 95th birthday on September 26th in San Francisco, and on October 27th, the city of Los Angeles honored the fitness guru by declaring “Jack LaLanne Day.” Since so many fit folks populate LA, it seems appropriate for the city to honor the man who was in shape before most of us were born. He opened his first health club in 1936 in the city of Oakland and became famous for having the longest running health and fitness television show in history. I am not a big fan of exercise but I recognize the importance of staying reasonably fit so I suffer through yoga classes, pump a little iron at the gym and have recently begun training for a 5K Run. Yes, I do realize that five kilometers is only 3.125 miles, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

I was about to forgo my morning jog in favor of a little more sleep when I came across an article announcing the proclamation of Jack LaLanne Day in Los Angeles. In it, he said, “I feel great. I work out every day for an hour and a half or more. I lift weights, swim. I work out seven days a week. I hate it, but I love the results.” That was enough to get me out of bed and into my running shoes, because if a man who is almost twice my age can exercise for an hour and a half each day, I can certainly spend thirty minutes jogging around the track. What interested me most was that he said he hates working out. I had always assumed that people who exercise all the time actually enjoy the process. It made me feel better about my own dislike of exercise and taught me an important lesson. The thing is, I don’t love every aspect of my job either. I am not always inspired to write and I don’t always feel like traveling to Orlando to speak at the annual Glaucoma conference, but I do it anyway—because it’s good for me.

For some of you, though this is difficult for me to imagine, marketing is not your favorite part of doing business. You see it as necessary but not particularly enjoyable and may be tempted not to focus too much attention on marketing your business. But the simple fact of the matter is if you don’t spend some time and energy promoting your business, you won’t have a business to promote. So, like Jack LaLanne, just do it anyway—because you may not enjoy the process, but you’ll like the results.

In honor of Mr. LaLanne, today’s promotional item is the H-Ball Acrylic Massager—because after all that exercising, a little massage is just the ticket. Until next time, remember, “Not everything that is worth doing is fun but that doesn’t mean you can blow it off.”

On The Road Again

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I am about to start week three of a four-week road show and the effects of hotel life are beginning to wear on me. Don’t get me wrong—I love my work and I am happy to have the opportunity to speak in front of thousands of people across the country, but traveling to a new city every day is exhausting. So far I have been to Maine, Boston, Connecticut and New York, four cities in Florida, and I leave today for the west coast. Sadly, my schedule does not leave much time to explore the cities I visit and the best I can hope for is the chance to visit a few good restaurants. I often get comments from friends about much fun I must be having seeing new places, but the truth is the most exotic place I have been on this trip is the inside of a hotel ballroom. I am also spending a great deal of time in airports, taxis and hotel rooms, which should give me plenty of time to think about new marketing ideas and promotional products, but lately I find myself daydreaming about being at home.

When I’m on the road, I try to bring some of the comforts of home with me—I never travel without my ipod and noise cancelling headphones, my pillow and my pocket dictionary. Having my own pillow increases my odds of getting a full night of sleep and the dictionary gives me something to do when my insomnia gets the best of me. If you have employees or clients who spend a lot of time on the road, think about promotional gifts that make them feel at home when they can’t be. Consider giving your globe trotting customers comfort items like travel pillows, sleep masks or something really special, like the Illusion Series Manicure Set…because nothing is more uncomfortable than a hangnail. They will think of your every time they look at their well-groomed hands and are sure to appreciate your dedication to the health of their cuticles.

All this talk about travel reminds me that I’ve got to finish packing and spend a little time with Mrs. Winston before I leave for Santa Monica. I know it sounds glamorous, but I assure you, I’ll never set foot on the beach. Until next time, I’ll leave you with this thought from my good friend Charlie Kuralt, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”

Come Here Often?

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My father is a fantastic marketer, wonderful husband and great father—he is also an infamous punster and is known for dropping lame one liners into everyday conversation. When a waiter asks him how his meal was, he is fond of gesturing to his empty plate and saying, “I didn’t care for it.” He also loves the old water cooler chestnuts, “Do you come here often?” and “We have to stop meeting like this.” The point is, Dad is not exactly slick and, as a kid, I would cringe at his attempts to be witty with waiters, bellhops and front desk clerks. As most of us of a certain age know, life has a way of coming full circle and I recently found myself guilty of dropping a bad line to a flight attendant. I ordered one of the delightful cheese trays available for purchase on my flight to Miami and realized that my credit card was in the overhead bin. The flight attendant kindly said she would get it later and I replied, “Great. You know where to find me!” I hoped that my lame attempt at light airplane humor was not as bad as I thought, but the fake smile and forced laugh told me otherwise.

The point is, most of us have dropped a line that we wish we could take back, and that’s okay. The important thing is to limit the lame one liners that make it into print, because those embarrassing missives have a way of coming back to haunt us. That is why I recommend you exercise caution when adding a line of text to your promotional products. While I believe that a pithy message in addition to your logo can greatly improve your brand image, it is important that your words make the right statement. I once knew a dentist who gave away T-shirts with the slogan, “A Little Gas Makes a Big Difference.” It did not matter that he meant laughing gas; most people misinterpreted the message and were laughing at him, rather than with him. So spend a little time thinking about your message before putting it in writing and imprinting it on hundreds of T-shirts, ball point pens or Premium Lip Balm.

Until next time, remember, “A picture may be worth 1000 words, but an imprinted promotional item is worth its weight in gold.”

Cell Phone Usage For Dummies

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Why is it that I always seem to find myself standing in line behind, sitting next to, or eating lunch near some yahoo who must spend the entire time yapping at full volume on his or her cell phone? Am I just unlucky, or is this rude behavior suddenly more pervasive? I know we live in a modern world and it’s important to stay in touch, but I think our obsession with cell phones has gone too far. I was at a movie the other day and some guy took a call right in the middle of it. I don’t mean he sheepishly turned his phone off and scooted down in his seat, I mean he answered the phone and spoke to the caller for a full minute…during the movie! He didn’t appear to be a doctor or FBI agent and the call was clearly not an emergency. In fact, it was a rather mundane exchange about what he was doing and where they should have dinner the following night—a fact I can attest to since this jerk was sitting right behind me. Naturally I turned around in my seat and gave him the “be quiet” stink eye, but he continued on. After he hung up, I asked him what was so important that he needed to discuss it whilst zombies chased Woody Harrelson across the screen and he had the nerve to shush me. I can’t really go in to what happened next, on the advice of my attorney, but I can assure you it wasn’t pretty.

My point is, not many things are so important that they cannot wait five minutes, an hour or even a day. As important as you think your job is, you probably aren’t saving lives and your business won’t come to a crashing halt if you let it a call or two go to voicemail. And if you must take or make a call, use a little common courtesy. Mobile phone technology is considerably better than it was a few years ago—you don’t need to yell to be heard, and if you do, then it might be time for a new phone. You also don’t need to take a call while watching a movie, eating dinner or sitting in close quarters with others. I realize you don’t want to miss a second of flesh eating zombies or let your linguini get cold, but if the call is that important, take it outside so you don’t disturb everyone else. They paid just as much to watch the movie as you did. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against talking on your cell phone—I just don’t want or need to hear your entire conversation. I don’t need to be that in tune with the details of your job, listen to you argue with your mate or know what you had for dinner and who’s having a sale on shoes. So, talk if you must, but please, just lower it!

Ranting aside, since everyone and their daughter has one; cell phone accessories are one promotional gift that never goes out of style. With plenty of room for your company logo, a Cell Phone Holder is a practical and stylish gift that will have the recipient talking about you for years to come.

Well, I’m off to catch “Zombieland” again…I had to leave early last time and I really want to see how it ends. Until next time, remember, “Saying it louder doesn’t make it more interesting.”

Decisions, Decisions

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Sadie Hawkins Day* is November 15th – a fact I happen to know because my little girl has spent the last two weeks agonizing over which boy to ask to the Sadie Hawkins dance at her school. She can’t decide between Spence, the football hero, Quinn from Drama Club or the shy poet, Stephen. She’s afraid she is going to make a mistake and choose the wrong one. I don’t think she has anything to worry about…but rationalizing with a teenaged girl is as effective as herding kittens. My daughter’s unbridled angst about making the wrong decision reminded me of something my own father used to tell me when I was a kid…the only wrong decision is the one not made. In other words, there are no wrong decisions. In my daughter’s case, choosing the “wrong” boy to ask to the dance won’t actually harm her—the worst that can happen is that he’ll say “no” and she’ll suffer a bruised ego (something most men can relate to), or he’ll say “yes” and step all over her feet or spill punch on her new dress. Either way, she’ll have learned something—the former is a jerk and the latter is a klutz.

The same is true when it comes to choosing promotional products to support your marketing campaign. While it can seem daunting to select the perfect promotional item to put your company logo on—the truth is, even a misstep won’t totally tank your core messaging. Sure, slapping your logo on a tooth shaped stress toy if you aren’t in the dental business isn’t the brightest idea, but it won’t put you out of business either. Perhaps you are agonizing over what type of pen your customers would most appreciate, or which brand of t-shirt will make your logo pop. The choices are endless, which can make decision making difficult. The great news is, Rush Imprint can help you with that—we have experts who are available 24 hours a day to assist you in making the best decision for your business. So stop stressing and pick up the phone, shoot us an email or log on to live chat—we are here to help.

Well, I promised I’d take my kid to the mall—she may not have a date yet, but she still needs a new dress. That’s a lesson she learned from her mother. Remember, “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

* Sadie Hawkins Day, an American folk event, made its debut in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner strip November 15, 1937. The basis of Sadie Hawkins Day is that women and girls take the initiative in inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date, typically to a dance.

Curb Appeal

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Anyone who knows me, even a little bit, knows I am a big fan of the HBO comedy, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The title sums up my feelings about almost everything except marketing and promotional products and the curmudgeon in me celebrates the show’s creator and hero, Larry David, and his daily struggle to live life on his own terms. For those of you who don’t subscribe to HBO, read “Entertainment Weekly” or watch “Seinfeld” reruns, David co-created the mega-hit sit-com, “Seinfeld” and is one of the most unlikely likeable characters to grace the small screen since Archie Bunker. I suppose part of the reason I enjoy the show so much is that Larry makes me look good. As grumpy as I am, Larry is worse. I despise the “stop and chat” as much as he does, but I don’t say so out loud. I would be appalled if a guest helped himself to the contents of my refrigerator but I probably wouldn’t get into an argument with the perpetrator. I am more likely to give a stern look than verbally assault wrong doers but boy oh boy, do I understand the impulse. Larry says aloud what I think (and write) and I love that he makes me look like a sweetheart by comparison.

He is also a study in contradictions. While he mainly acts in a self-serving manner and appears to care only for his own comfort and well-being, he drives a Prius (even before it was popular) and contributes large sums of money to environmental organizations. One could argue that his former wife influenced his altruism, and while that may be true to an extent, I don’t think Larry is really as bad a guy as he appears to be. After all, he did undergo surgery to give his friend a kidney, so he must have a heart in there somewhere.

I couldn’t help but think of Larry when I saw one of Rush Imprint’s newest items, the Art Glass Quill Set. The pen and ink set is meant to be given as an award and can be engraved with the recipients name—it contains two beautiful art glass quills and ink and is prefect for a writer, publisher or artist. It is a gorgeous set and I am secretly hoping my editor reads this so he knows what to get me for Christmas, but I think this is exactly the sort of thing that Larry David would hate. I can picture him opening the box and exclaiming, “Oh, it’s a pen! Why’d you get me a pen? I don’t even like pens, I write with pencils. And who uses bottled ink? It’s messy…and isn’t this…” He has an innate inability to appreciate a simple gesture and I must admit, part of me loves him for it.

Fortunately, most people love to receive a thoughtful gift that shows sincere appreciation for their contributions, so if you know of someone who deserves kudos, give it to them. And don’t forget to put their name on it!

I’m off to my monthly “Curb Fanatics” fan club meeting so I will leave you with a few words from the man himself. “Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m deaf and I try to imagine what it’s like not to be able to hear [birds]. It’s not that bad.”

Innovation

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

One of the main perks of ‘Gurudom’ is the opportunity to get a sneak peek at cool products that haven’t hit the marketplace. I attended a conference last week that was all about technology and innovation—and one of the most amazing innovations I saw was 3-D HD TV. I slipped on a pair of semi stylish glasses and was instantly transported to another plane of home entertainment. It’s one thing to see a 3-D movie in a theatre, but it’s quite astounding to experience it right in one’s own living room. The demo I saw featured sports, movies and concert footage. Monday night football will never be the same when fans can sit on their couches and see tiny footballs hurtling toward them. It was like having seats right on the fifty-yard line—truly amazing. I don’t know when it will be available to purchase but I will be the first in line.

As I watched the future of television viewing I couldn’t help but think about the first time I saw a 3-D movie with my Dad. It was a sci-fi movie called, “The Bubble.” I don’t remember much about the film, but I loved the two-tone glasses so much I wore them to bed for a week, until they eventually fell apart at the seams. As a kid, watching a movie in 3-D was an astonishing innovation and I felt a bit of that same child-like wonder as I watched Tom Brady throw a bomb down the field and felt myself duck as the ball hurtled toward me. I was blown away be the color, clarity and depth of what I saw and I marveled at how far technology has come. My son would have loved playing the 3-D video game console but it made my middle aged constitution slightly nauseous.

Perhaps slightly less sexy, but no less innovative, was the Q&A session I attended with the co-inventor of USB technology. The USB may not be as flashy as a 3-D video game but it is something that almost every person uses almost every day. We use USBs to print important documents, download pictures of our kids’ soccer game and transfer important information. So it’s only fitting that today’s offering is the Halo Series 4 GB USB Flash Drive. It is amazingly thin and incredibly compact and represents the latest developments in USB Flash Drive design. Despite its small size, this model features a good brandable area, which can be screen-printed in color or laser engraved to showcase your logo on both sides.

Well, I’ve got to go prepare for the first annual Guru Conference in Flagstaff. Until next time, remember these words form another amazing innovator, Steve Jobs, who said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”