Smiley Face

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I recently read an amusing article about the city of Paris launching a smile campaign to induce tourism. Paris is often thought of by (American) tourists as snobby and unfriendly and has recently experienced a significant decline in tourism, due in part to the city’s unfriendly reputation. In attempt to change that negative image, the Paris tourist board decided to ask its citizens to help out and turn their frowns upside down and sport a smile instead of a snarl. Personally, I enjoy Paris and have never thought the city dwellers to be particularly unfriendly. In fact, I find their tendency to be curmudgeonly rather comforting and familiar. I like a city where even little kids sneer at you for mispronouncing Côtes du Rhône. Apparently I am alone in my enjoyment of a somewhat surly disposition as the tourist board is quite adamant in their belief that something as simple as a smile can help the city’s lagging economy.

Maybe they are right—after all smiles are a big a part of popular slogans like “Smile and the whole world smiles with you.” And who can forget the Coke campaign telling you to “Have a Coke and a smile.” People like smiles. They also like toast; which is why the Logo Toaster-Smile Face is the perfect brandable gift since it combines the popularity of the smile with a delicious and nutritious treat. Let your clients and prospects know you have a sense of whimsy by giving them a smile every morning. That way you will be with them at the beginning of every day.

I’m dashing off to a meeting with the Paris, Texas tourist board—I’ve got a rock solid idea for generating more tourism. In the meantime, do as W.C. Fields says and, “Start every day with a smile and get it over with.”

Clean and Clever

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Two words that describe me to a tee are clean and clever. Truth be told, there are probably a few more descriptors that fit (most of which I cannot print in mixed company) but for the sake of symmetry in today’s blog post, I am sticking with clean and clever. Although my cleverness is apparent, most of you probably don’t know that I am a closet neat freak. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t stay up at night cleaning toilets or scrubbing floors, but I am meticulous about my personal grooming. You won’t ever find an uncoiffed hair, untrimmed nose hair or trace of 5 o’clock shadow on this guru. My pants are always pressed, my collar starched and a crooked bow tie is cause for a mild panic attack. Even my pocket protector is perfectly centered in my vest pocket. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bragging—quite the opposite—my neat-nick behavior is a point of contention between me and the Mrs. She simply cannot grasp how someone so into good grooming can let the garage drown in clutter or the bed go unmade. I’ve tried to explain (in the cleverest possible manner) that my neat freakishness doesn’t extend much past my person but this seems to anger her more.

I don’t see how perfect personal grooming can be a bad habit, but since my wife bristles when I mention it, I try to avoid the subject altogether. That’s why I was so surprised to find the gift my beloved left for me this morning. We sometimes get each other “just because” gifts that we are only allowed to spend $5 or less on and are meant to show our appreciation for one another. Today I received the Aladdin Clean & Clever Water Bottle imprinted with the words, “To the cleanest and cleverest.” I was touched, and a little proud, that my wife did such a bang up job of picking the perfect promotional gift with the perfect message. I guess I’m not the only born marketer in the family. It just goes to show that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a big impression if you put a little thought into the right gift for the right person.

Well, I’m off to clean the garage, which proves I may not be the cleverest person in the house after all. Until next time, remember what my good friend Tom Hopkins says, “You are your greatest asset. Put your time, effort and money into training, grooming, and encouraging your greatest asset.”

Candy, Candy

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

For my money, there is no better gift than chocolate. It’s delicious, comforting and simply irresistible, which is precisely why Milk Chocolate Day was invented. The unofficial holiday falls on July 28th but why wait for a pretend holiday to get your chocolate fix. Any day (including today) is the right day to enjoy a bit of sweetness. Which reminds me of a funny story about the first time I gave Mrs. Winston chocolates. It was a hot summer day, early in our courtship, and I was late to pick her up for a dinner date. Tardiness is one of my wife’s pet peeves, so I was speeding and so focused on getting to her house, that I didn’t see the cop behind me. As he pulled me over, my mind raced to come up with a plausible excuse, but he took one look at the sweat on my brow, the flowers and candy box on the front seat next to me and chuckled. “What kind of candy is that?” he asked with a big grin. “Caramels.” “Caramels? Oh boy,” and he started writing on his pad. I braced for the ticket I knew was coming but instead he had written down the name of a local confectioner who specialized in fancy chocolates and handed it to me with a warning. “Women like chocolate son, don’t forget it.” Then he reached in, took the box of caramels and walked back to his car.

Mrs. Winston was a little angry at my being late but the flowers seemed to make up for it. The next day I made the trip to the confectioners and bought her best chocolate I have ever tasted. It seems that old cop was right and I never forgot his advice. To this day, whenever Mrs. Winston is mad at me, I head to the chocolatier and buy as much forgiveness my arms will hold.

So, in honor of Milk Chocolate Day, today’s offering is good old-fashioned Milk Chocolate Bars custom wrapped with a four 4-color process printed wrapper. The full color magazine quality printing it makes a gorgeous presentation and gift that is perfect for tradeshows, sales person leave behind or a new product introduction. The best part is, these tasty treats are very affordable, making them perfect recession busting promotional gift that will leave a very sweet taste in your customer’s mouth.

Well, I’ve got to go practice my speech for the upcoming Dental Floss Association meeting. If you know any good gum disease jokes, please send them my way. Remember, “Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.”

Snooze-O-Rama

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I’m not much of a nighttime sleeper—insomnia often keeps me up reading the dictionary and surfing the net until the wee hours—but I am a world champion napper. Nothing gives me more pleasure than lying down on the sofa in the late afternoon and taking a refreshing siesta. Now that summer is here, I have stepped up my napping to include outdoor snoozes on my hammock* (a Father’s Day gift) in the backyard. Nothing is better than kicking off my loafers, loosening my bow tie and reclining under the old oak tree while I review my latest manuscript or jot down blog ideas before drifting off to sleep and catching up on some much needed rest. I do some of my best thinking as the gentle breeze rocks the hammock back and forth and lulls me to sleep.

That is why I am pleased to inform you that July 22nd is “Hammock Day,” a day of relaxation that falls smack dab in the middle of the work week, making it the perfect time to play hooky and put your feet up. Okay, I realize that not everyone works at home or has the luxury to enjoy a mid-week holiday, but we can dream. That’s why I suggest gifting your hard working employees with the Lazy Swing Hammock emblazoned with the company logo. While it’s not the same as giving them a day off, it comes as close as company policy will allow.

All this writing about hammocks has made me sleepy so I’m going to jump in mine and take a quick nap to recharge. Remember the wise words of my late friend Sydney J. Harris, “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

The Grill Master General

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Summer, and barbeque season, is in full swing and I have been grilling like a mad man every weekend. I’ve grilled up steaks, chicken, hot dogs, brats, sausages, ribs, burgers, vegetables, and have even tried my hand at grilling dessert. Suffice it to say, I am the go to guy in the Winston household when you want something cooked on the grill. As such, I have scoured my brain (and the web) to come up with five hot tips for successful grilling this summer.

1. Safety first. It may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t grill in an enclosed area. Your garage is not the best place to cook up a mess of ribs. Use baking soda, rather than water, to control a grease fire, and be sure to keep a fire extinguisher, bucket of sand, or garden hose near by—just in case.

2. Safety second. Food safety is as important as fire safety—I learned that one the hard way after a rare piece of chicken found it’s way onto my plate. Check for proper doneness with an instant-read thermometer and use separate platters for cooked and raw foods. If you use a marinade as a sauce, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says to either reserve some that hasn’t come in contact with raw foods, or to boil it first to destroy any bacteria.

3. Speaking of sauce, don’t make the rookie mistake of saucing too soon. If you brush on sauces at the beginning of cooking, chances are they will burn and taste less than good when the food is finally done. If you practice patience and wait until the last few minutes to apply sauces, you’ll get a nice glaze instead of a black, charred mess.

4. Give it some room. Leave a small, unheated space on the grill so you’ll have somewhere to move food that is cooking too fast.

5. Cleanliness is next to godliness. If you use cooking spray when grilling (before you start the fire), clean up will be much easier. I also clean my grill after every use—it’s easier to cut through the grime when the grill is still warm. If you allow the cooked bits to burn off the inside of your grill every time you use it, you shouldn’t have to work as hard at scrubbing the inside. Simply brush off baked-on grease with a wire grill brush. If you really want to go to town, use warm soapy water and a sponge or dishcloth after brushing.

So there you have it, not quite everything you need to know about grilling. The most important thing to have, besides a grill, is a complete set of tools. The Grill Master Barbeque Kit is complete set for barbequing—including a stainless steel grill brush, spatula, basting brush and tongs. Naturally it comes with one color imprint so you can blend grilling with branding—a winning combination.

Well, I’m off to the races—literally. My son’s summer camp is having a three-legged race and they asked me to MC. Remember, “If you grill it, they will come.”

Passages

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I was recently invited to a good friend of my wife’s “Coming Out “ Party. I was confused when I receive the evite since Mrs. Winston and I have known “Judy” and her husband for years. My confusion was quickly laid to rest when I learned that Judy was still happily married and the coming out she referred to was that she was publicly admitting her true age. I was stunned to learn that Judy was about to turn forty; not because I think 40 is old, but because I had always assumed she was in her early 30’s—an assumption she never corrected and I never questioned. The assumption was further solidified by the fact that her husband is 31 and she looks and behaves in the manner of a carefree young woman just entering adulthood. I’m not saying she is immature, but I would characterize her as youthful. This bombshell has made me realize that 1) Judy is quite possibly a cougar and 2) The fountain of youth springs from not having children. Not that my own wife doesn’t look great you understand, it’s just that not having kids to care for enables one to live a somewhat less stressful existence. I wouldn’t trade mine for the world, but I would give back the gray hairs if I could.

I find it interesting, but understandable, that Judy was so invested in keeping her true age a secret and letting the world, or at least her friends, believe she was younger than she was. Society is obsessed with youth—young celebrities are applauded and women’s magazines are filled with articles about how to look younger. I guess I am lucky—I am a man and we just get better looking with age, at least that’s what Mrs. Winston tells me. Bless her heart.

While we can’t all be (or even look) young, we can remain young at heart. One way to do that is to release your inner child and play some games—so today’s offering is the Solace 5 in 1 Outdoor Game Set. This 31 piece set includes a volleyball / badminton net, two badminton racquets and two shuttle cocks, an inflatable volleyball, horseshoes, a fold up flyer, Solace Flying Disc Ball Game in a durable carrying case. It’s the perfect gift for anyone who can use a little more fun and games in their life.

Well I’m off to buy an outfit for Judy’s party—it’s an 80s theme so I’m in the market for some shoulder pads and acid washed denim. Remember, “Age doesn’t matter, as long as you’re having fun and look good doing It.” -Judy’s husband.

Moon Day

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history by landing Apollo 11 on the surface of the moon and then being the first humans to walk on it. I was a little kid, but I still remember that historic day like it was yesterday. My whole family sat glued to the television set as we watched those first steps. Even my grandmother, who was not interested in the “glowing box”, was riveted. It was a moment that united families, communities and the whole country…and one I will never forget. The two men who walked where no man had ever walked before are still with us today.

Neil Armstrong, now age 78, is famously the first person to step foot on the moon. He has maintained a fairly low profile since his historic walk—he retired from NASA a few years later and took a teaching position at the University of Cincinnati. He eventually took on some public speaking roles and has served on the board of directors for many U.S. businesses. Some years ago he stopped signing autographs after he found that his signed items were selling for large amounts of money and that many forgeries are in circulation.

Buzz Aldrin, now age 79, was the second person to walk on the moon and is the more public of the two moon walkers. In addition to being an American hero with an accomplished career in the military and with NASA, Alridn has probably done more in “retirement” than most of us do our whole lives. He is an author, public speaker and has appeared on dozens of television shows including “Ali G” and “The Colbert Report; and he is famously the model for the MTV Video Music Award moon man. His most recent collaboration was with Snoop Dogg, so I guess he can add “rapper” to his list of accomplishments.

The kid in me will mark the day by taking out my Apollo 11 model and landing on a brick of Swiss cheese, but the marketer in me suggests something a bit more dignified. Gift your employees with The Moon Pocket Planner to celebrate Moon Day and remind them that even though the year is half over, there is still much to accomplish. After all, if Buzz Aldrin can rap with Snoop Dogg at the age of 79, your team can surely make quota before the year is up.

While I’m dusting off my space suit, I leave you with Neil Armstrong’s famous first words as his left foot touched down on the moon’s surface, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Indeed.

Bear Crazy

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

July 10th is a very special day—at least my six-year-old thinks so—because it is Teddy Bear Picnic Day. Yes, you read that correctly—July 10th is meant to be spent picnicking with your Teddy Bear. I am going to go ahead and assume this is a child centric event, but I know plenty of adults who have an unnatural attachment to their childhood Teddy bears. Not that I am judging of course, it’s just that I don’t get what’s so special about a stuffed animal that makes it worth saving for twenty or thirty years. Now, a vintage lanyard or antique promotional mug, those I understand—they have real value. But my motto is live and let live, so if you want to lay out a blanket, unpack the picnic basket and share a PB&J with Charlie the stuffed Koala, be my guest.

Even if you still have your childhood Teddy bear, you may not know the entomology of everyone’s favorite stuffed toy. Fortunately for you, I have access to Wikipedia and a little too much time on my hands. In 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt was in office, he was hunting in Mississippi and refused to shoot a small bear. The Washington Post picked up on this story and made a cartoon of the event. Toy storeowners, Morris and Rose Michtom, wrote to President Roosevelt for permission to call their stuffed animals “Teddy Bears” and a phenomenon was born. Incidentally, their company went on to become the Ideal Toy Company, one of the largest toy companies in the world.

I don’t know when Teddy Bear Picnic Day was created, or whose idea it was, but here we are. Hallmark may not make a card for this particular wacky “holiday” but Rush Imprint has an adorable Plush Bear wearing an imprintable t-shirt if you find yourself bare come July 10th. I am not a big fan of stuffed animals, but I do enjoy a good (or really, really bad) pun.

Well, I’ve got to go practice for National Ice Cream Day (a much more sensible holiday), Mrs. Winston bough me an ice cream machine! In the meantime, remember, “A bear in the hand is worth two in a cave.” Or something like that.

Independence Day

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Independence Day is upon us and if you are like me, you are looking forward to celebrating with the five F’s—fireworks, food, family, friends and fun—not necessarily in that order. The Winston’s are planning a big backyard barbeque with the grill master, yours truly, cooking up steaks, burgers and hot dogs. This year I am adding veggie dogs to my repertoire because my daughter announced that she was a vegetarian last night, which I suspect has more to do with the fact that her favorite actor, Milo Ventimiglia of Heroes fame, is a vegetarian rather than her own love of animals—but then I am a cynic. After the feeding frenzy, we’re off to ooh and aah over fireworks and bask in our freedom. Naturally there are many ways to celebrate the 4th and Americans across the country find a plethora of ways to show their spirit—here are a few I found interesting:

1) In Atlanta, 55,000 Americans will participate in the 40th Annual Peachtree Road Race, the largest 10K in the world. Running is not my idea of fun, but some people like it.

2) My home city of Pittsburgh has many celebrations, but my favorite is the Annual Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta which attracts over 400,000 people who come to enjoy extreme water sports, freestyle motocross, powerboat racing, children’s activities, national-act concerts, and the dramatic Fourth of July fireworks show.

3) No July 4th is complete without hotdogs—New York hosts Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest, regarded as the “Super Bowl” of competitive eating in Coney Island.

4) Chicago gets a headstart on the festivities with the Macy’s Independence Eve Fireworks Display on July 3rd. which attracts up to a million people.

5) The largest fireworks display in Oklahoma takes place in Duck Creek. Boats and yachts parade up and down the main part of the Creek while people throw beads and dance to lively music. Over 20 vintage aircraft from the U.S. and overseas, many of which have flown combat missions, perform an air show over the water while “buzzing” the hundreds of boats below.

6) If you really want to go hog wild, try the Mud Wallowing Contest in Apple Ridge, Ohio (the pig capitol of Northern Ohio). The 4th of July tradition has participants rolling around in mud and squealing like pigs.

Of course, I mark every holiday with a custom imprinted gift because nothing says “America” like promoting your business. Rush Imprint has dozens of patriotic promotional products to help you celebrate the American way. So, get out there and enjoy the holiday by celebrating your own success.

Well, I’m off to marinate some steaks and read up on the grilling of veggie dogs. On this day, remember the words of Albert Camus, “Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.” Pretty wise words for a Frenchman.

Summer Solstice

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Summer Solstice, sometimes referred to as “Midsummer, is the meteorological start of summer and the longest day of the year. Sadly, it has passed and the days keep getting shorter from here on out. June 21st marks the true beginning of summer; but having just returned from a trip down south, I can tell you that summer weather is already in full effect in many parts of the country. Interestingly, the sun did not set at the North Pole on this day—there are 24 full hours of sunlight. As much as I enjoy summertime, I’m not sure I’d enjoy 24 hours of it. I do like my sleep and who can sleep when the sun is blazing?

Speaking of sleep, I haven’t been getting much lately. I’d like to say it’s due to all the fun I’ve been having, but the truth is, I have been having a recurring nightmare that involves my mother-in-law, an oversized jar of salsa, beach balls and a ten-foot python. I don’t think I have to tell you that my mother-in-law scares me a lot more than a silly python. The good news (at least for you) is that my not sleeping, means I have had plenty of time to browse for unique and inexpensive summer promotional items to share with my deserving readers.

In fact, at roughly 3:45AM this morning, I found an interesting item that is perfect for all of your summer promotions. The SeaRay (Waterproof UV Detector Box) protects skin from harmful UV rays and keeps valuables safe and dry while at the beach or pool. Plastic UV beads on lanyard glow different colors according to how long they’ve been exposed to the sun’s rays, so you can decide when enough is enough. It’s a waterproof container, which makes it ideal for storing keys, money, and IDs. The price includes one color imprint, so put your name or logo on it and you’ve got the perfect, unique give away that is sure to be a big hit this summer.

I’m going to try and catch a few dreamless zzzz’s before my kids get home from summer camp. Until next time, remember, “If you can’t put your name on it, it’s not worth giving.”