“Tis The Season

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

It’s cold and flu season again and that means the Winston household is on full germ alert. Mrs. Winston is a virus vigilante and prides herself on keeping the family fit as a fiddle throughout the season. The moment anyone crosses our garland festooned threshold, they are greeted with a cheery, “Don’t forget to wash your hands” before being offered a beverage or freshly baked holiday cookie. The refrigerator is stocked with orange juice and no one is allowed to eat breakfast until they’ve popped a multi-vitamin washed down with a glass of Emergen-C infused water. Our cupboards are stocked with every homeopathic remedy known to man and she has placed a family wide ban on handshakes and hugs with anyone who even looks like they may have sneezed in the last week. We have all had our flu shots but that does not mean my wife will let her guard down for an instant. She won’t relax until we are well into spring, or what I like to call, “allergy season.”

Since we go through almost as much hand sanitizer as a mid-sized hospital, I have decided to turn my wife’s anti-germ obsession into a marketing opportunity, so the hand sanitizer we use everyday is imprinted with my logo and a pithy message about cleanliness. Thanks to Mrs. Winston’s germ phobia and my promotional marketing acumen, my brand is spreading faster than you can say, “rhinovirus.” The marketing lesson here is simple—when choosing a promotional item, go with the flow. If everyone is sniffling and sneezing, give them a health related promotional gift and they will thank you with every “achoo.”

I’ve got to take the car in for a check-up—Mrs. Winston has put the kibosh on air travel so I am driving 600 miles to my next speaking engagement. Until next time, I leave you with Erma Bombeck’s rule of Medicine, “Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”

Word Nerd

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Did you know that the word queue is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed? Of course “q” is not a word but that doesn’t change the fact that I spend way too much time reading the dictionary. My wife jokes that the dictionary is my bible and as a card carrying “word nerd,” I’d be hard pressed to disagree. I play Scrabble daily and read my Thesaurus like it’s pulp fiction. I recently joined an online word-lovers community so I can commune with like-minded folks on a regular basis. After twenty years of marriage, Mrs. Winston is finally over my word games so I had to branch out…for the sake of our marriage. Nobody wants to divorce over a game of “Synonym or Homonym?”

There are not many things I enjoy more than word play so it should come as no surprise that I think The Power of Words Calendar is the perfect pre-holiday gift for everyone on your list. Inspirational quotes speak for themselves on this unique motivational calendar. It attracts attention all year long and is especially well suited for advertisers in the insurance or education markets, but anyone who believes in the power of words to inform, change and incite action will love it.

One of the best ways to market your company is by inspiring others, which is why I like to give gifts with a message. Everyone, including your clients, could use a little pick me up once in a while and it may as well come from you. That way, your gift keeps right on giving…in a meaningful way. Don’t forget to add your logo so the recipient will know whom to thank for their daily dose of encouragement.

I’ve got to go prepare for my monthly “Thesaurus Club” meeting—I’m hosting. Until next time, I leave you with a quote from the inimitably quotable, Winston Churchill, “In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.

Portrait of Procrastination

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I know I’m not the only one who peruses Facebook for hours on end looking up old college chums and commenting on my former babysitter’s photos of adorable kittens wearing Halloween costumes even though I am on a deadline. And surely I am not the one person who decides that he simply cannot do another lick of work until he has changed every light bulb in the house, watched a rerun of Law & Order and organized the bookshelf in the den. Admit it; you procrastinate as often as the next person. As much as I would like to believe that my blog is required reading, you are probably reading it right now in order to avoid your inbox. But I’m not one to judge. How can I judge you when I actually cleaned out the garage in order to avoid writing this very blog? Let’s face it; we all do just about anything to avoid doing what we should be doing—especially if what we should be doing feels like a chore. Don’t get me wrong; I love my work. Nothing gives me more pleasure than offering words of marketing wisdom to my legions of followers but I am only human and therefore, I procrastinate. And so do you.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet you have put off ordering personalized holiday cards to send to your top clients, haven’t you? Fortunately for me, Mrs. Winston is in charge of greeting cards so there are currently two hundred and twenty seven (we have a large family) stamped envelopes sitting on the table by the door waiting to be dropped off at the post office by yours truly. Fortunately for you, Rush Imprint understands that most people practice the fine art of procrastination when it comes to sending holiday cards so it’s still not too late for you to order custom greetings. All you have to do is upload your logo and message and you are good to go. But don’t put it off for too long…otherwise you’ll have to resort to sending customized National Bird Day (January 5th) cards.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must play a word in my online Scrabble game, dust my “Speaker of the Year” trophy and rearrange my paperclips before I return my editor’s call. Until next time, I leave you with the words of Edward Young, whose procrastinating days are long over, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Now get back to work!

Letter Writing Day

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

December 7th is Letter Writing Day, a day meant to inspire communication the old fashioned way…by putting pen to paper and sending someone a hand written letter. Letter writing is almost a lost art, since most correspondence today takes place via email, instant message or text. When was the last time you actually sat down with a piece of paper and a pen and wrote a letter to someone? If you are like me, you probably can’t remember that far back. Thank you notes and birthday card don’t count. The really sad thing is, our kids will probably never know the joy of passing hand written notes in class, or writing a long love letter to the cute guy or gal who sits behind them in Chemistry; they’ll just send a text or poke them on Facebook and be done with it. I cannot bear to let that happen however and have vowed to keep letter writing alive for my children. That is why I have declared the 7th day of every month Letter Writing Day in the Winston household. Won’t you join us?

Appropriately, today’s offering is an elegant Silver Plated Star Letter Opener, perfect for opening letters, love notes, birthday cards and even bills. It’s a throwback gift that lets your clients know you are an old fashioned business—the kind that cares about its customers and delivers on its promises. I am giving one to each of my children to encourage them on their letter-writing journey. I just hope nobody pokes an eye out.
Well, I’ve got to go meet my trainer—I overindulged a bit on Thanksgiving and I’m determined to stay fit so I can do it again on Christmas. Until we meet again, I leave you with a few lines from W.H. Auden. “And none will hear the postman’s knock
 without a quickening of the heart. For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?”

Black Friday

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

“Black Friday” is Mrs. Winston’s favorite day of the year. Marking the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and taking place the day after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday” is not an official holiday, but many employees have the day off (with the exception of those employed in Retail and Banking). Interestingly, the origin of the unofficial holiday dates back to 1965. “Black Friday” was named so by the Philadelphia Police Department because it brought massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks to the city center since the downtown stores were mobbed from opening to closing. It was not used as affectionately as it is now. Of course nowadays the shopping begins as early as midnight and continues for the next 24 hours—and shopaholics everywhere are free to gorge on goodies all day and into the night. Most stores have super sales and bargains galore, but you have to have an eagle eye, a strong constitution and the patience of Job to go the distance. I hate shopping but I enjoy “Black Friday” because I have the house to myself most of day. Mrs. Winston wakes up at dawn, power shops until noon, swings by to pick up the kids and doesn’t return until after dinner. I spend all day alone with my dictionary and Thesaurus and play power Scrabble until I can no longer type. Everybody wins.
To ensure your business comes out on top, try offering something special the day after Thanksgiving. You don’t have to slash your prices but you could offer a little something extra like a GWP (gift with purchase). I like GWPs because they do double duty as promotional tools. An Eco Tote Bag is a stylish and environmentally friendly way to say “thank you for your business” and advertise your company at the same time. I also like to give away imprinted USB Flash Drives because they are used so often and change hands frequently…making your message (and marketing dollar) go even further. The point is, every holiday (real or not) offers ample opportunity to thank your customers and market your business, so make sure you are prepared.
Speaking of preparation, I’ve got to bone up on two letter words. I’m playing in a Scrabble tournament against a sixth grader and I don’t want a repeat of last year’s debacle. The kid is an animal. Until next time, I leave you with Mrs. Winston’s shopping motto: “If it’s on sale, it doesn’t make your butt look big.”

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.


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.”