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.”


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.”


Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

For those of you who missed it, my birthday was September 7th and my dear, lovely wife threw a little soiree to celebrate my successful passage into another year. She has always been a creative party giver and this one was no exception. Since we happened to have a bumper crop of fresh basil (our little plant that could has turned into a monster), Mrs. Winston decided to plan the party menu around the fragrant herb. She made a tasty appetizer with a lemon-basil dressing, put together a nice Caprese salad (our tomato plant is thriving), and created refreshing basil infused cocktails. And for dessert, basil olive oil cupcakes, which in spite of the odd sound ingredients were surprisingly delicious. The party was a huge success and everyone raved about the basil themed food and drink. It was a fun way to celebrate our flourishing garden and, since we had many of the ingredients on hand, the party didn’t break the bank.

The lesson today is simple: find a way to use what you have. It works when throwing a party and it works in marketing too. People will remember the party, not because I turned another year older, but because the theme was memorable. Lots of people have costume parties, but how many basil parties have you attended? You don’t have to spend a lot of money when marketing your business if you use the resources you have on hand. If your company has a surplus of goods, find away to turn the excess into success. You can donate the goods in the name of your business, throw a party or invent a new way to use an old product. So, think about what your company has to offer, or what you have a lot of in the storeroom and find a creative way to use what you already have to get the word out about your business. If my wife can create a whole party around one tiny little herb, think about how much you can do with the resources you have on hand. For example, we had a few hundred Zippo Grip It Twist pens (imprinted with my logo of course) lying around, so my wife topped the night off with parting gifts for all of our guests. I guarantee that when they use that pen, they will think of the fun, basil-rific evening spent at the Winston house.

Well, I’m off to the gym—getting older has motivated me to renew my membership—so I’ll leave you with this thought: “If you don’t use it, you lose it and if you use it, you’ll never lose.”


Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

What does an alligator and rattlesnake have in common? On the face of it, not much, alligators and rattlesnakes can both be dangerous and I wouldn’t want to cross paths with either of them, but other than being reptilian, that is where the similarities end. What they do have in common is that they both make pretty darn tasty sausage filling, a tasty fact I discovered on my recent visit to a gourmet sausage place in downtown Los Angeles. I don’t claim to be an expert and I don’t write restaurant reviews so you can take my opinion for what it’s worth. I do write about what’s on my mind, and for the past three days, all I can think about is rattlesnake and rabbit sausage topped with sweet peppers and spicy mustard.

My new client is a sausage aficionado and took me to his favorite place after a particularly successful meeting. Wurstküche, which means sausage kitchen in German, sells three things: gourmet sausages, French fries and good beer…which is enough to make the place a hit. We arrived at 1pm on a Friday to find a line fifteen people deep—I was surprised to see so many people lining up to eat encased meats, since LA seems to cater to vegetarian models and actresses who don’t eat anything more than lettuce and the occasion grape for dessert. After looking over the list of traditional sausages made with pork and turkey, I settled on rattlesnake and rabbit with twice-fried fries and a German beer. We took our number and headed for the dining area, which consisted of a bar on one side and large open space filled with long picnic style tables covered with butcher paper and benches, and found two spaces between a group of bankers enjoying lunch and two hipsters staring at their iphones.

I won’t give you a bite for bite description of the meal, but you should know that it was the finest sausage I have eaten outside of Germany. I even ordered a couple of brats to go so I could share them with the family. The whole experience was so memorable that I have told half a dozen friends and as many clients about the place and a few of them have made the journey to sausage Mecca for themselves. Which brings me to the marketing lesson of the day—word of mouth works. When you have a great concept and you execute it well, people will flock to you. They will stand in line for you. And, most importantly, they will tell their friends, family members and colleagues to do the same. So, before you plan your marketing strategy, make sure your product or service is rock solid, because when you have a great offering, your marketing plan will get a boost from word of mouth. That’s why, even though they don’t run ads, use direct mail or send email blasts, Wurstküche frequently has a line out the door.

Well, I’m off to pitch a potential new client an old marketing guru so I’ll leave you with one final thought. If, as Alan Patrick Herbert says, “A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso,” then a marketer looks at a Picasso and thinks about how to sell it to the masses.

Mall Rats

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Devoted readers have probably noticed my short absence and for that I sincerely apologize. I hate to disappoint my fans and I hope you’ll forgive my recent lapse in posting. I have been on a mall tour with one of my top clients for the past few weeks and, in my travels, have discovered a disturbing phenomenon…shopping malls are the new parks. One mall we visited literally has a kiddy playground, complete with sand and a jungle gym, right in the center of the property. The grassy areas, which I had always assumed were for decoration, were all being used by mall “patrons” for picnicking, lounging and children running amok.

The event I was working on was housed in a temporary glass walled structure with wood floors and tempting stairs. The structure was placed smack dab in the middle of the grassy area and my client and I were shocked to discover that many of the parents view it as an extension of the playground and paid no mind as their children ran up and down the stairs, jumped off the deck and pounded their tiny fists against the glass walls.

I’m a parent myself and I like kids a lot, for a curmudgeon, but I was appalled at the wild behavior on display. My own children wouldn’t dare step out of line for fear of what their mother would do to them once they got back home. And I distinctly remember my own childhood forays into public when my mom would grip my arm as she grit her teeth and threatened to take me to the car if I didn’t shape up. I was so afraid of what terrible fate awaited me at the car that I never actually found out. But it seems that kids today have no such fear. They run wild—screaming, jumping off chairs, climbing scaffolding and generally causing trouble—all with no parental reproach. It’s not that their parents don’t see them misbehaving, they just don’t seem to care.

I don’t want to rant (although I fear it’s too late for that), but why are parents so afraid to say “no” to their kids? I cannot wrap my head around it—probably because my head is still pounding from the tension headaches I suffered form being around so many little monsters. Which brings me to today’s offering, the Pasteur pill case, perfect for holding enough ibuprofen or acetaminophen to cure the worst headache. It’s a great gift for clients too—and when you put your company logo on the top, they are sure to remember you for your ability to cure what ails them.

I hate to rant and run, but I’ve got to finish the last leg of my tour. Until next time, I leave you the words of Samuel Butler, “Parents are the last people on earth who ought to have children.”

Thai One On

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I was complaining about my sore neck to a friend of mine who promptly recommended I try Thai massage and insisted I see his favorite masseuse, Bee. Since I am a fan of Thai cooking, I assumed I’d enjoy a Thai massage and was looking forward to a relaxing hour. Those of you who have experienced Thai massage are probably giggling as you read this because you already know what I recently learned; Thai massage is about as relaxing as a root canal and at least as painful. My excitement about the inexpensive procedure (an hour only set me back forty dollars) waned after meeting the infamous Bee, a tiny rotund woman with a big smile and firm handshake. I am not a huge man by any stretch of the imagination, but I could not see how a woman who was barely five feet tall was going to have the strength to deliver an effective massage. She led me back to a row of “rooms” separated by only a thin curtain—not as private as I expected, but I soon learned that this is not a “lie down on a table in your birthday suit” type of massage. Bee tossed me a pair of loose shorts and instructed me to lie down on a thin matt on the floor.

What followed was some of the most intense pressure and directed pain I have ever experienced…and I have been married for over twenty years. Bee was far from a weak woman and proceeded to dig her hands, elbows, knees and feet into every part of my body. I think I may have blacked out when she stood on my legs for what seemed like an eternity. At some point, I found myself practicing breathing exercises I remembered from my wife’s Lamaze class and praying for the hour to end. The only thing that kept me from shrieking aloud was the knowledge that my neighbor was just on the other side of a curtain and I didn’t want to frighten him. I could hear him groaning in what I imagine was agony on par with my own as I heard his masseuse giggle and exclaim, “No pain, no gain.” A philosophy Bee clearly shared as evidenced by her stifled giggle as I felt her foot came to rest on my neck.

Don’t get me wrong, Thai massage is not completely devoid of pleasure—there is pleasant back, neck and foot rubbing, soothing music and warm scented oil—it’s just that the moments of bliss are punctuated by pain that can only described as exquisite. After the hour was up, I got dressed and was greeted at the door with a bottle of water and a candy and sent on my way. I was in a bit of a daze afterwards so it took me a while to notice that I felt great. My tension was gone and I could move my head without wincing—after a couple of days, I was pain free and as good as new. So, even though it was not what I expected, Bee’s massage was exactly what I needed. And you can bet I’ll be making another appointment.

Which brings me to today’s marketing lesson—if you give your clients what they need, rather than what they think they want, you’ll have a customer for life. I know Bee does. In honor of my newfound need for Bee’s special brand of healing, today’s offering is the 5-Point star Massager. I doubt it will cure all that ails you, but it will work in a pinch. Until next time remember, “Make a consumer want you, and you make a sale; make them need you and you make a customer.”

Summer School

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Much to her chagrin, my daughter is attending summer school for the third year in a row. It’s not that she’s not intelligent, it’s just that being studious takes a backseat to being social and my eldest child tends to let her homework go undone a bit too often for her teacher’s liking. I wasn’t a stellar student myself so I am not one to come down too hard on her but my wife feels differently and so summer school has become part of our daughter’s high school experience. Fortunately we live within biking distance of the high school so I no longer have to listen to her complain about her lack of summer vacation on the ride to and from school. Instead, I get to listen to my son complain about his swimming lessons on the way to and from the community center—but that is another story.

The point is, my daughter came home from summer school a few days ago and announced that she wants to go to law school after college. Her mother was thrilled and, after getting over the disappointment of realizing she won’t be joining the Winston family business, I was too. After all, our litigious society will always need attorneys and heck; attorneys need branded mugs, personalized stationary and gift baskets, so she’ll at least be contributing to the family business. My wife was so excited she ordered her a personalized briefcase. It’s a really cool Dark Brown Leather/Twill Nylon Trolley Case with Exterior back zip pocket with ID window, secure luggage strap, interior zip pocket with padded laptop compartment, side strap handles, 37″ extending trolley handle and matching luggage tag. Unfortunately, before she could give it to her, our daughter announced she had decided she wants to be an actress instead. Since the bag is personalized and cannot be returned, Mrs. Winston is searching for a prospective giftee with the initials S.J.W.

The marketing lesson here is simple—before you put your name (or anyone else’s) on a gift or promotional product, make sure the gift is appropriate. It will save you a lot of money, time and aggravation. Well, I’m off to pick up my kid from swim practice—I think his coach is named Sam White, so I’ve got to find out his middle name. In the meantime, I leave you with the wise words of my good friend, Stuart H. Britt. “For a business not to advertise is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but no one else does.”