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.”


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.”


Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I am a big believer in the idea that simple objects can do extraordinary things—or at least they can be used for things other than what they were originally made to do. I think I am actually making a simple concept more complicated than it needs to be, so I’ll just get to the point. If you find yourself short on cash, or simply want a new, creative way to use a familiar household object, this post is for you. I found a list of 28 uses for a few everyday items from and I picked 6 of my favorites to share with you.

1) Everyone knows that toothpicks are good for making sure one’s smile isn’t filled with cracked pepper or spinach, but did you know they come in handy for pressing a gadget’s Reset button? An ordinary toothpick fits perfectly into that tiny hole.

2) The BBQ master in me uses toothpicks to label meat. Identify just-off-the-grill meats with different-colored toothpicks so you’ll never wonder if the burger you just made is well done, rare or medium.

3) Use multiple colored rubber bands instead of ribbon to wrap a gift and add a modern flair to a small present. This one is particularly handy when you can’t find the tape.

4) Regular table salt is good for shining brass and copper. Make a paste of a few tablespoons of white vinegar with equal parts salt and flour. Apply with a soft cloth, rinse, and dry.

5) Play tic-tac-toe with Post-It Notes. Use a different colored sheet for each X and O. Peel them up and play again until they lose their stickiness. My six year old loves this one!

6) Seal an envelope with clear nail polish. When a flap won’t stay stuck, this lady staple does the trick.

Do you know what else is simple? Keeping your name in the minds of your customers. All you have to do is find a simple promotional item from Rush Imprint, put your name on it and get it into the hands of your clients. When you are looking to increase name recognition, simplify your approach and gift people with things they use everyday like an Alligator Clip or a Computer Mouse Pad. They’ll appreciate the freebie and you’ll be thought of multiple times a day. What could be simpler?

Well, I’ve got to go polish the copper—that’s what I get for letting Mrs. Winston read my blog before it’s published. Until next time, remember, Confucius says, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

Father’s Day

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As the proud father of three wonderful children, I always look forward to Father’s Day with excitement and a touch of fear. I am excited to see what my kids and wife have planned for me and a little afraid that I’ll have to channel Jack Nicholson and “act” like I love the red, white and blue necktie festooned with golf balls, little hamburgers or smiley faces. Before you think I have gone over the edge, I refer to Jack’s acting talent and not his ‘bad dad’ role in “The Shining.” Like many father’s, I have received my share of handprint ashtrays, which I treasure, and bright purple pajamas covered with teddy bears, which I loathe. So this year I have started dropping hints early and I am fairly certain that instead of receiving a bedazzled briefcase, I will get something I can really use, like a Java Coffee Mug or a Slazenger Classic Golf Bag Cover.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to have thoughtful kids who remember me on Dad’s Special Day, which falls on June 21st this year; it’s just that my acting chops have grown rusty and it’s getting harder for me to fool them into thinking I love my new bubblegum colored socks. The fact is, I am lucky to have a day at all. Traditionally celebrated on the third Sunday of June, Father’s Day was first conceived by Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd of Washington one Sunday in 1909 while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church at Spokane and she arranged a tribute for her father on June 19, 1910. She was the first person to solicit the idea of having an official Father’s Day observance to honor all fathers, but the day had a rocky start and it took many years to make the holiday official. In spite of support from the YWCA, the YMCA and churches, it ran the risk of disappearing from the calendar. Where Mother’s Day was met with enthusiasm, Father’s Day was met with laughter. It was finally made a federal holiday when President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation in 1966.

Well, I’ve got to go let my daughter know that I really love the design of the Java Coffee Mug (subtle hints are lost on the Winston clan) and show Mrs. Winston the rip in my old golf bag cover before they go to the mall to purchase a garish tie or one of those silly bears dressed up like a fireman or a doctor. Until next time, I leave you with the wise words of the mother of all fathers, Bill Cosby, who said, “Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.”

Late Bloomer

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I recently had the pleasure of dining with my late grandmother’s best friend, Ms. Beth Ann Brimmstein in celebration of her 100th birthday. She decided to splurge and have a piece of pie (cherry), but still ate her usual supper of grilled fish and steamed vegetables with a large green salad. I asked her why she didn’t go for a more decadent meal and she quipped, “I lived to be 100 by eating healthy foods…and I am not planning on going anywhere anytime soon.” Point taken. I guiltily changed my order, pushed away the cheese bread I had been munching on and decided to find out what else Beth Ann had to say about growing old gracefully.

The centegenarian told me that humor was a big part of successful aging and that the ability to laugh has gotten her through a Depression, several wars, two husbands, four children, ten grandchildren and a second career as an actress. I had not seen Beth Ann in close to twenty years so I was surprised to learn that at the age of 85, Beth Ann Brimmstein from Dayton, Ohio had taken up acting. She was discovered by a neighbor who was casting a mattress commercial and has been acting in television ever since. They say Hollywood is obsessed with youth culture, but I guess there are exceptions to every rule. We chatted about her experiences working with the likes of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogan and then she took me back to her apartment to show me a few of her recent commercials.

I had a lovely time and was inspired by Beth’s spirit, spunk and humor. I learned a lesson too—you are only as old as you feel and it is, quite literally, never too late to start a new project, hobby, or career. Why not encourage your clients and employees to start a new project by gifting them with a 10 Ft. Locking Tape Measure imprinted with your company logo? That way your brand will be associated with both longevity and building new beginnings.

Well, I am off to prepare for National Yo-Yo Day—I’m trying to perfect “walking the dog” before Saturday. In the meantime, remember the words of Beth Ann Brimmstein, “I may be long in the tooth, but I’ve still got a spring in my step and a smile on my face!”

Project Natal

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

It is painfully obvious to anyone who knows me, even slightly, that I am not a “gamer,” the moniker commonly used to identify those who spend much of their leisure time playing or learning about different video games. Actually, the word gamer historically refers to someone who plays role-playing and war games, and literally refers to those who play all types of games—even board games—so technically, since I am an avid Scrabble and Scramble player, I am a gamer. But I digress—one of the hazards of being a word nerd. The point is, I don’t really play video games. My son owns a few and I have tried to play with him to facilitate familial bonding, but it usually ends with my throwing down the controller and my son giggling at my ineptitude. I am sorry, but playing golf by holding a vibrating piece of plastic and pushing a button does not resemble smacking a ball in real life. Not even close. But it might…very soon.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Microsoft press event at E3 on Monday and saw something I could not believe—the prototype for a controllerless video game called “Project Natal.” It provides much of the same functionality as a Wii controller, but without having to hold on to the controller. According to the videos and live, on-stage, demo given by the sunglasses wearing Kudo Tsunoda, motional control allows your body to be the controller. Want to kick a ball in a game? Then make a kicking motion. Want to buzz in in a game show setting? Smack your fist into your hand. One video showed a kid scanning his skateboard in to the sensor and then playing a skating game with his own board. That means I could play virtual golf with my own clubs! As far as I can tell, it blew everyone away, myself included. Microsoft is not saying when Project Natal will become a reality, but if they are showing it off now, the actuality of it being in living rooms around the world cannot be far off.

The lesson here is pretty simple—when you have an amazing product or service, if what you offer is innovative, industry changing and exciting, marketing is simple. I realize that for most of us, it’s not easy to innovate on the same level of a giant like Microsoft and most products are not going to change the face of the industry. But thinking big is never wrong. So, even if what you have to offer is small potatoes, find away to make a big splash. For example, when looking for promotional products to support your brand, think big…literally. Try something different like a Giant Logo Fortune Cookie. Imagine a fortune cookie the size of a football, hand dipped in luscious White Chocolate with a personalized fortune inside and a 100% edible image on the outside. This cookie is guaranteed to make a big impression! True, it’s probably not going to change the world, but it might just make enough of an impact to change your bottom line.

Project Natal isn’t a reality yet, so I am going to practice my swing—on a real golf course. Until next time, remember, “You’ve got to think big, to win big.”