Vested Interest

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Regular readers and fans know that I am a vest man. Sure it’s old fashioned, but it’s my signature look and it works for me. I have over 387 vests—more than enough to wear one every day of the year with a few left over. I have caught more than my share of flack for my vest obsession, especially from my fashion obsessed teen-aged daughter who calls my look, “old man chic.” So, imagine my delighted surprise when my little Princess sauntered in to the family room wearing…a vest! I thought I was dreaming but after pinching myself several times, I discovered that she was indeed taking a cue from dear old Dad and sporting a very sharp pin striped vest. Naturally I took the opportunity to bond with my eldest child and complimented her choice of attire. My normally charming girl looked at me, looked at my vest, looked down at her vest and back at me…and promptly ran to room to change.

After my failed attempt at filial bonding, I decided to examine the roots of my vest interest. I think I got my first vest at the age of five—at least that is what my mother tells me. She showed me a picture of the five year old me dressed up in a red vest, blue blazer and polka dotted bow tie for my first day of kindergarten. That explains a lot. All through school, significant events were marked by the acquisition of a new vest. I wore a striped vest for my second place finish in my third grade spelling bee, a plaid vest the year I became class treasurer and a black velvet vest the night of my first school dance. To be honest, my little trip down memory lane didn’t yield much fruit of understanding for why I have such a penchant for vests, but it does explain all the shiners and fat lips I had as a kid. Children can be so cruel.

Not surprisingly, today’s offering, in honor of my daughter, is a Women’s Vantek Microfiber Vest made of microfiber fleece, and featuring a stand-up collar, full-zip front, front and back princess seams with on-seam front zipper pockets. It comes in several colors, including pink, and like all promotional items Rush Imprint offers, it can be imprinted with your company logo. It’s the perfect fall gift for fashion forward female clients who need a little something to keep them warm as the weather begins to get cooler, but not yet cold.

I’m off to prepare for my speech in honor of National Dog Week. I’m the official MC and honorary top dog at this year’s parade. Until next time remember, “If the vest fits, you’re still in pretty good shape.”

Culinary Adventures

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My wife and I decided to spice up our culinary lives, so we went on a little adventure last weekend. We thought it would be fun to pick a cuisine that neither of us had tried before and pick the best restaurant in which to try it. After much research on chowhound (the website for foodies everywhere), we settled on The Golden Deli—a Vietnamese joint reported to have the best Bún this side of Hanoi. We arrived at noon to discover a packed house and a twenty-minute wait—a very good sign—so we browsed the neighboring shops while we tried to ignore our rumbling stomachs. The store next door was jammed with Chinese chatchkis and we had fun browsing the racks of necklaces, prayer beads and carved animals. I was actually very inspired and came up with an innovative promotional idea based on a laughing pig. I can’t say more now, but I have a feeling it’s going to be big.

At last our number was called and we sat down at a small table for two. After browsing the long, and overwhelming, menu we decided to order the Bún (vermicelli noodles, fish sauce, vegetables and shrimp paste), since we had read so many rave reviews. I was a little worried about the shrimp paste, but the dish was delicious. We loved our meal and I was pleased to find it wasn’t as spicy as I, and my ulcer, had anticipated. The waiter even taught us a few words in his native language. It was fun to get out of our comfort zone for an afternoon and try something new. Not only did we enjoy a great meal, I was inspired to create a new promotional product. Definitely a winning day!

The lesson here is simple; in marketing, as in life, it’s good to shake things up, do things a little differently and go out on a limb. It doesn’t have to be huge—like revamping your entire brand or scrapping your marketing plan and starting over. But you can try on offbeat, unexpected way to market your services. Sometimes taking a small risk can pay off in a big way. For example, I know a personal trainer who sent chocolates imprinted with her name and the message, “Eat this and I’ll help you work it off” to every member of her gym. It paid off with 5 new clients in less than a week. I also know a pest control specialist who sent an envelope filled with rubber cockroaches to potential customers. The message said, “If you don’t want them to move in, call Pete’s Pest Control.” Risky? Sure, but it was effective…and memorable.

The point is, sometimes you have to try something new, and a little out there, to get results. Rush Imprint doesn’t carry rubber cockroaches, but they have plenty of whimsical items that will help you promote your company in a fun, interesting and effective way.

Well, I’m late for dinner—Mrs. Winston was so inspired by our meal that she decided to try her hand at cooking Vietnamese cuisine. Wish me luck. Until next time, remember, “Every day is an adventure…especially when your wife tries a new recipe.”

Dog Days

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

It had been close to two weeks since the “animals,” my wife’s affectionate name for our children, had gone back to school. The house was quiet, eerily quiet actually, and Mrs. Winston’s smiles of relief hade turned to sighs of boredom or perhaps even loneliness. I admit that I don’t always have my finger on the pulse of my beloved’s emotions, but I knew she was missing…something. As a concerned spouse, I felt I had to act, so I brought home a dog. Now before you think I am a complete idiot, let me assure you that I didn’t go out and buy a puppy—I learned my lesson the last time—instead, I agreed to foster a dog until a suitable owner could be found. I thought this was the perfect solution to my wife’s malaise. I picked up Buster, a slightly hyper German shepherd / Collie mix, from the shelter and headed to Petco to load up on doggy accessories. Buster was pretty amped up after our shopping trip so I took him to the doggy park to play and run off some of his boundless energy before heading home for a bath so he’d be all ready to surprise the Missus.

Unfortunately, I was the one in for a surprise. I came home to find my wife in the middle of a late afternoon poker game with five other empty nesters and Buster proceeded to greet each and every one of them with a big wet kiss. One look at my wife’s face told me I had made a big mistake. This was worse than the time I brought home a 21-Function blender for Valentine’s Day. Buster’s exuberence broke up the game, and before I could grab the mutt and head out, Mrs. W gave both of us a piece of her mind. She calmed slightly once I explained Buster’s temporary status, but I was glad I didn’t purchase a doghouse at Petco—otherwise I am quite sure I’d have been sleeping in it. Needless to say, I had misinterpreted my wife’s sighs. She was most certainly not looking for a furry companion to shed all over her new couch and track mud on the carpet. So, after a week, Buster was gone. Don’t worry, Mrs. Winston is not heartless—he didn’t go back to the pound. A lovely family with a huge backyard and old furniture adopted him.

The moral of the story is obvious; when you are giving a gift, think about what the recipient would like to have, rather than what you would like to give. As it turns out, Mrs. Winston wanted a birthday gift of the sparkly nature…not another responsibility. When you are thinking about promotional gifts—think about your customer’s wants and needs and give them a gift they can really use. That way, when you put your name on it—they actually see it and remember you. Rush Imprint has oodles of practical gifts that your clients are sure to love—like the Men’s District Tee. This fashionable t-shirt combines modern style with a classic look. The fitted cut and modern styling will make this t-shirt a wardrobe staple. And for your female customers, the Ladies Short Sleeve District Tee should do the trick. A t-shirt is a safe bet and if you choose one that fits well, you won’t find yourself in the doghouse with your clients.

Well, I’m off to practice my talk for show and tell at my son’s school. I promised not to embarrass him so I’ve really got to nail the magic tricks I’ve been working on. Remember, if it looks like a dog, barks like a dog and smells like a dog—do a DNA test just to make sure…because it just might be a coyote.

Bright and Early

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I have been battling insomnia for years, which accounts for my encyclopedic knowledge of the plethora of ‘must have’ items sold on late night television, my expansive vocabulary (I often read the dictionary when sleep eludes me), and my renowned morning grumpiness. I am not a morning person. Sunlight streaming through the curtains feels like shards of glass piercing my retinas, the sound of birds chirping is akin to finger nails on a chalkboard and when my feet hit the cold floor, it sends an artic chill up my spine that can only be cured by a giant steaming cup o’ joe. So when I was asked to speak at a pharmaceutical sales meeting at the unearthly hour of 7AM, I was a bit, shall we say, hesitant. I am usually deep in slumber at that hour so the thought of standing on a stage in a chilly ballroom speaking to 800 type-A sales reps was rather unsettling. But when I found out my youngest was going to need braces and my daughter’s impending college scholarship wasn’t going to cover living expenses, I decided to let my good business sense win over my desire for more shut eye and accepted the gig.

Let’s face it, money talks—and sometimes you have to have the conversation at 7AM. It’s just the way it goes. Unfortunately the conversation with money can get ugly—especially in a dodgy economy. Companies are cutting back and oftentimes those of us in the marketing game find ourselves on a budget. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a small fortune to get your message across. Rush Imprint offers a multitude of promotional items that are low in price but deliver in a big way. There is no need to let a limited budget limit your creativity and you certainly don’t want to pull back when it comes to pushing your brand. The lesson is simple: when money talks, listen but don’t let it talk you out of promoting your business.

Well, I’m off to prepare my keynote for the “early show.” Remember, “money isn’t everything but it helps pay the rent…and your kid’s braces.” Now get out there and put your name on it!

Time For Change

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My wife woke up in a foul mood today and, as I am sure most married man can attest to, that makes for a rough morning—for everyone. When Mrs. Winston is crabby, I try and stay out of her way. Unfortunately this morning, I found myself to be the object of her considerable displeasure. She arrived home late last night form the neighborhood block party committee meeting and, unbeknownst to me, spend the night sleepless and fuming. Apparently our new neighbor, Mrs. “call me Gail” Chelsey read my book cover to cover and fancied herself a bit of a marketing maven. You see, my wife has chaired the planning committee for the past five years—until last night when Gail won the nomination due to heavy campaigning. Not only did she paper the neighborhood with flyers, she left voicemail messages and gave out homemade campaign cookies imprinted with the message, “Vote for Gail.” Simple…and very effective. I would never admit it to Mrs. Winston, but I was pleased as punch to hear that my advice worked like a charm. I managed to hide my smile behind the morning paper, which is a good thing since Sunday is waffle day and our waffle iron is pretty hefty.

Having been married for well over a decade, I learned long ago that this was not a “teaching moment.” Instead, I listened to my wife vent her frustrations, berate the usurper and generally rant about the unfair turn of events until she finally realized on her own that she could beat Gail at her own game. After all, Gail might have read the book, but she slept in the same bed with the man who wrote it.

She began campaigning for next year’s nomination straight away and searched Rush Imprint for a timely gift that would last all year. Thanks to my wife, today’s lesson is simple. Just because you have a long standing client, loyal customers and a big share of the market, doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. It’s important to continue providing excellent service, a great product and NSM (Never Stop Marketing). Otherwise you might find your own personal Gail standing ready to move in on your territory.

Until next time, remember the words of my father, “If you don’t use it, you might just lose it.”

Back to School Blues

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As the day my kids return to school grows closer, I can see my wife literally changing before my eyes. She smiles more, snaps less and is generally happier. I’d like to think she is appreciating the time she has left to spend all day every day with three kids, but I know the truth. She can’t wait for them to go back to school and get out of her hair. I can’t really blame her. I often shut the door to my home office just as the chorus of “I’m bored,” “There’s nothing to do!” or “Why can’t I play my Xbox?” begins. Don’t get me wrong, our children aren’t shut-ins—our daughter has a part time job, the youngest went to swim camp and our middle boy went to computer camp. But those activities only last so long. The rest of the time, they bug us for rides to the mall, hog the TiVo and make my wife’s life a little more challenging. So, now that September is here, Mrs. Winston is excited about getting her house back…and I’m happy to regain control of the television.

Of course, there are some drawbacks. This year is my daughter’s last in high school and next year she will go away to college, leaving our nest just a bit emptier. The real big change is that our “baby” graduated kindergarten and will officially enter the first grade in a brand new school with new teachers and new friends and he’s a bit stressed. I know from all your letters and emails that many of you are experiencing the same type of transition, so I thought I would share some tips I found to help make it a bit easier (for you and your child).

1. Be enthusiastic about the big change. If you are excited your child will be, too.

2. Prepare. If possible, visit the new setting with your child. Introduce your child to the new teacher in advance.

3. Arrange a play date with another child from the new school so your child will see a familiar face when he or she walks in.

4. Start daily routines that will add to continuity. Let your child become involved with packing lunch or laying out clothes.
a) We bought a Lunch Pak Plus imprinted with our son’s name to start the process and symbolize a new beginning.

5. Put aside extra time, particularly on the first day, for chatting and commuting together. But remember not to prolong the good-bye. If the child whines or clings, staying will only make it harder. Say good-bye and then leave.

I hope these few tips will help make your child’s first day of school a fun one to remember. And speaking of remembering, as my Mom used to say to us kids on our first day of school, “Get out of my hair before I give you something to cry about!” Mom wasn’t sentimental, but she meant well.

White Party

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Labor day is right around the corner, which means summer will soon be over, football season is imminent and P. Diddy is about to throw his annual “White Party.” I wasn’t invited last year—come to think of it, I wasn’t invited this year either—but I understand from the talk around town that it was quite the “not to be missed” event. Mary-Kate Olsen’s clone, Ashley, arrived at Diddy’s palace wearing a shaggy outfit that would have looked better on a Scooby-Doo ghost. TMZ cameras were there as Lil’ Kim got off her plane—ready to party in a hot, chesty white mini-dress. Mariah Carey topped Kim outside the event, as she sucked in her stomach and struck a pose. And of course, P. Diddy made his presence known while pimpin’ some nighttime shades in the daytime. Sounds fun…or at least extremely interesting.

You may not have an estate in East Hampton, but you can still end the season in high style with a White Party (or a plain ole barbeque) of your own. Even if your guests don’t require a runway to park their private jets, it’s still important to make them feel special. Nothing makes a guest feel invited like a real, honest to goodness invitation received via the U.S. Postal Service. Anyone can send an evite but nothing beats opening the mailbox to find an envelope requesting your presence at an event other than jury duty. I am also a fan of theme parties and if you decide that white is the theme, go all the way by serving white beverages and white food on, you guessed it, white plates. As Mrs. Winston will tell you, successful party is not complete without a lovely parting gift. This year, the focus is going green and Rush Imprint has plenty of green gifts that will support your theme…whatever it is. The Soverna Canvas Tote is a great way to commemorate your event and close out the summer. If you are feeling really fancy, stuff it full of goodies like your favorite white wine, cheese and crackers and other munchies.

Well, I’m off to the post office to inquire about some missing holiday invitations. Until next time, ask yourself this question, “If white is the new black, why can you still see the ketchup stain on my white shirt?”

Tattoo You

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My daughter, who is a few months shy of her 18th birthday, recently announced her desire to get a tattoo. As someone familiar with branding and four-color imprints, this was a day I dreaded but knew was imminent. As a father, I was appropriately horrified but as a marketer, I found it difficult to argue with her logic that “ink” is an ancient form of branding and she simply wanted to express her unique point of view by imprinting herself in a memorable way. It’s pretty hard to argue with solid logic. Since she is about to become a legal adult, my days of being able to tell her what to do are numbered. So, I did what any parent in my position would do—I offered her a bribe. If she agreed to remain ink free until her 21st birthday, I’d not only give my blessing, I’d pay for the tattoo. I also made her promise not to get a “tramp stamp” (a tattoo placed on the lower back) and asked her to at least consider placing her ink in a place that can be easily hidden just in case she ever decided to go in to politics. Oh, and I promised to give her the Kate Spade purse she had her eye on as a show of good faith.

I’m sure many experts would frown upon bribery as an effective parenting technique but sometimes you’ve just got to be practical and do what works. I’m hoping that she’ll forget all about wanting a tattoo in three years but if not, I’m prepared to up the ante. Which brings me to today’s marketing lesson. When you are considering what kind of gift, tradeshow give away or promotional product to purchase, don’t be afraid to up the ante. Rush Imprint’s products come with one-color imprint, but think about going the extra mile and getting a four-color imprint. Sure it costs a little more, but that extra pop of color goes a long way. Try adding a tag line to your logo for some extra punch or go with a gift with a little more weight like the Covington Bowl, made of 24% lead crystal and crafted by old world artisans; it is the perfect symbol of company pride and will show your clients you mean business.

I’m off to meet my daughter at the mall—it’s time to make good on my promise. Until next time, remember, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”

Picture Imperfect

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I just heard from my editor that my book is going paperback and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Of course, like a lot of good news, there is a bit of a “but” that came with it. Apparently part of the reason my book took so long to sell enough copies to make it to a second printing is because my book jacket photo isn’t “cool” enough. Unbeknownst to me, the Publishing Company organized a few focus groups and discovered that my picture projected an image that didn’t cause books to fly off the shelves. Some of the comments said that I appeared “stuffy,” snobbish,” “crabby” and “nebbish.” Potential book buyers were turned off by my pipe smoking, disliked the vest I was wearing and said I looked like a grouch. Harrumph! Personally, I don’t see it, but I can’t argue with market research—as much as I’d like to. Mrs. Winston found the whole thing hysterically funny and wasn’t able to look at me without bursting into gales of laughter for a full three days.

My editor made an appointment with an edgy young photographer who promised to make me look as cool and hip as possible—under the circumstances. She has a lot of “interesting” ideas that include shooting in an alley, having me sit in an armchair with a graffiti backdrop and shooting me atop a Harley. I’m not sure how any of these will work but I’m willing to give it a try. Stodgy? Me? I’ll show them.

It just goes to show you that even the most experienced of us have room to expand our horizons. That’s why today’s offering is about expansion. The Northwest Expandable Saddle Bag contains a deluxe organizer for phones, business accessories, and files and a detachable, adjustable shoulder strap. Naturally, it has a place for your company’s logo so whoever receives it will think of you every time they use it.

As my great grandma was fond of saying, “If you ain’t learning, you’re dying.” Eloquent, she was not…but she made her point. Well, I’m off to pose for my new headshot. Wish me luck!

Summer Olypmics

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Every year, the whole Winston family looks forward to watching the drama of the Olympic Games unfold. It’s exciting to watch athletes go for the gold for the first time, or perhaps take their last shot at being the best in the world. Adding to the excitement this year was the assurance of an over the top opening ceremony that promised to deliver high impact drama—and China delivered big time in a four-hour ceremony. We sat down as family, popcorn in hand, to watch the pageantry and were treated to a spectacular performance by over 16,000 performers and a fireworks display that was second to none. I particularly loved the lighting of the Olympic flame by gymnast Li Ning. Let’s face it, summer TV is pretty bleak, so even if you’re not a sports fan, the Olympics offers human drama on a global level. It’s real reality TV with people who actually worked hard for the opportunity.

In the spirit of the Olympiad, now is the perfect time to celebrate the award winners on your team. Fostering a sense of teamwork, belonging and pride in being the best is important in every type of business. Sure your sales teams loves the monetary benefits that come with being a top earner, but being recognized as a leader is often just as important. Everyone from the CFO to the mailroom attendant deserves to be recognized for performance excellence and Rush Imprint has a variety of awards designed to do just that. Whether you have a gala awards ceremony or more of an awards spoof, ala The Office’s famous, “Dundies,” Rush Imprint has what you need to make the night, and award recipient feel special. If you take winning seriously, the Dramatis Award with Lighted Base is the perfect way to recognize a significant achievement, this award features an optically perfect piece of crystal mounted on a lighted base which produces an intriguing array of reflections. The crystal’s facets form elongated diamond shapes making them well suited for etching your company’s logo. If you pride yourself on being a fun boss with a healthy sense of humor, the Hand Clapper is a handy way to give your best employees a hand for their hard work. Either way, you (and you valued employees) win.

Well, I’m off to accept my award for cleaning the garage—Mrs. Winston promised a “special” reward for finishing in under a day and I intend to collect. Until next time, remember, “Winning isn’t everything…except when it is.”