Star Struck

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Last night I dreamt that my wife and I went to the movies…and with three kids, going to a movie alone really is a dream. To get there, we had to walk through a crowd of country singers, break dancers, girl scouts and geriatric pogo stickers—only to end up in the middle of a cat circus. I started sneezing uncontrollably and we were transported by a particularly powerful “achoo” to the theatre’s box office. I was ready to purchase our tickets when I noticed a rather suspicious looking gentleman with more tattoos than Kat Von D lurking just inside. Upon closer inspection, I also saw a group of ne’er-do-wells having a popcorn fight and what appeared to be a biker gang barbequing a pig on a spit right under the sign for “High school Musical III.” I was literally gripped by fear (he has very strong hands) as I imagined the horrors that must await me inside the theatre. Visions of thugs throwing slurpees at the screen and helpless movie watchers, parentless children running up and down the aisles carrying scissors and matches and rowdy clowns making balloon animals that come to life swirled in my head. As sweat started to bead on my forehead, I grabbed my wife’s hand and was about to high tail it out of there when I spotted veteran comedic actress Catherine O’Hara exiting the theatre looking relaxed and calm. Suddenly the theatre didn’t seem quite so threatening. If a B-list actress whose work I enjoy very much could not only survive, but enjoy her visit to this shady theatre, then so could I.

What actually did await me, I will never know because I woke up just before I opened the theatre door. In remembering my rather odd dream, I marveled at my own shallowness. Did I really decide to enter a place that I judged unsavory simply because an actress walked out? Was I really so malleable that my mind could be changed by the mere presence of a celebrity? I have some serious self-examination to attend to. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what the marketing lesson is, but I do know that everybody has keys and most people like stars. So, next time you launch a promotion, add your logo to the Maraca Star Key Chain and give your company a little star power. It’s a cute, fun keychain that lets you shake, shake, shake and insures that your company name will be seen and heard.

Well, I’ve got to go see my therapist so I can get to the bottom of my celebrity obsession. Until next time, ponder the wise words of Anderson Cooper, I know I will. “The whole celebrity culture thing – I’m fascinated by, and repelled by, and yet I end up knowing about it.”

Weight Lifting

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Mrs. Winston came barreling in to my office this morning to announce that her diet was working—she had lost two pounds in two days and was going to have a piece of French toast to celebrate her success. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that, due to gravitational effects, you weigh slightly less when the moon is directly overhead. The truth is, my wife looks great no matter what her weight so I kept my mouth shut and joined her for French toast. It was delicious and reminded me of when we were first married. Mrs. Winston used to make me breakfast every morning—usually it was eggs, but Sundays were French toast days. We’d sleep in late, read the paper in bed and then she’d get up and make breakfast while I finished the crossword puzzle. There were no kids to feed, dress or yell at and we were free to do anything we pleased. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and we have a great family life, but I sometimes long for the good old days when it was just the two of us. I told her as much over breakfast and we decided it would be fun to play hooky for a day or two.
So next weekend, my in-laws are coming to pick up the kids and my wife and I are going to enjoy a little stay-cation in our own home. We can’t wait to not clean the house, mow the lawn, cook for three picky eaters or fight for the remote. It will be just the two of us, lying in bed, doing the crossword and eating a late, leisurely breakfast. My wife has already informed me that this time I will be the one cooking—which is fine by me. After breakfast we are going to “take a nap” or two (a man can dream) and then go out for dinner to a place that does not have a children’s menu. We may even get crazy and go to a movie or pop in somewhere for a nightcap. I am very much looking forward to the weekend…especially since Mrs. Winston came home with a Victoria’s Secret shopping bag.
The point is, it’s important to remember how you got to the place you are now and bring some of the romance back into your relationship. We didn’t start out with three kids, a house, two cars, a cat, two birds and four goldfish—it used to be just the two of us. The same principle applies to your business. Take a moment and ask your self how you got to where you are now. Chances are it started with a great product or service and a willingness to work hard to gain a client base. So, when you are thinking about your promotional marketing campaign, go back to the basics and give your customers something they can really use…like a little of your time. The At Clock is a whimsical timepiece and a guaranteed attention grabber. The clock’s sleek design gives it a modern flair while the @-shaped face will remind your clients that you are just an e-mail away. This portable analog clock makes an attractive gift for anyone doing business in the virtual world.

I’m off to the flower shop to order a bouquet of roses to kick off the big weekend. Until next time, remember, “ Marriage is forever but you’ll be happier if you act like it’s just for today.”

Sandwich Day

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

With all the hoohah about Election Day, it seems that Americans have forgotten that there are other days in November that are worth honoring. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of voting, patriotism or Election Day, but I think there are a few other days that we, as good Americans, should acknowledge. For example, did you know that the day before Election Day is National Sandwich Day? I have never been able to turn down a perfectly grilled cheese or gooey PB&J. Although many people enjoy sandwiches, some of us on a daily basis, few realize that the luncheon staple enjoyed by millions of Americans was invented in 1762 by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, when he created the sandwich by putting meat between two pieces of bread. Even fewer know that the Earl, a renowned gambler, did this in order to sit at the gambling tables for long periods of time. Okay, so maybe his motives were questionable, but because of him, I am able to enjoy my daily Panini. Sandwich day should be properly celebrated by gobbling down America’s favorite lunchtime entrée. If you work in an office, head off food poachers by packing your sammie in a Lunch Caddy and keeping it at your desk.

Another red-letter day in November, which coincidentally pairs very nicely with sandwiches, is Book Lovers Day. Readers everywhere celebrate this day on both August 9th and the first Saturday of November—a past time so important, we honor it twice! While it’s unclear who created the day, there is no doubt that reading is a great hobby; one that is not only educational and informative, but a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. For those who have more mundane daytime activities to attend to, the Limelite Book Light will let you get your read on at night—without disturbing your non-literary spouse.

Button Day falls on November 16th and is a fun day to collect, use, and just enjoy buttons. The origins of this day are unknown. So, we can’t be certain to the real meaning of this day. Button Day is Button come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors and designs At last count, I have over 372 different promotional buttons in a myriad of shapes and sizes. My largest button is two feet in diameter—I get a lot of comments (and a backache) when I wear that one! Politicos aren’t the only ones who can use buttons to promote their cause, create a custom button with your logo and a clever saying to give your business a little face time.

Fun and unusual “holidays” are a marketers dream. Capitalize on oddball occasions and use them to promote your business. Give branded gifts to potential clients to celebrate holidays that are off the beaten path—you will score points for creativity and are sure to stand out from the crowd. Until next time, remember what my eccentric Auntie Flossie used to say, “Don’t be afraid to celebrate the unusual—wear purple, put a flower in your hair, stand up and be counted.”

Get Your Vote On

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Everybody knows there are a few topics that are verboten during polite discourse—politics, religion and my mother-in-law’s peculiar proclivities. For the last several months, however, politics has been a tough topic to avoid. It’s seems that the newscasters, pundits, bloggers and even my Aunt Mabel can’t seem discuss anything else but the upcoming elections. And why not? This year’s presidential race is historic—no matter who wins, the outcome will be unprecedented. Even with the economic turmoil, campaign mudslinging and general uncertainty, there is no doubt that it is an exciting time. On November 4th, either the first African American President will be elected, or we will have elected a woman to the second highest office in the land…which ever way it turns out, history will be made. And that, I believe, is the point.

As a responsible marketer, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the election is the perfect time to show your true blue colors when it comes to marketing your business. Use this as an opportunity to highlight your patriotism (without tipping your partisan hand), by choosing promotional items that say, “I love America,” without offending either side of the political aisle. You can encourage people to vote, while simultaneously reminding them of the great service you provide by gifting loyal customers and potential clients with the Patriot pen; or pack up customer purchases in a red, white and blue Flag Bag. Both have plenty of room for your company logo, so no matter which way the vote swings—you win.

The lesson today is simple, Fourth of July is not the only time to get your stars and stripes on, November 4th is an ideal time of year to purchase patriotic promotional products to productively promote your profession. Also, alliteration is fun…but I digress. Until next time, remember what a pretty good writer once said. “Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: ‘Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Wordy – October 16th is Dictionary Day!

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Fellow vocabulary aficionados know that October 16th was Dictionary Day—a sacred holiday that should be celebrated with reverence and gratitude for the late, great Noah Webster. And in the Winston household, it was. For those of you who are ill acquainted with my favorite holiday and have not yet realized why it should be enthusiastically celebrated, Mr. Webster was born on the sixteenth day of October in the year 1758 and is widely considered to be the Father of the American Dictionary. He began writing his dictionary at the age of 43 and it took him 27 years to complete. Now that’s a man who understood the value of patience. The objective of this revered day is to emphasize the importance of dictionary skills and to encourage good vocabulary.

I started the day by reading a couple dozen pages from my well-worn dictionary and memorizing at least three new words, which I worked into every conversation, email correspondence and IM I had that day. After breakfast, I played Scrabble online for a few hours to get my word juices flowing and prepared me very well to play a few live games with the kids when they got home from school. While I waited for the school bus to arrive, I worked two and a half crosswords—and not the easy ones—the NY Times Sunday crosswords are my favorite. When they finally arrived, we played Scrabble—tournament style—and then, at dinner, everyone chose a “favorite” word to expound upon. Whoever’s word is deemed ”the best” wins a special prize. This year, I had a special Organic Cotton Washed Twill Cap imprinted with “Lord of the Words.” I can’t wait to wear it to my next crossword contest!

I hope all of my readers had as much fun celebrating Dictionary Day as we did, and if you missed it this year, then mark you calendars for next October 16th. Until next time remember, “An apple a day will keep the doctor away, but a word a day will keep stupidity at bay.”

Rock & Roll

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

If you have never had the good fortune to travel by private jet, and aside from rock stars and presidents—few of us have, I can tell you, not from personal experience, that it is the ultimate luxury. And it ought to be luxurious—a private flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas runs about eight grand (that’s $133.00 a minute), so even big time celebs usually reserve those trips for when the “company” is paying. I recently moderated a car dealer meeting for a major auto manufacturer that hired some A-list talent to perform after the business meeting. Judging by my paycheck and hotel accommodations, I know I was “C” or “D” list at best, so I was picked up by a town car at the airport and driven to the venue, while my rock star counterparts jetted in on private planes, were whisked into Escalades waiting on the tarmac and chauffeured to the backstage entrance. All I could think, as security ordered me to stand back, was that it must be nice to live the rock star life.

Experience tells me that I am not alone—most people would jump at the chance to live like a star, if only for a moment. While most of us can’t actually live a rock & roll life, we can travel in style. Why not offer your clients a little bit of luxury by gifting them with something that makes business travel more of a pleasure? The Comfort Travel Set contains everything they’ll need to make traveling commercial feel a little more relaxing. The wrap case includes an inflatable neck pillow, eye mask, earplugs and travel alarm clock, and of course has plenty of room for your company logo. Your customers will appreciate your thoughtfulness and remember you every time they insert the earplugs that mercifully drown out their seatmate’s dissertation on why whole life insurance is superior. Believe me, they will thank you for it!

Well, I’m off to the bike store—I’ve decided to go green, save some gas and get some exercise, so I’m switching to two wheels. Remember, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might just find, you get what you need.”

Nailed It!

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I woke up this morning to the sound of my wife yelping in pain. Fearing the worst, I leapt out of bed and prepared to defend my beloved from the masked intruder that must have circumvented the alarm system and broken in to our bedroom. Once I was alert and out of bed, the yelping stopped and I discovered that we were alone in the room. No one had broken in to steal my wife’s jewels or my lanyard collection. I breathed a sign of relief and fell back into bed only to be shaken awake by my perturbed wife. Apparently, the yelping was induced by my talons (her word) scraping against her delicate legs. Okay, so maybe I had let my toenails get a bit out of control but I think her reaction was a tad overblown. I tried to tell her that she was overreacting but she refused to listen and promptly made an appointment for me at her favorite nail salon.

Two hours later I found myself sitting in a vibrating chair, feet soaking in a vibrating tub of warm water with an angry sounding Asian woman leaning over my feet and shaking her head. As she examined my toes, she yelled something I didn’t understand to the woman next to her and the two broke into a fit of giggles. I was fairly certain they were making fun of me and I was about to leave in a huff but she started massaging my pups with scented lotion and I fell back into the chair. For the next twenty minutes, she clipped, filed, trimmed, scrubbed and scraped my feet into submission, and I have to admit, my feet have never looked better—and they felt fantastic—soft as a baby’s cheek.

I realize that not all men are as open minded as I am and the thought of getting a professional pedicure is about as far fetched as getting a facial or taking a Pilates class—and that’s fine. The nail salon is not for everyone, but the Illusion Series Manicure Set is something everybody can use. The set includes: stainless steel tweezers, knife/cuticle shaper, nail clippers, nail file, scissors, and a cuticle trimmer. It’s a great, unexpected give away for customers, friends and employees that ensures you will be remembered while the recipient is taking care of business.

Well, I’m late for Pilates so I’ll leave you with a little wisdom from my dear old Dad, “Marriage is like pie, eat the whole thing, and you’ll end up with a stomach ache.”


Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As my Nana Winston used to say, “Keep it simple, Stupid!” The old gal was not a charming conversationalist, but she did know how to get her point across. Come to think of it, she wasn’t the soft hearted Nana a lot of folks were fortunate to grow up with—for example, she was fond of using the word, “Dummy!” when referring to one of us kids doing something, well, dumb. She never let me win me at Scrabble, made me help with the dishes and her idea of a bedtime story was reading my brother and I excerpts from the true crime novels she loved so much. But, I digress. The point is, she was a smart lady and, when it came to getting things done the right way, she knew what she was doing. Nana realized that overly fussy throw pillows and fancy doilies were a waste and believed that apple pie was a better dessert than a pomegranate soufflé.

The same applies to your promotional marketing plan. I’m not one to call names, so I’ll just say that sometimes simplicity is the smartest thing you can do for your company. Don’t over think your promotional plan; sometimes the best course of action is right there in front of you. We are smack dab in the middle of football season, so why not develop a promotion around America’s favorite sport? There are many things you can do to capitalize on the spirit of the season—sponsor a local peewee football team and parents and fans right in your neighborhood will see your name every game day. Or, you can plan a fun give-away around football. Show clients, employees and prospective customers that you can play with the big boys by gifting them with a game of Football Paddleball. If you have a storefront, consider creating a game day promotion for customers who enter your store . You can give away Colossal Football Twist Pens imprinted with your company logo to the first 100 people through the door. Offering an incentive will bring clients in, and offering a great take-away that includes your company’s logo will ensure that your name will go out into the world when they leave.

Tom Brady may be out for the season but you have plenty of opportunities to score for your company. So, get out there and play to win. I’ve got to go help my son with his Columbus Day school project—we’re creating buttons imprinted with Christopher’s picture to hand out to the class. Remember, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me—at least not for very long.”

Dollars and Sense

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I went to my favorite coffee shop the other day and ran into my stockbroker, gulping a triple espresso and looking like he hadn’t slept for days. I reluctantly asked how he was doing and he launched into a tale of woe, the likes of which I haven’t heard since Nana told us stories about living through the Great Depression. The guy was a wreck. I reminded him that historically, the market corrects itself and that even though the current landscape was bleak, it would get better. He shook his head, smiled weakly and ordered an extra large piece of chocolate walnut cake to go. Apparently, the pressure was getting to him and he had taken up stress eating.

He’s definitely not alone—times are uncertain and many of us are feeling the strain of the shaky economy. While it’s no fun to worry and wonder, stressing out will not help the situation. In fact stress, defined as “a mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression,” can be harmful to our mental health, as well as our physical health. I find yoga and plain old deep breathing helps quell my own anxiety but nothing calms my nerves more than a good belly laugh.

Sure it’s a cliché, but laughter really is powerful medicine and, although I’m not a medical doctor, I recommend you indulge as frequently as possible. In fact, think about injecting a little levity into your marketing campaign. Whether you are in the financial services or any other industry, your clients could use a chuckle. Rush Imprint offers a wide variety of Money Stress Relievers that will bring a much-needed smile to your customer’s face. Add your company logo and a clever message, and you will instantly be associated with relieving stress…rather than causing it. You know what they say, “if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

Well, I’m off for a double session with my yogi—his business is booming—so I’ll leave you with the wise words of Tom Rataj. “When stress is at it’s highest, just know it can only go down.”

Customer Service

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Everybody knows the importance of providing good customer service, but not everybody provides it. In fact, just last week I experienced the type of customer service that made me want to reach across the counter and strangle a person. But, being the reasonable, levelheaded type, I kept my hands in my pocket and let my closed wallet do the talking. That’s thing about bad customer service—unless you are a cable company, treating your customers poorly will eventually hit you where it hurts. Since you can find almost anything on the Internet, even companies who used to be the only game in town have had to step up their client relations or lose business. Frankly, that’s the way it should be. Competition makes everyone better—even when large conglomerates can undercut prices, smaller companies can offer a superior level of customer service to clients who appreciate being appreciated.

But what about the folks at your company who are responsible for providing great service to your customers? They need love too. That’s why, in 1992 the U.S. Congress proclaimed Customer Service Week a nationally recognized event, devoted to recognizing the importance of customer service and honoring the people on the front lines of the service revolution. So, while we all know what good customer service is and is not, you are wise to also remember the people who help you provide it. Since Customer Service Week begins October 6th, you still have just enough time to acknowledge the VIPs in your organization. Be a sport and get them something to let them know you value their hard work. The Clear Slant-Top Paperweight can be engraved with your company logo and the recipient’s name and accomplishment, and is an affordable way to show your appreciation for your whole team. For the superstars of your organization, go the extra mile and give them special recognition with the Medium Shooting Star. It’s made of made of 24% lead crystal and comes encased in it’s own gift box. The bottom line is, everyone likes to be acknowledged for doing a good job and giving well-deserved kudos will ultimately serve you well.

Well, I’m off to buy my assistant a well deserved gift and I can promise you two things: 1) I’ll put my name on it and 2) I won’t buy it at the sorry excuse for a store I visited last week. Until next time, I leave you with wise the words of Voltaire, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”