April Fools’

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

It’s no secret that, in the Winston household, I am the official fool. However on the 1st of April, the whole family gets into the act and everyone does their best to pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes. This morning, my youngest crept into our bedroom with his school bag packed with clothes, his toothbrush and a sack lunch and announced that he was running away from home. Mrs. Winston pretended to cry and the little guy proudly cried out, “April Fools’!” I’m not sure if I should be proud of the fact that he took such delight in making his mother cry pretend tears, but I do love a good April Fools’ Day gag. That’s why, in honor of pranksters everywhere, I have compiled a list of my three favorite gags perpetrated on the American public on this day of silliness.

• Left Handed Whoppers: In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today, announcing the launch of a Whopper for left-handed people whose condiments were designed to drip out of the right side. Not only did customers order the new burgers, but some specifically requested the “old,” right-handed burger.
• Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to “reduce the country’s debt” and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” When asked about the sale, White House press secretary Mike McCurry replied that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
• In its April 1985 edition, Sports Illustrated published a story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch, and, although he had never played the game before, he could reportedly throw a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. Instead, he had mastered the “art of the pitch” in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the “great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa.” Mets fans celebrated their team’s amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and Sports Illustrated was flooded with requests for more information. In reality this legendary player only existed in the imagination of the article’s author, George Plimpton.

The popularity of April Fools’ Day pranks illustrates just how important it is to inject a little fun and silliness into life…including life at work. While I do not advocate playing the prankster when it comes to your clients or employees, I do think it’s important to remember to have a sense of humor when it comes to promoting your company.
The Disgusted Mood Dude Stress Ball should make even your grouchiest customers giggle as they squeeze their way to relaxation. Or, remind your clients of their inner child by gifting them with a 4-Piece Crayon Set imprinted with your company’s logo. Most people could use a bit of color in their day and by giving people what they really need (metaphorically speaking), you will be remembered and appreciated. After all, when it comes to marketing, you are nobody’s fool.

Well, I’m off to prepare for my big prank—I’m telling my family that we are going to Hawaii for two weeks and I have to get out my flowered shirt and flip flops. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces when they find out it’s a hoax.

March Madness

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Apparently we are smack dab in the middle of a little something called March Madness, which, until recently, I thought was the time of year when Mrs. Winston cleaned for twenty-seven days straight and screamed at anyone who dared to track in dirt after she steamed cleaned the carpets. As it turns out, the “March Madness” everyone is all worked up about has little to do with cleaning and everything to do with basketball fever. Truthfully, I’m not a fan of college sports, so the hoopla is lost on me. According to my neighbor, Saturday’s game to watch is UCLA vs. Xavier, but I am sure that is only because he is a proud alumnus—a very proud alumnus. He had to pay a hefty fine to our Home Owners Association last year for painting his house blue and yellow. I thought it was kind of pretty but when he mounted the six foot Bruin bear on his front lawn, the committee put it’s collective foot down.
Anyway, even though I don’t enjoy watching college ball, I do love events with a lot of nicknames and this one has quite a few. The “Sweet Sixteen” have been narrowed to the “Elite Eight,” which, after this weekend, will be whittled down to the “Final Four” who will compete in “The Big Dance” next weekend in San Antonio. That kind of creativity is to be admired…and exploited. My apathy toward college sports is matched only by my enthusiasm for marketing, so we here at Rush Imprint have a wealth of basketball themed offerings to help you celebrate and make the most of the season. The Final Four is only a week away but you still have time to snap up some creative promotional items that will help you market your brand to basketball nuts and sports gamblers everywhere. For the more scholarly types, the Colossal Basketball Twist pen is nearly twice the size of a regular pen and features high quality, black medium point ink and comfortable rubber grip. For the worriers on your team, a Basketball Stress Reliever imprinted with your company’s logo is the ideal way to celebrate the end of the NCAA tournament. Finally, for your fun loving clients, slap your logo and a cool message on the Slam Dunk Basketball Flip Game. It has an easy-to-assemble metal post with acrylic backboard and rim and comes with a vinyl basketball. We have something for every type of player.
Well, I’ve got to get out of the house for a few hours so Mrs. Winston can deodorize the carpets…again. Until next time, I leave you with the wise words of very tall man who didn’t play basketball. “I liked the choreography, but I didn’t care for the costumes.” (Tommy Tune)

Easter Sale

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I celebrated Easter Sunday by helping Mrs. Winston hold a Spring Cleaning garage sale. We broke with garage sale tradition by starting at noon, so that we could attend Easter services as a family. Plus Mrs. Winston wisely anticipated we would get more foot traffic in the afternoon, as people left church or brunch and headed to egg hunts and family dinners. She also posted several ads, had the kids make colorful signs and place them in strategic locations around our neighborhood and of course, she added an incentive by offering garage salers a free gift—just for stopping by. I was proud my other half for coming up with such a clever promotional idea, until I discovered that the gift she intended to give away was my very first Business Card magnet. I had them made up twenty years and three phone numbers ago when I was promoted to Marketing Manager for the first time, so naturally I was quite attached. My wife is not a sentimental being so she didn’t see the inherent value in having two hundred fifty magnets with my name on them sitting around, “collecting dust,” but I was a little reluctant to part with my collection. She quickly reminded me that she had left the ten boxes of collectible imprinted sippy cups, key chains and paperclip holders alone, so I reluctantly gave my blessing to her giveaway idea. It was a good one after all.

The day was sunny and warm, making it ideal for selling out of doors. I rather enjoyed catching up with neighbors I hadn’t seen in a while and meeting the new families who had recently moved in. Mrs. Keller brought by her famous choco-chip coconut cookies and sweet tea and I even got my Phillips head back from Sam Brown at the end of the cul de sac. We sold a lot of stuff and donated the rest to the Salvation Army so we felt good about doing some good, getting a tax write off and making a little extra cash. My wife won’t tell me the actual amount, so I know it must have been a pretty good haul. I suspect she will soon replace the stuff we got rid of with a few new handbags, designer pillows or French lingerie…a man can dream can’t he?

Well, I’ve got to sign off now in order to prepare for a new seminar I’m giving on “Marketing in a Down Economy”. It’s a grim topic but I have some good jokes planned that are sure to take the edge off. Until next time, ask yourself this, “If you eat the ears off a chocolate bunny, can it hear you chewing?

Pure Vida!

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I recently returned from my nephew’s wedding in Costa Rica—which, if you’ve never been, is a place I highly recommend you visit at least once in your lifetime. It’s beautiful…with fantastic beaches, pristine jungles and lovely locals who live to enjoy life. That’s why “Pura Vida,” which literally translates to “Pure Life,” is such a popular saying over there. Prior to leaving on my first trip to Central America, I took a crash course in Spanish, but since most Ticos have a firm grasp of the English language, locating the nearest bathroom and ordering mango daiquiris was no problem. I won’t bore you with the details of what was a beautiful wedding and lively, rum fueled reception, but I feel compelled to share one thing that made this uncle’s marketing heart burst with pride.

Costa Rica is situated roughly ten degrees north of the equator and as such, sunscreen and a good hat are a tourist’s two best friends. I also found that an ice-cold birra went a long way in offering relief from the hot sun. My nephew, having marketing in his blood, had the foresight to equip his guests with welcome custom totes filled with essentials like sun block, chapstick, imprinted sport bottles and Collapsible Can Coolers. Naturally, all the useful items were imprinted with a warm message, which served as a reminder of a wonderful moment. Unsurprisingly, the Winston’s were beaming with pride at our boy’s marketing acumen. Oh, and the wedding was nice too. All in all it was a great week—filled with fun in the sun, romance and fantastic promotional products…

Well, I’m off to practice for my role in my son’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival at Kingston Elementary. I am replacing Tommy O’Malley’s dad who is suffering from a broken leg and can’t manage it this year. In honor of my Irish readers, and even those of you who are only Irish for a day, I leave you with a traditional Irish blessing:

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.

Language Barrier

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I had another disturbing dream late last night, which may have been caused in part by the sausage pie I consumed an hour before bedtime, but I digress. In the dream, I was transported to a foreign land where the inhabitants spoke a mysterious language I had not heard of, but sounded eerily like “Dark Side of the Moon” played backwards. In the dream, I was gripped by an unbearable thirst but could not find the words to ask for a simple glass of water. I gesticulated wildly, miming what I hoped was a motion that indicated a terrible dryness, but the natives of this unfamiliar land only laughed and pointed as I became more animated. This led to me losing even more precious hydration, as my fruitless machinations caused me to sweat profusely. Just as I was about to break through the language barrier, I woke up with my heart pounding, drenched in sweat and screaming in a foreign tongue.

I tried to explain the dream to my wife but she muttered something about an early morning Boot Camp class and fell back to sleep. I got up to find my daughter studying for her SAT exams in the den and told her about the dream. She’s been studying dream theory in school and helped me recall an unfortunate incident I had with a German tourist who I thought was asking for directions to the La Brea Tar pits, either that or he was asking me to recommend a good rib joint, but was actually in need of a doctor. It was touch and go for a while, but it all turned out okay in the end. I remember thinking he should have brushed up on his English before making a trip to the states. Looking back, I realize I may have been a bit smug, and intolerant. My daughter surmised that my dream was my subconscious mind’s way of shaming me into being more understanding and appreciating others for their differences. Not the sort of lesson one wants to learn from one’s daughter, but I am embarrassed to admit, she was right.

The lesson couldn’t have come at a better time since I just learned that my favorite nephew is getting married in Costa Rica and I don’t speak a lick of Spanish (yet). I can only hope the Ticos are more understanding than the backwards-Pink Floyd speaking natives in my nightmare. But just in case, I’m printing up t-shirts that read, “Me gustaria de agua.” on one side and “¿Dónde está el baño?” on the other. I’m not taking any chances. While you may not need to convey such a literal message, t-shirts are a classic way to promote your brand. I like the Authentic Pigment Men’s Direct-Dyed Heather Ringer Tee from Rush Imprint…a reliable favorite, this t-shirt is made of a 50% cotton and 50% polyester blend and the heathered finish gives this soft t-shirt a casual look. I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t appreciate a free shirt, which makes them a timeless choice for any kind of promotion.

Well, I’m off to meet with my new Spanish tutor; I hope she likes t-shirts. Remember, “patience is a virtue but if you want a glass of water, you’d better learn the language.”

Spring Forward

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I woke up late this morning and nearly missed a brunch date with my in-laws. Although my wife thinks otherwise, my tardiness was entirely unintentional and due solely to that yearly change we call Daylight Saving* Time. Personally, I hate it. It’s not that I have anything against daylight, or savings in general; I just don’t believe that setting our clocks forward one hour accomplishes anything but sleep deprivation and lateness…not the most desirable results.

I realize that I am probably in the minority, since most people seem to enjoy the additional hour of sun Daylight Saving Time affords them at the end of each day. After all, it’s much easier to enjoy summer barbecues when you can see what’s on the grill. I also enjoy a good barbecued chicken wing and an early evening walk about; I just find it more convenient to knock off work early than to change all of my clocks (I have forty-seven of them, including my 13 wrist watches) and get used to a new sleep schedule. Mrs.Winston thinks my hatred of clock changing and refusal to acknowledge the joys of springing forward in time contributes to my curmudgeonly reputation but I vigorously disagree.

I also realize that, like it or not, and thanks to Ben Franklin who was the first to conceive of the notion of saving daylight, the biannual time change is here to stay. So, as I often do, I have turned my annoyance into a marketing opportunity. This year, I sent out fifty Shiny Chrome Desk Clocks (imprinted with my name) to my most important clients. I included a pithy quote about the importance of time to ensure that my gift would be well received. Sometimes giving a gift that is “on the nose” is just the right way to get your message across. It may be too late for you to capitalize on Daylight Saving Time, but a beautiful desk clock with Roman Numerals and a chrome finish is never out of style and at 4”X6” this one is the perfect size to remind your clients that you know what time it is.

Well, I’m off to make dinner for the family—it’s my penance for this morning’s belated brunch. Until next time, remember the wise words of my old friend Harvey MacKay, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”

Valentine’s Day

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

It’s a day that strikes fear in the heart of every married man in America. No, not the day your wife announces her mother is moving in (although that is equally horrible). I am talking about Valentine’s Day of course. There is tremendous pressure heaped upon one to buy the perfect card, expressing the precise sentiment your wife wants to hear, and to send the most resplendent bouquet of overpriced roses, make reservations at the right overcrowded restaurant and purchase the gift that will make all your wife’s friends and co-workers tell her how lucky she is to have such a thoughtful spouse. The pressure is lessoned slightly by the fact that it is nearly impossible to forget the red, white and pink “holiday” because almost as soon as Auld Lang Syne is sung, the stores are packed full of pink bears, cheery cherubs and enough chocolate to feed a medium sized country for a year. Unlike one’s wedding anniversary, which is known to only a select few and remembered mostly by one’s wife. But I digress…and that is not a road I want to travel down right now.
However, there is a bright side, because like most holidays, this one is a perfect opportunity to market your company and increase brand awareness by showing a little love to your best clients. This year, I am sending my favorite clients Love Custom Chocolates to let them know how much I care. I recommend you do the same. If you are not hot on chocolate, the Heart-Shaped Mint Tin is a perfect choice. This two-piece promotional item comes filled with your choice of peppermint, spearmint, wintergreen or cinnamon flavored mints. Both have room for your company logo and promotional message so you can drive your point home and get the most bang for your marketing buck. Either way, you will surely win their hearts.
I got in big trouble for my Valentine gift choice last year, so this year I am not taking any chances. I have a meeting with a personal shopper who has assured me she will help me choose a gift my wife (and her friends) will love. Until next time, I leave you with a quote by my thrice divorced Uncle Lou on my mother’s side, “If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?”

Super Bowl

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

The “big game” is less than a week away and sports fans are all a twitter. No, I’m not talking about the annual Crossword Championship, which is, oddly enough, also going to be held in Arizona this year. I am referring to Super Bowl 42, which may be the year a football dynasty is born. Sports fanatics, writers, gamblers and even screenwriters are busy predicating the outcome. The movie “I am Legend” contains a scene in which a screenshot reads, “Giants lose to Patriots for the second time this season. 23 to 7.” Eerie.
I am usually a big fan of the underdog—I like watching David beat Goliath, but in this case David isn’t so little and Goliath is unbeatable…at least so far. Plus that Tom Brady is a modern day superhero. He’s young, handsome and dating a supermodel. Whether or not they admit it, every guy in America wants to be him, more than they want to beat him…or watch him get beat.
Despite Brady’s rumored ankle injury, Vegas is favoring the Pats by 13-14 points, but who can forget that the Giants were beating the Patriots for much of the last regular season game. They didn’t give them a pass then and I don’t assume they will go gentle into that good night this coming Sunday. The bottom line is, regardless of the odds, predictions and guesses; nobody really knows what will happen on Sunday. Or do they?
The Magic Answer Ball just might be able to take the guesswork out of who will win. Most companies are filled with employees and clients who look forward to spending Sunday glued to the TV, trading predictions and cheering their team. Why not take advantage of a great marketing opportunity and show potential customers you’ve got game? Play both sides of the fence by sending the Magic Answer Ball imprinted with your logo and the question, “Who Will Win?” The real winner will be your brand, which, in the marketing game, is all that matters. Then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the game with some nachos and hot wings—my favorite part of any televised sporting event.
Well, I’m off to practice pretending to look surprise when “my” team wins. I already own the Magic Answer Ball…in three colors. Remember the words of my great aunt Fanny who was the coach of my Dad’s T-Ball team, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game…but you may as well play to win.”

The Swalfin

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I recently took the family to Orlando to experience the wonders of Disney World, Epcot Center, Universal Studios, Sea World and a really good outlet mall. We crammed a year’s worth of amusements into five muggy days and everyone had a great time…except my teen-aged daughter who spent the majority of the trip texting her boyfriend and complaining that humidity was making her hair frizz.

My own enjoyment was nearly thwarted by the confusing accommodations. We decided to stay at a Disney property (when in Rome) with two hotels called The Swan and The Dolphin. As we pulled up, I was struck by the vision of a giant concrete swan perched atop a peach colored building—a little on the nose perhaps, but Disney is nothing if not literal…or so I thought. What I saw next both perplexed and infuriated me. As we continued down the drive, approaching The Dolphin Hotel, I was taken aback to see balanced atop a similarly hued building, what appeared to be a giant…fish! What?! This couldn’t be right. Perhaps there was a third hotel on property called “The Bass” or “The Carp.” My taxi driver assured me that this was indeed the famous Dolphin Hotel and that the creature sitting on top of the structure was in fact, a dolphin. Well, I’m no marine expert, but what I was looking at was quite clearly a fish.

Now I realize that old Walt liked to play with the idea of animals who could talk, wear clothes and otherwise act without regard to the limitations of their species, but at least Mickey looks like a mouse, Donald is quite clearly a duck and Goofy is…well, never mind. The point is, a dolphin is a mammal that breathes air and is known for its intelligence, while a fish is sushi. How am I supposed to explain that to my six year old when right there on top of our hotel called, “The Dolphin,” is a fish…with scales and gills? Disney cost me about thirty-seven hours of answering the question, “why?”

I asked several cast members, otherwise known as hotel employees, about the fish/dolphin controversy and was greeted with the cheerful response that the “fish” was in fact the artist’s rendering of a dolphin. Well, I don’t know who the artist was but he should have his chisel revoked because the animal is a carp, or maybe a bass but it is not a dolphin*.

Not one to take such things lying down, I send 150 Devon & Jones Short Sleeve Tees imprinted with a picture of Flipper and the message, “THIS is a dolphin” to the entire cast of The Dolphin Hotel. It made me feel even better than the $200 I spent on a massage.

Well, I’m off to prepare for my next meeting—I’ve been asked to host the annual armadillo race in Texas and I’ve got to work on my speech. Until next time, remember, “a horse is a horse of course of course…and a fish is never a dolphin.”

*An equally outraged, yet charming, friend informed me later that the animal atop the hotel is a dolphin fish, which, we agreed, would make perfect sense if the hotel were called, “The Dolphin Fish, which it is not.”


Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Like many work-at-home types, I often find it stimulating to leave the solitary surroundings of my home office. Sometimes that means taking a brisk walk or visiting my local library, but more often than not, I find myself joining legions of laptop lovers and setting up shop at one of ten zillion Starbucks in my neighborhood.

And yes, I am a loyal Starbucks customer. I much prefer the brisk efficiency with which the green apron clad staff carry out their duties to the more laid back (slow) service of the Coffee Bean set. I have tried them all—Seattle’s Best, Peet’s and Dietrich’s, but I always return to my beloved Starbucks. I know there are lots of folks out there who prefer the unique flavor of a Mom & Pop coffeehouse and who hate the idea of corporate coffeehouses taking over whole neighborhoods. They rail against uniformity and the specificity with which the baristas take java orders. (Don’t try ordering a large coffee…when what you really want is a “Venti” drip.)

Not me. As a frequent traveler, I quite enjoy the fact that no matter where you go, every Starbucks is exactly the same. I can go to a store in Dallas and expect the same drinks and service that I get in Arizona or Ojai. I find it comforting that a Grande Soy Vanilla Latte tastes exactly the same in New York’s East Village as it does in St. Paul, Minnesota. In a complicated world, I revel in the simplicity of a uniform cup of coffee, a maple oat scone and the ability to sit back and relax in the warm, safe embrace of homogeneity.

Proof, I believe, that you don’t always have to break the mold to build a successful brand. We can all take a page out of the book of Starbucks when it comes to marketing our businesses and creating effective promotional materials. If what you are offering is a solid product or service with a proven track record, you don’t need to be different or groundbreaking to be successful. With that in mind, the Easy Grip Stainless Steel Thermos Mug is a practical, pleasing promotional gift that is never out of style. Everyone loves hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate on the go and this one has a contemporary hourglass design, stainless steel construction and features an easy-open pour spout, combination lid/drinking mug and a skid-proof bottom. Naturally, you’ll want to include your logo so your clients, prospects and employees remember that your brand is classic and around for the long haul.

Well, I’m off to enjoy a Grande Soy Double Shot Latte with a nice, delicious biscotti from my favorite coffee place. In the meantime, enjoy The Way I See It #248 by the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales.

“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet
is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. Wikis
give us a place where anyone who is kind, thoughtful and intelligent
can come and join us in building a better and more rational world.”