Boxed In

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I’ve learned a lot in my years as a marketing guru and promotional products expert. I’m adept at positioning, know all the buzzwords and catch phrases, and understand the value of name recognition. I also know, thanks to my great grandfather Winston, the importance of simplicity when conveying a complex message. In fact, he had a saying for it…K.I.S.S. Keep it simple Simon. I never did figure out who Simon was but I did remember the first part. In business, like in life, it often pays to deliver a simple message in a straightforward manner. I’m not saying being literal is the only way to go, but in a marketplace saturated with clever advertising campaigns and complex messaging, simplicity can be remarkably effective.

Lots of companies are out there clamoring for consumers attention and oftentimes the best way to slice through the competition is with a straight edge. The Box Cutter Key Chain does just that (it also retracts into a hard plastic case for safekeeping). What better way to let clients know you think outside the box than by giving them a way to get inside of one? Or, use a time tested marketing strategy and position your company against the grain. If everyone is thinking “outside the box,” play the opposite and demonstrate that you work effectively inside the box…or, as my Zen Master says, “Be the box.” Either way, your message will be remembered.

Until next time, remember the words of Leonardo da Vinci who said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I’m off to a parent teacher conference at my six year old’s school. He got busted for writing his name on his desk…in permanent marker. I couldn’t be more proud.

Fly Right

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I just got back from a trip to Atlanta where I scored tons of free swag at a cosmetics convention. I gave most of it to my wife, except the men’s foaming face wash, which smells good and makes my pores look tiny. Hey, I like to take care of my skin. But never mind that. The point is, I was reminded once again of the perils of coast-to-coast air travel. If you have flown at all in the last five years then you are already aware that the days of “chicken or beef,” tasteless but for the salt, piping hot meals served in plastic containers are long gone.

These days, the meals are cold, still tasteless and cost extra. You can buy an un-tasty sandwich for five bucks or a chewy, but not in a good way, cookie for three. It’s bad enough that you are forced to eat airline food, now you have to pay for it…exact change is appreciated. Sure you can buy a snack at the airport to take on the plane with you but you are pretty much limited to fast food or dry sandwiches that are as costly as they are unsatisfying. It’s pretty depressing, especially if like most of us, you are trying to eat healthier. Try finding organic anything at the airport snack shop. You can also forget sticking to a low carb, high protein, low fat or reduced sodium diet.

Fortunately, I found a way to eat right while I fly. I never travel without my Personal Tote & Cooler. I carry fresh, homemade meals on the plane with me so traveling on business doesn’t mean I have to give up eating well. You should see the jealous stares I get from my seatmates as I pull out a fresh salad topped with chicken and Gorgonzola with a nice balsamic dressing. Of course I have to remember to pack no more than three ounces of dressing and carry it in a plastic bag but it’s a small price to pay for a good meal at 35,000 feet.

If you are looking for a practical gift for frequent travelers on your list, the Personal Tote & Cooler is perfect. It not only keeps perishables cool, but the large upper compartment is perfect for carrying important work documents or the latest Grisham novel. All eyes will be on your logo as the lucky traveler pulls out a homemade sandwich, cold pasta salad and fresh fruit instead of the barely edible snacks the airlines are shilling these days.

Well, I’d better go unpack. Mrs. Winston has offered to take my travel clothes to the drycleaners and I want to catch her before the offer expires. Remember, “Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy a small seat on a big plane.”

Memory Lane

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

In an effort to battle insomnia, I decided to do a little time travel. No, I didn’t step into the “Way Back Machine” or go for a ride in a DeLorean back to the future. My trip through time was a whole lot easier…I jumped in the car and took a drive down Memory Lane, which was the name of the street my wife and I lived on when we were first married. Much like your average two year old who falls asleep as soon as he’s strapped into his car seat, driving relaxes me. Don’t worry, I usually wait until I get home to fall asleep so you shouldn’t fear sharing the road with me. Back then, we lived in a tiny guesthouse at the end of the block while we dreamed about upgrading to the spacious house that we lived behind. Our kitchen was so small we couldn’t toast bread and make coffee at the same time without bumping into each other. But we didn’t mind, in fact sometimes I’d make toast while my wife was making coffee, just so I could bump into her.

I had heard they were tearing the place down to make room for a Starbucks so I thought I’d take one last look while I still had the chance. It was exactly as I remembered it, except smaller. Our newlywed love nest was no bigger than my daughter’s bedroom and the front house that had seemed so huge then was around the same size as the house we live in now. That’s the thing about memories I guess. You don’t always remember things exactly the way they were; instead you recall how you felt at the time, which is the important thing after all.

Memories are universal—we all have them and we all get a little misty and nostalgic when remembering the good ole days. I’ve found the best way to combat the “way it was” blues is to share old memories and to continue making new ones. Of course, it’s important to remember the memories you make and today’s offering gives you a way to do just that. The Metropolitan Leather Photo Box is a wonderful way to store treasured photos and other valuable keepsakes. Keep it for yourself or give it to valuable clients to remind them of your value. Take advantage of the 4” x 6” photo frame that is integrated on the lid and include a photo of your company or an inspirational message. I’m using my box to store my mug shot. The neighborhood watch captain called the cops when he saw me “lurking” on Memory Lane.

Speaking of making memories, I’m off to create some new ones with the Winston clan at the “May Apple Stomp” in Columbus, Ohio. Should make for some good photos. My father’s good friend Elbert Hubbard always said, “A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.”

Summer Lovin’

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My wife came home after meeting with a “Certified Color Analyst” and announced that she was a summer, which was really surprising because she had always imagined herself a spring, and now she had to rethink her entire wardrobe. She also informed me that I’m a winter which is probably why we get along—-opposites attract and all that. After spending several hours in her closet, my wife emerged with an armful of clothes and announced that she needed to buy a whole new wardrobe because her clothes were washing her out. I’ve been in the marketing game long enough to recognize a clever ploy when I hear one—her certified color analyst also happens to be a “certified” personal shopper. I’ve also been married long enough to know when to keep my opinions to myself. So, needless to say, Mrs. Winston and her Color Analyst / Personal Shopper / New Best Friend are out shopping in an attempt to summerize her wardrobe. I haven’t the faintest idea what it means to be a summer but I have a feeling it’s expensive.

While she is out, I am taking advantage of the time to prepare for summer, my way. I’m cleaning the barbeque, dusting off the lawn chairs, unwinding my hammock and getting ready for the Winston Annual Memorial Day Summer Kick-off party. It’s great fun and the whole neighborhood comes out to eat burgers, dogs and Mrs. Winston’s famous red, white and blue jello salad. I always give away a little something for our guests to remember us by, and this year is no exception. Since Memorial Day is a time for showing patriotism, I’ve decided to give our guests Patriotic Can Jerseys from Rush Imprint. They keep cold drinks cold and are designed in the shape of a football jersey with plenty of room for your company logo or promotional message. Mine says, “Virgil Winston…Master BBQ Chef and Marketing Genius.”

Rush has all kinds of Patriotic gifts so if can jerseys aren’t your speed, the USA Made Flag Pen is a great giveaway for any company gathering, picnic or meeting. If you want to infuse a little fun into your takeaway, USA Maracas make a lot of noise and will ensure your message is heard while bringing a smile to the receivers face. Whichever gift you choose, your generosity, patriotism and company spirit will surely win clients and influence new customers to buy your product or service.
Well, I’m off to train for the neighborhood hot dog eating contest with my youngest son. We don’t stand a chance of winning since Takeru Kobayashi and his son just moved into the neighborhood but I think we’ve got a good shot at an honorable mention. Truth is, I’m just in it for the free T-shirt…but you probably knew that.

Mother Load

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Sometimes a day is so important, it deserves to be celebrated all week long. Mother’s Day is such a day. And as important as it is to be grateful for what you have, like a great mom or loving wife, it is just as important to be thankful for what you don’t have. Not everyone is blessed with a mother who baked apple pie, kissed the pain of skinned knees away or knitted sippy cup cozies in her spare time. In the interest of fairness, or at least schadenfreude, today’s column is dedicated to the best of the worst…Moms.

I think we can all agree that no one is more ill suited to be a mother than a celebrity. After all, motherhood is based on the ability to be selfless and most famous people didn’t get that way by putting themselves last. Sure there are the Jennifer Garners and Reese Witherspoons, who are frequently photographed doing normal mommy things like playing in the sandbox, picking their kids up from school and have made the controversial decision to raise their offspring without a nanny. I’m talking about the moms you’re glad you don’t have—moms that make your mother in law look like Mother Theresa and Angelina Jolie all rolled up into one.

My first pick for “best of the worst” is none other than Paris Hilton’s mom, Kathy. Sure, one daughter is a hot handbag designer and seems to avoid scandal but the other one is going to jail and all Kathy had to say was, “I can’t believe all the money we spent on this.” My second pick is anyone with the last name, Spears. Technically this covers Britney and her mom, but I think that the woman who let her kid dress like a schoolgirl gone bad when she was still a girl was not thinking too clearly. And I think we’ve all seen enough pictures of the former pop princess putting her son’s life in peril to know why she deserves to be in the running for “best of the worst.” Finally, I nominate the one and only Dina Lohan, Lindsay’s mom, who reportedly called herself “the white Oprah,” which is confusing for a number of reasons. Momma Lohan has developed quite a reputation for partying with her famous daughter and using her to get into LA hotspots.
Never one to miss a marketing opportunity, I have decided to take advantage of the lull in Awards season and create my very own, first annual, “Virgil Winston Best of the Worst Award.” Rush Imprint has an award for every occasion and the distinctive Round Award, made of Jade crystal and hand-cut with beveled edges, is the perfect way to say, “Congratulations! You may be the worst, but at least you are the best at it.”

Well, I’m off to pick Mrs. Winston up from the spa…she believes Mother’s Day should be celebrated all week long too. Who am I to argue? I’ll leave you with the words of Dina Lohan, who said, when asked about those who criticize her parenting style, “I’m living the American dream, and you can go . . .” I think I’ve found my winner.

Good Morning Sunshine

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

If you’re like my neighbor Joe, you may have woken up Sunday afternoon on your front lawn wearing a sombrero, clutching an empty tequila bottle, and you are probably reading this with the shades drawn and the remnants of a splitting headache. For those of you who woke up with the sunrise and enjoyed a morning jog before breakfast, you may be wondering how in the world someone in a respectable neighborhood could end up in such a state. Three words…Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo is primarily a regional holiday in Mexico commemorating an initial victory of Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín over French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The date is observed in the United States and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. A common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day; Mexico’s Independence Day is actually September 16.

Somehow, the day of celebration has evolved into an occasion to drink cervezas and have a block party. Many believe it marks the unofficial beginning of summer. The weather turns warmer and moods lighten as the days heat up and everyone spends more time outdoors.

With all the music festivals, company picnics and summer fairs that take place from May to September, sunscreen becomes a hot ticket. Be the first to show customers and employees that you care about their pucker by giving away branded Lip Balm – SPF 15. With your logo wrapped around a much-needed item, your company’s name will be on the lips and in the pockets of sun worshippers everywhere. And if you happen to know anyone named, “Joe,” a Friendly Face Clock is just what the doctor ordered.

Well, I’m off to the Merle Norman National Sales Meeting where I’m signing copies of my book, Marketing for Dummies. Word on the street is that they have killer goody bags filled to the brim with brand new make-up products so I plan to stock up. Mrs. Winston’s birthday is just around the corner. Oh, and while you’re enjoying the summer, remember, “Sunshine all the time makes a desert”

Your Mom

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away (May 13th) and this year my wife has asked for only one thing. Well, two things actually but that’s a private matter. She asked that, “for once in my life,” I publish my annual Mother’s Day blog in time for readers to actually take her…er… my advice. Okay, the truth is, I did ask for her input about the featured items—she is a mother after all. So, today I dedicate this column to all moms everywhere—working moms, stay at home moms, adoptive moms, single mothers, young, old, first timers, steps and most especially, my Mom. Ethel, this one’s for you! To celebrate, I pulled together a list of facts and stats (two of my favorite things) to honor Mom. Enjoy the following mother numbers:

• 1907 – The year Mother’s Day was first observed in the United States
• 75 Million – number of mothers of all ages
• 57 – Percentage of women in the U.S., ages 15 to 44, who are mothers
• 67 – Percentage of women in Kentucky, ages 15 to 44, who are mothers
• 147.9 Million – Total value of shipments of Mother’s Day cards
• 1-in-33 – Odds of a woman delivering twins
• 55 – Percentage of mothers in the labor force with infant children
• 10 million – Number of single mothers living with children under age 18
• Tuesday – Most popular day of the week in to have a baby
• August – Most popular month to have a baby

That’s all very interesting you’re thinking, but what to give to that special lady on “her” day? Oh, and in case you were not already aware, you’d better not forget to get a gift for the mother of your children. Trust me on this one. Chocolate is always a classic and unless your Mom (or wife) is dieting, she will love the Truffle Box with Gold Stripes, containing an assortment of delectable truffles. Everybody loves chocolate. Being a mom today is challenging so show the mom you are married to that you get it by giving her the Icon Balancing Act. It’s a clever conversation piece and is an especially thoughtful gift for the working mom. There is no job more difficult than motherhood and while it is extremely rewarding, there is a fair amount of stress that comes with the gig. Give the mothers in your life a little relief with the Mundo Stress Ball. Its global shape will let them know that you know they are the best at what they do.

Well, I’m off to go shopping; I suggest you do the same. I’ll let a mother have the last word. Rose Kennedy once said, “I looked on child-rearing not only as a work of love and duty, but as a profession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honorable profession in the world, and one that demanded the best that I could bring it.”

Road Trip…Literally

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Things have been a bit chaotic in the Winston household so I decided this weekend would be an ideal time to take a road trip up the coast. Mrs. Winston doesn’t share my penchant for the open road as she suffers from acute carsickness and the kids were tied up with birthday parties and soccer practice, so I decided to go it alone. I was a little uncertain about making the trip solo until I realized it meant I would be able to play my music free of teenage disdain and I could stop at every tourist trap from here to San Francisco to hunt for unusual souvenirs for my new book. You wouldn’t believe how many different ways there are to brand a decorative toilet seat cover. Don’t worry; I’ve covered it thoroughly in Chapters 4, 8 and 56.

I left the house early Saturday morning with my Duval Travel Mug and a cooler full of sandwiches, full of positive expectations for a fruitful and relaxing trip. Unfortunately that was a pipe dream as I am writing my blog from inside the Monterey Emergency Room. I’ve had plenty of time too since I’ve been waiting in a “room” for over three hours without so much as an offer of aspirin or a cold compress. I could use one too since both my index fingers are swollen and quite possibly sprained…or worse.

I can’t go into too much detail because my injuries make typing difficult but suffice it to say, I was in a freak photography accident. Apparently the little signs that are posted by shore warning sightseers not to wander out too far are not completely without merit. I was just planning to grab a quick self-portrait on the rocks for my book jacket so I hung my coat on the sign, set the self-timer on my camera and headed out. I had just lit up my best smile when a huge wave came out of nowhere and took me out. I went under, hit the rocks, lost my glasses but managed to make it out with my camera and my life. Alas, my dignity is still on the rocks. I felt more than a little foolish walking back to the car soaking wet and bleeding but at least I was a live fool. I was also fortunate to have a first aid kit with bandages and antibiotic ointment at my disposal. I recently attended the opening of a local skate park that gave away First Aid Kits in Zippered Pouches. Smart giveaway. I took three. Hey, with my luck it’s a real practical item to have on hand. It’s a good thing I was able to stop the bleeding too because I’m going in to hour four and I haven’t seen so much as a surly nurse or even a candy striper since I checked in.

Well, I’ve got to go find a doctor to look at my typing fingers. Remember, “a picture is worth a thousand words but it’s not worth breaking a finger over.”

Walk It Off

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

This morning I was awakened by the five words that strike terror in the hearts of married men everywhere. I used to think the phrase, “My mother is moving in” was the worst sentence a man could hope to hear his wife utter. That is, until I heard her say, “I’m starting a new diet” as she struggled to pull on something called skinny jeans. I started to ask if they were called skinny jeans because you have to be a toothpick to wear them but one look at my wife’s face told me to shut my trap. The truth is, I think she looks great as she is but once she sets her mind to something, there is no stopping her.

Don’t get me wrong, I want her to be happy and if wearing jeans that cost as much as a car payment makes her happy then I’m all for it. I don’t even mind that she diets. The problem is that Mrs. Winston is not a do-it-yourselfer. She believes that dieting is a group activity which means my morning pancakes are about to be replaced by oat bran flakes and the cocoa crispies my youngest enjoys are about to hit the trash. So, in the interest of parental bonding, I decided that today would be a good day to take the kids to the local International House of Pancakes for some real food. Nothing says good morning like a Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity®.

My daughter declined because apparently she actually enjoys oat bran, so it was just us guys. I was just about to settle in with the morning paper and a my chocolate chip short stack when I came across an article about how overweight employees are costing employers a bundle in Worker’s Comp and medical leave. Apparently being fat is fatal to the bottom line and companies are starting to take notice. The truth is, we are, as a country, getting bigger every day, and not in a good way. People are growing unhealthier every year and it’s not only hurting the body carrying around the extra pounds, it’s killing profits for companies who employ portly workers.

Many companies are looking for ways to administer health and fitness programs, so now is the perfect time for you to give health related promotional items. You know the adage, so be part of the solution and offer your clients, or your own employees, some healthful assistance. A Fitness Pedometer with your company’s logo imprinted in the front cover will put a spring in the receivers step and they will think of you with each footfall. The LCD display shows elapsed time and steps taken and includes a Standard Calorie Consumption by Walking table, belt clip and batteries. They say walking 10,000 steps a day is good for the bottom line, double entendre intended, so it’s a gift that is certain to be well received.

I’m off to the farmers market to surprise Mrs. Winston with a bouquet of organic carrots. Until next time, “Walk tall, walk fast and count every step.”

Dream On

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I’ve had the same dream for the last three nights in a row. It’s starts with me playing at the final table in the World Poker Tour (WPT). We are down to three players and I am the chip leader. To my left sits a dwarf with a giant mustache, wearing a purple cowboy hat and to my right sits Pamela Anderson. She’s on the short stack, meaning she has the least number of chips at the table. Milton Berle is the dealer. The hat wearing dwarf folds and the former Mrs. Tommy Lee goes all in, throwing in her top for good measure. I left that detail out when recounting the dream to Mrs. Winston for obvious reasons, so mums the word. I check my hole cards and find that Uncle Milty has blessed me with two ladies (Queens) and I make the call. Pam, I figure after three nights in a row we are on a first name basis, flips over rockets (aces) and I see that my ladies are far behind. Vince Van Patton and Mike Sexton are calling the action in their usual colorful fashion so there are numerous jokes about Pam doubling up and the crowd is chanting, “Virgil!” After all, it is my dream. Then it gets weird.

Suddenly the dwarf stands up on his chair, pounds his chest and flips the table over all the while, singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” at the top of his lungs. Everyone is frozen with shock and the crowd goes quiet. I look up to discover that everyone in the audience has turned into giant lobsters and they are descending on the poker table, claws clicking wildly. One particularly fierce looking lobster reaches toward me, claw outstretched. It clamps down on my wrist and starts to drag me toward what I imagine is his lobster lair to cook up some Winston stew. Just as it starts to rain, I wake up, drenched in sweat and screaming into my pillow.

Dreams like that are one of the reasons I’m such an insomniac. Being chased by angry lobsters is exhausting. Needless to say, I’ve made an emergency appointment with a psychiatrist because even I can’t decode all the symbolism in that one. Part of my therapy involves writing down every dream as soon as I wake up so I keep a journal next to my bed which is now located in the den because Mrs. Winston can’t sleep through all the screaming.

Journals are the new “must have” item; there are food journals, exercise journals, dream journals, even work journals. Which is where Rush Imprint comes in. The spiral-bound Colorblock Journal is the perfect item to hand out at team meetings, orientation or any venue where there is an opportunity for team building. This one features a two-tone protective cover, an elastic pen loop and 100 sheets of lined paper. It doesn’t include a pen, so be a sport and throw one in.

Someone once said, “The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories.” If that’s true, I can look forward to a good night’s rest tonight. I’m off to the neighbor’s to apologize for the late night screaming. My wife baked them a bundt cake to thank them for not calling the police.