Family Ties

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Earlier this year, my brother Phil moved to Namibia to capitalize on that country’s new found fascination with American celebrities. He’s working on a line of his and hers Brangelina bobble heads and, if it’s the success he hopes it will be, he’s going to follow up with Baby Shiloh shoehorns to commemorate the first celebrity kid born as a Namibian citizen. He is very excited about his new marketing ventures but has been feeling homesick lately. Being a family guy, and my kids’ favorite uncle, Phil misses us almost as much as he misses In-N-Out burgers. So, to bridge the gap, he sent us an In Touch Web Cam so we can all talk, in real time, over the Internet. It’s a pretty nifty little gadget that includes a clip so you can position it in a convenient location on your desk. It includes software that is so easy to install my five year old could do it. Actually my five year old did install it because I was “taking too long and he had some very important business to discuss with Uncle Phil.” I think he’s trying to get in on the shoehorn promotion using his position as the child of a minor celebrity. He’s a real chip off the old block. I couldn’t be more proud.

Well, I have to cut this one short. It’s the day after Christmas and I’ve got bicycles to assemble and left overs to eat. Remember the wise words of someone who totally gets it, “from a commercial point of view, if Christmas didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent it.”

Champagne Wishes

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

2006 was a banner year for branding and I am proud to have had a hand in helping plaster the names of thousands of companies on some of the most unique promotional items to hit trade shows, gift bags and celebrity golf tournament/fashion show/charity dinners this side of the Mississippi. Come to think of it, I did pretty well on the other side of it too. Who can forget the Click-Switch Pocket Light, Staple-less Stapler or the Robot Series Roll Up Calculator? As you know, I don’t like to brag but I do believe in celebrating one’s accomplishments and sometimes the best person to give you a pat on the back IS you, or in this case, me.

My first thought was to celebrate the conclusion of a great year by popping open the bottle of bubbly that has been collecting dust on the top shelf of our pantry. Then I came across the following disturbing factoid. “You are more likely to be killed by a champagne cork than by a poisonous spider.” Which is a very good reason to steer clear of the bubbly stuff this New Year’s Eve. Let’s face it, the good stuff is on the pricey side and I don’t think the fact that if you put a raisin in a glass of champagne, it will keep floating to the top and sinking to the bottom is a compelling enough reason to risk a hang over or do serious damage to your finances. If you still think champagne is the only way to ring in the New Year, I have a solution that is both festive and classy. Oh, and it still allows you to promote yourself and your company while thanking clients, colleagues and employees for a great year.

Our 1-Ounce Chocolate Champagne Bottle is the perfect way to spread holiday cheer to everyone on your list, even the tea totalers. And don’t worry about causing dieters to ditch their New Year’s resolutions; at only 1-ounce, this gold or silver foil wrapped treat won’t break your bank or the recipients scale.

My wife and I plan to tune in to Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Watching that ball drop in Time’s Square is a thrilling experience as it is but this year is special because Ryan Seacrest has agreed to wear the promotional earmuffs I created. They play Auld Lang Syne in seven languages while keeping your ears warm. Yes sir, 2007 promises to be a very good year indeed.

Communication Breakdown

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Yesterday was a dark day in the Winston household. It was a day I had long feared but never dared speak of, lest saying the words may make the imagined horror a reality. That’s right, my cable went out…for an entire day! I was half asleep when I pressed the remote to get my morning fix of CNN, MSNBC and The View, only to be jolted awake by a screen full of static. I ran frantically from room to room, clicking remotes and began to sweat as the grim reality set in. As I sat on hold with my local cable company, I booted up my computer so I could at least read the news, only to discover that I was unable to connect! Not only was I unable to watch Ryan Seacrest’s hard hitting interview with Bill Phillips, who is best friends with one of the cousins of an actual guest at the TomKat Wedding, but I was unable to get online and find out which celebutante was flashing which body part at what hot club and who their new BFF is. Since I was also unable able to email or IM anyone, I was officially out of touch. Being out of touch electronically is akin to being stranded on a deserted island, and not in a cool “Survivor” with the possibility of winning a million dollars way, but in a Tom Hanks talking to a deflated volleyball way.

This communication breakdown gave me time to think and I came to one very important realization, communication is vital. Without the ability to connect, we are lost. Don’t wait for disaster to strike, show your clients and employees that you understand how important it is to stay in contact by giving them a gift that shows respect for their favorite communication devices. The Millennium Leather Communications Jotter is a smart black case featuring a convenient Velcro and elastic belt loop attachment with Velcro closure. Most electronic devices such as a cell phone, PDA or Blackberry fit snugly into the expandable compartment. It includes a writing pad and an attractive gift box with ample space for imprint or debossing. It’s the perfect gift to communicate your appreciation, without breaking the bank.

You’ll have to excuse me, the cable is back and I have quite a bit of catching up to do. In the meantime, remember the words of John Powell, and my Aunt Patsy, “Communication works for those who work at it.”

Picture This

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Not long ago, I spent an afternoon flipping through the Winston Family Album, all forty-three volumes. Looking at old photos really brought a smile to my face; my parents wedding day, the day Uncle Lou was released from prison for “accounting errors,” and of course the day I created my very first promotional item. It was a red, white and blue night-light that played the Star Spangled Banner in Portuguese. Looking back, that didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense but I was seven so I’m cutting myself some slack. I was enjoying my trip down memory lane so much I almost forgot to take the dog for a walk, which would have led to a memory of an entirely different kind.

My point is, everyone loves pictures. They remind us of who we are, where we’ve been and who we were there with. When it comes to gift giving, it’s important to connect with people on an emotional level. In other words, good business is not necessarily all business. Give your clients and employees something to remember you by with a Metropolitan Leather Photo Box, a sleek leather storage box that holds photos or other keepsakes. You may even want to customize it by placing a photo of last year’s office holiday party in the integrated photo frame on the lid.

Remember, just because a picture is worth a thousand words, doesn’t mean you have to pay a lot for it. I’m off to photograph my youngest son’s first trip to the Christmas Tree farm. He’s never used a real axe before so it will likely be a memorable event.

Women’s Work

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

A brilliant marketing mind told me that the average person cannot tolerate being told he is wrong. Change the pronoun and you have my wife in a nutshell. Not only is my wife always right, she has bionic hearing too, which is why I have decided to dedicate today’s column to womankind.

Consider the following female facts:

• Female ants do all the work
• Women blink twice as many times as men do
• In Japan, Santa Claus is a woman
• The female angler fish weighs up to half a ton, while the male is only a few millimeters long and spends his life attached to her nose

As you probably know, I am an advocate of non-gender specific gifts but there are times when specificity is appreciated. Since an International Women’s Day was proclaimed in 1909 in order to celebrate the working women of the world, it is high time to celebrate the women who work for you.

Show the women in your employ that you appreciate their business acumen…and that you recognize that in order to get the job done, they need a lot of stuff. The Wenger Women’s Tote offers plenty of storage room in a feminine business tote. It includes an open compartment; a front zippered organizer for pens, electronics, and accessories, zippered center and interior storage compartments and an interior strap with snap closure to keep tote shut during travel. If she carries her office with her, give her a professional laptop bag with space, protection, and style. The Wenger Women’s Compu-Case features a removable, padded sleeve that holds laptops up to 15″ and makes packing and unpacking a breeze.

I’m off to take my wife and her mother to dinner. It should be a fun evening considering her mother’s favorite saying is, “Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.”

The Real World

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

It is a widely accepted marketing principal that in the minds of consumers, “perception is reality,” and the reality is, it’s a cold, cold world. Literally. Show your customers that you ‘get it’ by gifting them with a hot item they can really use. As the temperature drops, the need to transport hot liquids rises. A useful gift like a travel mug, emblazoned with your company’s logo, goes a long way…in cars, cabs, buses, trains and subways to be exact. What’s better than that? A Travel Mug With Hot Chocolate, that’s what. It’s the little things that make a gift, and the gift giver, really stand out, like a piping hot cup of cocoa on a chilly day. Reality is sometimes cold but a little hot chocolate can make it seem a lot sweeter.

I once read that, “Reality is for people who lack imagination.” Speaking of which, I’m off to Las Vegas to co-host the Billboard Music Awards with Lindsay Lohan. See you at the after party!

Playing Games

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Monday marks my youngest son Alvin’s favorite day at school, “Show & Tell,” which is no big surprise given the myriad of gadgets he has to choose from. Last year he wowed his fellow kindergarteners with an anatomically correct Vincent Van Gogh Action figure, which was a huge success considering the previous year’s now infamous Scarface Talking Key Chain debacle. To tell you the truth, Show & Tell was always my favorite day too, which proves one thing: Marketing is in the blood.

In the promotions game, every day is Show & Tell so it’s kind of like being a kid again; and isn’t that what every adult with a job, mortgage and car payment really wants? One way to keep that childlike wonder alive is by playing games. The Lifestyle 7-in-1 Desktop Game Set reminds us that we all have a little kid inside who is itching to get out and play. The set includes game boards and game pieces for checkers, chess and backgammon, 28 dominoes, cribbage board and pegs, a standard deck of cards and four dice; all neatly stored in wooden case. It’s the perfect gift for the whole office and reminds your employees that a little playtime goes a long way. Enclose a note reminding your minions to “play as hard as you work” or inspire them to meet a goal by challenging them to, “keep your head in the game.” It’s also a great gift for customers and prospective clients when you pair it with a message that says you “play for their team.”

I have found that a little whimsy goes a long way when it comes to gift giving so take a page out of the Winston Play Book and remember the words of my second favorite columnist, Dave Barry: “You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.” I’m off to referee a craps match at the Sunny Haven Home for the Young at Heart in celebration of National Dice Day.

Coffee Talk

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Loyal readers may recall that I am a card-carrying insomniac, although I can’t complain because I get some of my most unique ideas from watching late night television. After all, where else can you learn about and actually purchase products like Golf Pro In A Bottle, the Ab Rocker or Rejuvenique, a Michael Myers-like plastic mask attached to a 9-volt battery claiming to give you an instant face lift? If not actually promoting useful items, infomercials are at least entertaining and remind the marketing world that people will in fact buy almost anything, no matter how ridiculous.

While I’m a big fan of gift giving in all shapes and forms, I generally prefer to hand over items that will enhance the life of the recipient. Miss Manners said, “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” My Aunt Sheila was an expert conversationalist and knew that nothing goes better with a good chat than a good strong cup o’ joe. That’s why the Personal Espresso Maker is the perfect gift; it shows your clients you care enough to give them what they really need, a shot of caffeine. A delicious cup of espresso or coffee takes no time to make with this traditional stovetop pot. It unscrews easily into two parts; the bottom section includes a compartment for water and coffee basket and the top half holds the coffee once it’s brewed. The set comes with two stainless steel cups and saucers to spark, what else, conversation.

I will leave you with the words of one of my favorite late night television characters, Linda Richman, played by the good Mike Myers in SNL. “Talk amongst yourselves, I’ll give you a topic: If Paris and Nicole are friends again, who is the chubby one? Discuss.”

Shop Til You Drop

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is historically the busiest shopping day of the year and marks the “official” beginning of the Holiday Shopping Season. Not coincidentally, “black” also describes my mood as my wife drags me out of bed at 4 am in order to “beat the crowds.” It’s also how I like my coffee at that hour in the morning. As a marketing man, I appreciate the concept of shopping; I just don’t see the value in doing it before the sun comes up. However, since breaking the news to Mrs. Virgil Winston that our anniversary date of dinner and dancing will be spent at the Home Town Buffet followed by chaperoning our daughter’s Winter Formal I decided that complaining was not in my best interest.

Just watching the harried shoppers jockey for position in the incomprehensibly long lines after diving for the last pair of heather grey cashmere gloves caused my stress level to skyrocket. As I bobbed and weaved my way through the crowed aisles, a single thought haunted me, “there must be an easier way.” I longed for my yoga mat and the restful child’s pose to clear my head and calm my frazzled nerves. Since the mall was standing room only, I reached for the next best stress reliever…chocolate. The moment the sugar laced cocoa touched my tongue I was transported to another world, one where I wouldn’t have to mortgage my house to buy a PlayStation 3 from a shady character named Emo who’s “store” was a green van parked in the alley behind the donut shop.

As I came out of my chocolate induced euphoria, I suddenly remembered Marketing Rule #792, K.I.S.S. or “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Chocolate is quite simply, the perfect holiday gift for your customers and future clients. Especially if it’s Truffle Box attractively wrapped in red, green and gold and contains your company name and holiday message. You will not only impress your client with your good taste but you’ll be giving them a gift that tastes good. It’s pretty simple, really.

I’m off to my breakdancing class where I’m working on some fresh moves. I don’t want to embarrass my daughter on the dance floor. The Mrs. and I may be old school but we can still get down.

Wedding of the Year

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As I stood in the check out line, I perused the headlines to catch up with my celebrity friends. It seems that most of them were on hand for the TomKat Wedding. The guest list read like a who’s who and who was of Hollywood. I got to thinking, if you take one mega star, add a fresh-faced TV actress, divide by 2.5 kids and subtract one Oscar Winner you get one mega wedding. Multiply J Lo by Marc Anthony; you get Posh Spice and a circus that even Ringling couldn’t top.

All this adding and subtracting got me thinking about the high cost of weddings and since I had promised my wife that we’d renew our vows and take a second honeymoon, I was anxious to do the math. Since my doing long division in my head is akin to Mission Implausible, I was relieved to remember I had the answer at my fingertips.

I reached for my useful mini-calculator key holder, which fits nicely in the pocket of my favorite flat pleat trousers, and is the perfect give- away, keeping your company exactly where it should be, in your client’s pockets. Even in matters of love and marriage, marketing is never far from my heart. Good thing too, since a few short calculations were all it took for me to realize that Mrs. Winston and I were going to have to elope…again.

Well, I’m off to the annual Scientology Bake Off where I plan to win it all with my world famous Baby Suri shaped mini quiches. Until next time, remember the words of Henny Youngman, “You can’t buy love, but you can pay heavily for it.”