The Audience is Listening

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I am a film fanatic so, as you can imagine, I go to the movies a lot. I like them all–action, indie, comedy, and even foreign art films with barely comprehensible storylines and subtitles so small I have to sit in the third row to have even the smallest chance of understanding the plot. I’ll even cop to enjoying a light-hearted romantic comedy, musical or, dare I say it, chick flick. What I do not like is hearing what other people think of the movie I am watching while I’m watching it. My all time number one pet peeve, and I’ll admit to having quite a few, is people talking at the movie theatre.

Ever since Blockbuster came on the scene, every yahoo and his mother thinks that he (or she) is a movie critic. These insensitive moviegoers insist on calling the action for everyone around them to hear. Or worse, they repeat jokes they heard moments ago because apparently they think their delivery is funnier than Will Ferrell’s. Perhaps the most egregious incident occurred during a matinee of “Happy Feet” when a cell phone began to ring during a particularly touching dance sequence. Once would expect the embarrassed party to quickly turn it off and sink in their seat but instead, the man answered his phone and began to have an actual conversation! I was so stunned I couldn’t even react but fortunately a caffeine-fueled nanny was there to put him in his place.

It’s not like I don’t take precautions; I have a whole action plan for avoiding movie talkers. To begin with, I arrive during previews to scout my talk free zone. Arriving earlier is pointless as the mere act of taking a seat practically guarantees attracting a loud mouth. Its import to avoid the middle section altogether and go for the sides, preferably an aisle to allow for maximum maneuverability in the event a quick seat change is required. Equally important is the choice of movie companion. Most of my friends and my entire family know of my peeve so they know that talking is out of the question. I only run into trouble when going to the movies with a “new” person so I carefully prescreen them because he only thing worse than sitting next to a talker is sitting next to a talker you know because not only is it annoying but it severely limits ones ability to shush strangers. You lose all credibility.

Sometimes all of my precautions fail to shield me and I am forced into action by a fellow movie patron who thinks he or she is sitting at home watching a DVD and that someone actually cares about what they have to say. When accosted by a distracting voice, I first employ the turn and glare method, attempting to silently but sternly warn the offender that they are on notice. If that doesn’t work, I move to the “shusssh!” If they persist, I then move to the somewhat annoying, but highly effective, verbal warning. I turn to the person in question and in a normal to loud tone of voice say “Can you please stop talking.” This public shaming usually does the trick but I admit to having had to resort to telling the authorities to intervene. Unfortunately the authority is usually a sixteen-year-old kid and usually causes more of a commotion than it’s worth. I am ashamed to admit it but I have, on three occasions, also tossed popcorn at the back of a talker’s head. I don’t recommend you try this as it usually results in threats and name-calling but if you do, the Caramel Popcorn Filled Bag from Rush Imprint sure comes in handy. It’s filled to the brim with delicious caramel coated popcorn, which is much better for eating than for throwing, and comes packaged in a clear or opaque bag with plenty of room for a company logo or important message. I once bought two hundred of them with the message “Shut up and eat!” to pass out at my local multiplex. It was quite effective but the theatre didn’t appreciate me handing out free snacks.

Well, I’m off to catch the 5pm showing of “Blades of Glory.” Remember, “The audience is listening…so shut up and watch the movie!”

Fear of Flying

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Like many people, I used to have an unhealthy fear of flying. I don’t mean I was a little nervous about taking to the skies; I mean I was a certified white-knuckle flier. Since my business requires me to fly almost 100,000 miles a year, my fear was becoming an increasingly difficult issue. My wife thinks it was my repeated viewings of “Airport 77”, “Alive” and “Snakes on a Plane” that turned me into a scaredy cat but whatever the reason, one thing was clear, I had to get the problem under control. I tried everything from therapy to hypnotism and was about to resign myself to traveling by rail when I happened upon a little blue book called, “Ask the Pilot” by Patrick Smith, whom I heartily thank for curing me of my phobia.

Being a man of many words myself, my fears were calmed by the 269 pages dedicated to answering all my questions (and many I hadn’t yet thought of) about aviation safety. For some reason, seeing it in print really hit home for me and after reading the book three times, insomnia has its perks, and vowing to never watch another movie about planes crashing or being overrun by giant snakes again, I am proud to report I am flying phobia free.

Since I know at least a few of you share my former pain, I’d like to take this opportunity to allay some of your flying fears. As I’m sure you know, “they” say that take off is the most dangerous part of flying and after reading Mr. Smith’s book I found out that “they” are right. I also learned that, while not ideal, a plane could still take off and climb to safety while experiencing total engine failure. So, while it’s okay to say Hail Mary’s during take off, it’s good to know that you probably don’t need to. The other thing I learned was that turbulence is just a fancy word for wind and that wind, or turbulence, won’t cause a plane to crash, flip or otherwise plummet from the sky. In fact, rough air is such a non-issue to pilots; they rarely remember whether or not a flight was bumpy. So, although you can, you don’t really need to order that third drink when your flight hits a rough patch. I still have a tendency to stare at flight attendants to make sure they seem calm but at least I’ve stopped grabbing my seatmate’s arm after every bump.

To celebrate my personal triumph, the featured product of the day is the Aviator Identification Tag. It has a large ID window for business or identification cards, making it easy to spot your bag on an airport baggage carousel. The generous imprint area also insures that weary travelers everywhere will see your logo as the luggage it is attached to circles the carousel for the tenth time. It’s the perfect anytime promotional giveaway, because everyone knows that the only thing worse than flying is losing your luggage in Duluth.

I’m off to New York to see the biggest stained glass window in the world; remarkably it is located at American Airlines Terminal 8 at JFK. In the meantime, try and forget the words of Winston Churchill who said, I must place on record my regret that the human race ever learned to fly.”

Frequent Flyer

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As a frequent flier, I was a bit taken aback by the following headline, “Man Relieves Himself in Air-Sickness Bag.” As if being crammed in to impossibly small seats, having to watch bad movies on a screen the size of postage stamp and getting stuck next to overly chatty seatmates who feel the need to unload the sordid yet still boring details of their past even though you are clearly reading a book weren’t enough to deal with.

The man in question was one Mr. James Whipple who, after having had “two really big beers” at the Boise Airport, was told he couldn’t use the cabin restroom because a light wasn’t working. Finding his bladder wouldn’t wait, Mr. Whipple used an air-sickness bag to take care of business. None of his fellow passengers noticed but one eagle-eyed flight attendant did see him and promptly reported the infraction to the captain who then alerted the Airport Police. Upon arrival in Salt Lake City, Mr. Whipple was detained for questioning before being let go and sent home in a taxi.

After I got over my initial shock at the pure silliness of it all, his name is Mr. Whipple, as in “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin,” I had to applaud the man for his ingenuity. Given the circumstances, I’m not sure I’d have come up with such an innovative solution. He’s the MacGyver of the skies. I’ll bet he could make a garment bag out of an airline blanket and some dental floss if he was in a tight spot. Since most people aren’t quite as crafty, the Excel Utility Kit makes a great gift for anyone who clocks serious travel miles. Place your corporate logo on this travel organizer and be seen everywhere. This good-looking survival kit can be used for storing all of those last minute necessities and toiletries in the gusseted elastic pockets. It features a front zippered mesh pocket; a nice top handle for easy carrying and a rear handle for hanging in the closet. And if you’re in a pinch, the travel bottles can double as—never mind.

Well, I’m off to the races, literally. The racetrack is giving away promotional horseshoes and I need two more to complete my collection. By the way, Mr. Whipple’s story had a happy ending; the airline sent him a letter of apology and a travel voucher.

Tax Break

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Today is March 21st, the longest day of the year. It’s also the time of year when accountants, CPAs and do it yourselfers everywhere kick it into high gear. That’s right fellow citizens, its tax season. With the filing deadline less than one month away its time to pull your head out of the sand and get busy. I don’t mean to be a downer but I feel a responsibility to support my readers in all of their endeavors. After all, marketing is pretty much pointless if your financial situation is in disarray. Naturally, I have found a way to combine the two.

Many people find themselves stressed to the max, rushing home to go through receipts they collected in shoeboxes, searching for W-2 forms that got mixed up in the junk mail and making last minute contributions to their IRAs in a desperate attempt to save money. Their minds are swirling with numbers and their hearts are filled with anxiety, hardly an ideal time to promote yourself, your company or your new product. Your clients and future customers heads are too full to absorb a new idea, unless you find a creative way in.

Acknowledge their current state of mind and offer a bit of relief at the same time. The Flying Cow Piggy Bank offers your customers what they need most, a good laugh. Since it’s also a real bank, it is practical too. Slap you logo on the back of this cute cow and you will be thought of every time the pennies, nickels and dimes are deposited. (I didn’t forget the quarters; everybody knows those are for laundry and parking meters.) Your company will be simultaneously associated with savings and smiles, which is an unbeatable combination.

Which reminds me, I’m off to audition for the second season of American Inventor. Obviously I can’t tell you about my product yet but look for me on TV, I’m a shoo-in*.

Spring Cleaning

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

To most people, March Madness is the name for the NCAA Men’s Division Basketball Championship but in the Winston household it means something a little different. March is the traditional beginning of spring and that means that Mrs. Winston kicks into gear and begins the process of spring-cleaning. Incidentally, the origin of spring-cleaning dates back to the Persian New Year, which falls on the first day of spring when Iranians practice “khooneh takouni” which literally means, “shaking the house” just before the New Year.

The whole process takes weeks. My wife practically turns the house upside down in an effort to sanitize, kill dust bunnies and banish every speck of dirt from the homestead. I wouldn’t mind so much if she didn’t get the whole family involved. The kids are in charge of their own rooms and our eldest is also charged with helping her mother clean out all the closets. She’s not happy about it but my wife promised her first dibs at her vintage Manolos so she reluctantly agreed. I think “Manolo” is Italian for over priced shoes but I’d have to look it up to be certain; my Italian is a little rusty. Our youngest son is in charge of cleaning the hamster cage and our older son gets to help me clean out the garage. Neither of us is thrilled but frankly Mrs. Winston gets so riled up about dirt that it’s just not worth fighting about. Plus, I don’t really like sleeping on the couch.

I also have to clean out my home office and our featured item today makes at least part of that job much easier. I love it so much that I gave one to each of my children just so they wouldn’t “borrow” mine. Rush Imprint’s Computer Cleaning Set includes a carrying case, computer vacuum with two attachments, CD cleaner and monitor cleaner so that you can rid your PC or laptop of crumbs, smears and other debris.

I’m off to teach my patented Marketing For Dummies seminar at the Learning Annex. I hope your spring cleaning isn’t half as intense as mine but if it is remember, “cleanliness is next to godliness but getting dirty is twice the fun.”

St. Patrick’s Day

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Regular readers know that I am not only a logophile but also something of a fact junkie. My wife has another name for me but I won’t get into that now. In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day and Mrs. Winston’s Irish heritage (her great grandfather on her mother’s side was 1/16 Irish), I thought it would be fun to explore some little known facts about all things Irish.

• St. Patrick’s given name was Maewyn.

• Irish women received the right to vote before American women.

• The Irish alphabet has only 18 letters. J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y and Z are not used.

• Four Irish writers have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, G. Shaw, W. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney.

• A horse is featured on the Irish 20-pence coin.

• Blue is Ireland’s official color.

• The first U.S. celebration of St. Patrick’s Day took place in Boston in 1737.

• St. Patrick is the patron saint of fishermen.

• St. Patrick’s Day is a legal holiday in Briarwood Beech, Ohio, and USA.

I hope that was as fun for you as it was for me. I just love interesting yet not particularly useful facts! I also love a theme, so today’s offering is a 10 Oz. Irish Coffee, as in mug, not liquor laced java. It is perfect for enjoying either the traditional Irish beverage from which it derives its name or just plain ole coffee. It’s a great gift for all your clients, whether it’s given during Irish Appreciation Month or anytime of year. The only thing that makes this stylish mug more appealing is, you guessed it, your name.

Mrs. Winston has decided to make a traditional Irish dinner of bacon joint, champ and curly kale so I’m off to the drug store to stock up on Tums. I leave you with a traditional Irish blessing:

May your feet never sweat,
Your neighbor give you ne’re a treat.
When flowers bloom, I hope you’ll not sneeze,
And may you always have someone to squeeze!

Mother of the Year

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Angelina Jolie is adopting again, which will make her and Brad Pitt the super couple parents of four. If the uber parents are bucking for some kind of humanitarian award, they are well on their way. Reports say that Ms. Jolie has decided to adopt a three-year-old boy from Vietnam, which makes him the perfect aged playmate for Maddox and Zahara. Let’s ignore the fact that I know way too much about celebrity gossip in general and the Jolie-Pitt clan in particular and focus on what’s important; helping relatively new parents keep their growing brood occupied. Rumor has it that one of Maddox’s baby sitters is an avid reader so I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my suggestions for age appropriate toys guaranteed to keep kids occupied for hours. Even kids of the rich and famous like to play games and as any parent who has pulled an all-nighter assembling a dollhouse or train set only to find their kid gleefully playing with the box it came in can attest to, simple toys are always a big hit.

For kicking around outside, I recommend a Football Hackey Sack. It helps with coordination and is a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon with the family. For creative kids, my top pick is a 6-Piece Clay Set because nothing is more satisfying then squishing clay between your fingers and forming your own works of art. My final recommendation is the Camouflage Rubber Duck because any kid with a Mohawk is cool enough to rock the camo ducky.

Of course all of these promotional items are good for adults too. Just add your logo to a football hackey sack and you have a trade show giveaway that offers the perfect way to kick-start a new campaign. If you want to inject a little fun into a new idea or promotion, I suggest printing your message on the camouflage duck. It’s fun, funny and guaranteed to make your customers smile. For a team building exercise that will bring your people together in a unique way, try the 6-Piece Clay Set because even adults like to squish things between their fingers.

When you are looking for a new way to market yourself, you’d do well to heed the words of Nietzsche who said, “In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” I’m going to take my own advice and play a game with my son; he’s a whiz at Chutes and Ladders.


Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I left my house this morning on a mission to find something that had become rather scarce at my house, peace and quiet. Not only are my in-laws visiting but all three kids are at home with the stomach flu. You’d think illness would quiet them down but it seems to have the opposite effect and they tackle boredom by running the television, game cube and stereo all at the same time. To top it off, my wife is obsessed with her new vacuum cleaner and decided that today was the day she was going to rid our entire house of cobwebs. I decided to go to the one place on earth where silence is golden, the library. I longed for the peaceful sound of…nothing, broken only by the occasional shushing of an elderly librarian when someone turned a page too vigorously.

Little did I know that quite a lot had changed in the world of hardcover books and the dewy decimal system. I sat down at an empty table and had just opened my book when my ears were accosted by the sound of a crying child, followed by the sound of childish laughter and then alternating shrieks and giggles. To my horror, my seat was located right next to the children’s section and it was story hour. After I finished listening to “Where the Wild Things Are,” it’s one of my favorites, I moved to the reference section where I was sure to find stressed out students silently cramming for mid terms. Wrong again. My table partner was a disheveled looking soul who was reciting the entire “Q” section of Encyclopedia Britannica to his invisible friends, OUTLOUD. I moved once more to a table near a window only to be treated to the sound of a jackhammer just outside.

The library of my youth was no more. The new fangled library may have computers and leather lounge chairs but it lacks the most important ingredient, quiet. Where was beloved Mrs. Yakovitch who would shoot daggers to anyone who dared speak above a whisper? It was then that I came to the sad realization that even the library, the last bastion of quiet contemplation, was filled with noise. It’s a loud, loud world and most of us would like a little relief from the noise of the day. That’s why Rush Imprint offers Noise Reduction Ear Buds that produce white noise to help reduce surrounding sounds. Simply pop in the inconspicuous ear buds and you are instantly treated to the sweet sound of silence. They can also be connected to a computer or MP3 player if you prefer a soundtrack. The ear buds make a great gift for customers and potential clients because everyone can use a little white noise.

I’m off to the dentist to get a root canal. Don’t feel too sorry for me, at least I don’t have to have dinner with the in-laws.

It’s A Small World After All

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My daughter spends what is in my opinion an inordinate amount of time playing a game called “Kittenwar!” Before you get all up in arms and contact your local SPCA representative, “Kittenwar!” doesn’t involve kittens with guns or grenades. The creators of the game / website assure me that no kitten has ever been harmed while playing the game. Although it is entirely possible that some kittens (or their owners) may have had their feelings hurt. Kittenwar!.com is a website where users view photos of adorable baby cats and votes for the cutest one. It’s excruciatingly adorable and, I am loath to admit, horribly addicting. After playing 2.5 hours of “Kittenwar!” in the name of research, I came to an important conclusion, kittens are unbearably cute. And for that matter, so are puppies, chicks, lambs and baby bunnies. It turns out there are a lot of other websites dedicated to cute baby animals like, and

A quick web search showed me that there is no end to the amount of mini offerings for consumers to purchase. There is the Mini car, mini golf, ipod mini, the mini candy bar and more. People seem to have a real affinity for small things. Forget the old adage that “bigger is better” and remember, “Good things come in small packages.” All this small talk got me thinking that the best way to make a really big statement is to go small. Rush Imprint has a multitude of miniatures to ensure your promotion will be a huge success. Do you want a practical, yet cute giveaway for your next tradeshow? Add your logo to a Mini Digital Photo Key Fob, Mini Click Optical Mouse or Mini Stapler / Memo Clip and you will be guaranteed to make a big impression. And that’s no small thing.

I’d better run, I’m off to the Flea Circus and I want to get a good seat. In the meantime, heed my third cousin twice removed Tish’s advice and, “Don’t tell any big lies today. Small ones can be just as effective.”


Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

On Friday night my wife told me she had a surprise for me. As you might imagine, I was more than a little excited and headed for the bedroom when I was stopped cold by the six words every married man dreads, “We are going to Ikea tomorrow.” I don’t know about you but a trip to Ikea on the weekend is a bit like going sailing in the Bermuda triangle, it sounds like fun but you’d best be prepared. Our mission was to find and purchase the perfect cabinet to house my wife’s extensive glass egg collection.

We got up early on Saturday in order to beat the crowds and I was pleasantly surprised to find a parking spot right up front. As I pulled in, a rather large, red-faced woman in an SUV packed with what appeared to be a half a dozen children accosted me. Apparently Ikea designates several prime spaces for “Family” parking and this woman was incensed that my wife and I had taken “her” spot. I tried explaining that the Winston’s were indeed a family and that even though our three kids were at home, it still counts. I was about to add that a brisk walk may even help her lose the extra baby weight but thought better of it when her face went from red to purple and her eyes started to bulge out of her head. I gave her the spot.

Once inside, we grabbed a cart and jumped into the human stream following the blue arrows painted on the floor in search of elusive cabinetry. After about an hour and half I got tired of comparing wood types and glass thickness and wandered off in search of promotional ideas. I ended up in the window covering section, dangerously far from the blue arrow that would eventually lead me out the door to safety but fortunately I was prepared. I had some leftover peanuts from a circus campaign I worked on last year and was able to leave a trail. The manager was not amused by my resourcefulness and threatened to kick me out. Since we hadn’t found the cabinet yet, I could not let that happen and searched for a way out. It was then that one of Grandpa Winston’s lessons came to me. He always said to look for opportunities in every disaster. Leaving without a curio cabinet may not seem like a disaster to you but you don’t have to listen to my wife carry on about her eggs. Needless to say, I was inspired and decided to pitch him my newly formed idea for branded window shades. I can’t get into details but lets just say my passport will soon have a stamp from Sweden.

My wife finally found the perfect cabinet just as I was sealing the deal so our trip turned out to be an all around success. I spent the rest of the weekend assembling the cabinet using a 6-Function Tool Kit Wrench that I picked up in one of the swag seats at the Academy Awards. It’s actually a great little tool that your clients are sure to appreciate. Just remember the Golden Rule and (say it with me) put your name on it!

Well, I’m off to pack for my trip to Sweden; I’ll finally have an opportunity to wear lederhosen. Remember, “Wisdom is a blessing only to those prepared to absorb it so bring a sponge.”