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.”

Do the Left Thing

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I’ve gotten a few letters recently from my left-handed readers. It seems we have not been offering enough left handed products. I have been not so subtly reminded that there are 30 million left hand people in this world that are under appreciated, and that many of our most famous Americans have been left handed, including John F. Kennedy, Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Henry Ford and Albert Schweitzer, not to mention current left handers like Carol Burnett, Goldie Hawn and Bart Simpson. All I can say, as another leftie once said, “I feel your pain.”

Truth is, I have been left handed most of my life, which is why I would like to feature today the Highway Companion Safety Kit, or as I like to call it, the Left Handed Highway Companion Safety Kit. While, it’s certainly good for right handers, I think that because the drivers seat is on the left side of the car, driving is a left handed affair, which makes this product a touch more suited for the left handed driver. I hope that helps.

Anyway, this twelve piece “left handed” Highway Companion Safety Kit includes: Case, jumper cables, warning triangle, siphon, mylar blanket, two bungee cords, two glow sticks, gloves, flashlight, and 50 psi tire gauge—everything you need to be safe on the road. The interior case pockets secure all components, while the jumper cables are 300 amp. This is a gift that genuinely shows how much you care, sending a message to employees and clients alike…that you’re always with them.

I better go. I’m off to the Iowa Fortune Cookie Convention, where they’ll be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the day George Jung, a left-handed noodle maker, invented the fortune cookie. Until next time, remember, “If the right half of the brain controls the left half of the body, this means that only left handed people are in their right mind.”

Take Note of Life

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I am an informational and observational junkie who collects everything—facts, tips, trivia, recipes, directions, books, websites, songs, lyrics, blog ideas, names for pets, dreams I’ve had, movies I need to see. You name it and I’ll collect it, which is why I can never be without my memo pad and why I’m so happy to be talking about today’s featured item: the Icon Press Up Memo/Tap Flag Dispenser. First off, let me tell you that this pop-up pad is geared for the memo-hungry professional. It includes an accordion-style mini notepad and tape flags in five colors and, of course, it pops open with the press of a button, which makes it compact and ideal for business travel. And all the while, it draws attention to your logo or message.

Now, the best thing about a memo is it makes you sit up and take note of the world around you, forcing you to observe the many oddities of life. In fact, here are a few of the tidbits I’ve found in just the last week:

4,000 people each year are hurt by teapots
Benjamin Franklin invented the rocking chair.
Coca Cola was originally green
My Barber’s phone number is 755-2346
The plain Buddy Holly died on was called “The American Pie”
Most toilets flush in E-Flat
In space, astronauts can’t cry because there is no gravity, so the tears won’t flow
Bears +15 against the Colts is a lock

My advice to you: take notice of the world around you. And when something interesting pops up, be ready…ready with the Icon Press Up Memo/Tap Flag Dispenser.

In fact, I’m so excited that I’m giving a few of these away for trick or treaters tomorrow. I can already imagine the line at the door when the word gets out. Until next time, take notice of life and life will take notice of you.

If You Build It They Will Come

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My Uncle Rex has always said there was nothing more boring in life than watching a Kevin Costner film. And this is the same man who owns The English Patient. What’s more, he didn’t care how many Academy Awards he won for Dancing With Wolves, it was as bad as Waterworld, a movie he said would have been much better had it taken place on land. Yes, he feels strongly about the subject, which is why I will never let it be known that one of my favorite all time movies is Field of Dreams. It’s not just a baseball fanatic’s fantasy, it’s a promotional marketer’s fantasy as well.

It starts with the famous line, “If you build it, they will come.” This is the driving force of the movie and the reason Costner builds his improbable baseball field on top of his Iowa farm. Of course, “if you build it, they will come” is also the marketer’s mantra as well. Build what you ask? It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s better, cooler and more interesting than what was previously offered.

Well, Rush Imprint has built it…and I’ll bet you’ll be coming for it. It’s the USB Liqui-Hub. That’s right. A hub. An “anti-Kevin Costner” hub if you will. Now, this isn’t your everyday, run of the mill USB Port. This one has a miniature globe that floats in a blue sea. In other words, it’s a conversation piece, a desk ornament and a functional piece of equipment. It has four ports and a blue base with a 72″ attached USB cable. There are also two wells on top for pen holders. What more could you ask for? And, as always, Rush Imprint will deliver in a flash.

Well, I better go. I’m taking the whole family out to dinner and, surprisingly, everyone can make it, proving I suppose, that “if my wife doesn’t cook, they will come.”

Good Things Come In Small Packages

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As Yogi Berra once said, “a nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore,” or as that Burger King lady put it years ago, “where’s the beef?” And, of course, there is my grandfather, who loves to tell you that “it costs more to buy a new car today in the United States than it cost Christopher Columbus to equip and undertake 3 voyages to and from the new world.” Now, you can try to tell him that was over 540 years ago, but he’ll just shrug at you like you don’t understand the Math. “Do you know how expensive boats are, boy?”

Still, he makes his point. Inflation is inflation and you can’t argue with how expensive things are. It’s hard to get value anymore. Up until now, that is. Today, we offer a simple, inexpensive little item that will offer the whole world to you in a heartbeat. It’s our Retractable Ethernet Cable. Connect it and you can take your clients anywhere.

This category 5 Ethernet cable comes with a push button cable retraction, extends to 8 feet and is ideal for desktop or travel use. One snap in your computer and your connected. And if there’s one thing we all want to do…it’s stay connected. If we can’t be on our cell phones, we better be able to “get on-line.” Well, this item takes care of it for you…and at a price we can all afford And, remember, every time you get one of your customers connected, they’ll look at your imprint and smile. Now, that’s what I call value.

Well, I’m off to spend a little quality time with my wife—we’re going antiquing on Ebay. Until next time, remember what Oscar Wilde said, “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

# 174465

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I’d like to talk to you about U.S. Patent # 174465, also known as the phone, our country’s most prized possession and/or obsession. At any one time, there are 100 million phone conversations taking place in our country, five of which are happening in my house alone, and all of which are on a cell phone that happens to be no more than five feet away from a corded phone. My family—like yours—loves their cell phones. They don’t just flip open and click, they do music, photos, text messaging, videos and Internet. About the only thing they don’t do is put you to bed at night, but then, I guess, that’s what lullaby ring tones are for.

Of course, it’s not just our kids; it’s all of us. We’re all addicted to the cell phone. Be honest…what’s the first thing you do when you get in the car…it’s not turning on the ignition…it’s dialing someone on the phone, right? Now, I’ll spare you my rant on driving with cell phones, but I will offer this one piece of advice: if you’re pulling out of parking spot in the middle of a crowded lot, with a Big Mac in your hand—that is probably not the time to dial your aunt in Slovakia—and my wife knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Sure, we could offer a helping hand to these troubled folks—a twelve-step program to help detox off the cell…or we could be the “friendly pusher” who enables those individuals with the products that will keep them happy…and our company’s name on the top of their minds. I suppose I don’t have to tell you what I’m choosing.

Of course, we’ll have to give them a product they don’t have…and let me tell you, cell phone addicts have everything. Except one. It’s called the Wind-Up Flashlight /Cell Phone Charger. This thing is cool. With three white LED lights and rechargeable batteries inside, this is the cell phone charger you go to in an emergency. And what bigger emergency can you imagine in life than being without your cell phone. It has five cell phone adapters included: Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, Ericcson & LG. It has a push button on/off switch and rubber grips on the side. And one more thing, it has a wind up flashlight to boot, so you can find that lost cell phone in the dark, stopping those inevitable shakes of panic. Like I always say, one country’s obsession is another person’s marketing solution.

Speaking of obsession, I’m off to the couch with my own little addiction called the remote control. Until next time, think about this, “if we love our cell phones so much, how come we hate everyone else’s.”

Where’s the Spam?

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My father used to pace around the house in his “thinking underwear” yelling, “Where’s the spam…Where’s the spam?” It’s not that he liked spam. In fact, he hated it. It was the idea of spam he loved, or more accurately, the fact that a can of spam is opened every four seconds. The statistic gave him goosebumps. It still does. “Every four seconds,” he would whisper softly. “That’s all we can ask for.” You see, as a marketer of promotional products, all he wanted to do was find the “thing” everyone wanted, then deliver it. It was that simple to him.

Well, guess what? I found the spam. I know what we all want and need, especially if you live in my house. It’s called money. Like an ATM machine, I reach into my wallet five times before breakfast…and my kids know all my secret passwords. Of course, the spam isn’t really the money; it’s the wallet. We might not reach for it every four seconds, but we reach for it often enough…that when we do…we should be reaching for a wallet with your company’s name or logo on it.

Well, meet the Cutter & Buck Money Clip Card Case. Its magnetic money clip secures loose bills, while its convenient pocket holds credit cards and notes. And, of course, it’s packaged in a 2-piece Cutter & Buck gift box. And before you start saying it’s too small, let me say right here—fat wallets are out. With apologies to my grandpa and his own fat wallet—complete with 20 expired credit cards and a stack of 1945 receipts tied inside a rubber band—sleek and streamlined is now in. Truth is, all we really need to get by is a license, a few cards and a wad of cash for our greedy offspring.

Where’s the spam…right there in your pocket.

Speaking of which, I’m off to the bank to reload my ATM machine. Until next time, remember what Woody Allen says, “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”