The Real World

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Unless you’ve been hiding out in a cave with no access to TV, radio or the Internet, you know that June is the month for Dads…and Grads. High schoolers everywhere are attending proms and preparing to move into the dorms, while college kids get ready to make the big leap…into the real world. As most of us know, the challenges we faced in college don’t always prepare us for what’s in store when we actually enter the work force. We say goodbye to frat parties, all night cramming and spring break, and say hello to staff meetings, conference calls and unpaid overtime. I never understood my great granddad’s favorite expression, “Working ain’t for sissies,” until I got my first job at a big marketing firm. Let’s just say that the experience was more painful than an episode “The Office,” and not half as funny. My boss was a bit of a screamer and his favorite word was, “Winston!!!”

Hopefully the graduates in your life will have better luck. Here are a few items to help get them started. As anyone who’s ever had a 7:00 AM conference call knows, coffee is essential, and it tastes better when it comes in a nice mug. The 14 oz contour mug offers the perfect backdrop for a logo or promotional message and is the perfect way to say, “Welcome to the real world…you’re gonna need this.” If your graduate is used to classes that begin at noon, the Perfect Time Clock is the perfect gift. It features an integrated mechanism to contact the U.S. atomic clock five times each day, so the clock stays perfectly synchronized. Of course, it also contains the most important feature…a snooze alarm. Finally, the Millennium Leather Deluxe Compu-Saddle Bag is the perfect replacement for the well-worn backpack. It offers a winning combination of luxury and practicality, and is made of top-quality Mil Leather. Plus, it’s loaded with great features such as a deluxe organizer and detachable and adjustable shoulder strap.

Well, I’m off to the Annual Whittlers Convention in Wichita. They don’t give away a lot of promotional items, but they are all hand made. In the meantime, remember the most important ingredient for success after college…hard work. As Granny Winston used to say, “Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.”

Dear Old Dad

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Father’s Day is coming up faster than a mother-in-law’s insult. Fortunately for all of you procrastinators, Rush Imprint has great gifts in a hurry. There are many ways to honor dear old dad—a nicely worded note, a heartfelt thank you and a warm hug are all appreciated but let’s face it, everybody loves presents. I know I owe my own father a lot—if not for his wisdom, vision and marketing acumen, I might not have become the marketing guru I am today. In honor of Dad’s special day, I have put together a list of alternatives to the usual neckties, handprint ashtrays and golf balls.

If your Pop would rather be in Vegas but can’t get away, bring Vegas (or Atlantic City or Monte Carlo) to him by gifting your gambling Dad with a Hand-held Casino Blackjack Game. This game may be small but it’s not short on fun. The exciting sound effects provide realistic casino action all in the palm of your hand. So, he can buy insurance, split aces, surrender, and double down without ever leaving home. The Cutter & Buck Money Clip Card Case is the perfect way to show dad the money. It secures loose bills and had a pocket for credit cards and notes. It even comes with its own gift box for those of you who are wrapping impaired. Finally, for the true businessman with an appreciation for the finer things, the Cutter & Buck American Classic Executive Address Book will help Dad keep track of important appointments, contacts, and tasks. It’s made of soft genuine top grain leather and accentuated by a stainless steel buckle that bears the Cutter & Buck insignia and features internal pockets for business cards, credit cards, and currency.

Well, I’m off to the races…literally. I put down two bucks on “Marketing Magic” to win. Remember, “Any man can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad.”

No More Tears

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Last week I made my annual trip to Ottawa to MC the Zamboni* Race Finals. You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but Zamboni racers are real athletes. Much like pro bowlers or professional poker players, Zamboni racers are not always given the credit they deserve. In fact, I once watched a particularly skilled driver maneuver through a field of eight Zambonis while eating an entire box of Krispy Kremes with one hand and drinking a big gulp with the other. It was quite something to see him win the title—his knees steering him to victory. Alas, this year’s race wasn’t quite as eventful. At least I left Canada with a case of maple syrup and an offer to judge next year’s Miss Zamboni contest.
The truly interesting part of the trip took place at the airport lounge during a particularly long layover. My fellow travelers and I had a rousing discussion about airplane movies, specifically the phenomenon of crying while watching them. Between the three of us, we had cried during Spiderman II, Rush Hour, Jersey Girl, Shrek, Legally Blonde and Invincible. I’m not sure who admitted to it first, but we quickly realized that movie watching while flying almost always leads to tears. Before you unfairly conclude that my fellow travelers were women or really “in touch with their feelings” types, both men were lawyers—clearly sensitivity was not an issue. Since the tear inducing movies in question weren’t particularly sad and included comedies, action-adventure, sci-fi and some downright bad and even boring flicks, we couldn’t figure out what all the boo-hooing was about. What was it about movie watching at 35,000 feet that reduced grown men to blubbering idiots? Was it the altitude? Was it the solitary nature of travel or the omnipresent fear that the plane could suddenly fall out of the sky, taking us with it? We puzzled over it for hours but were never able to solve the riddle.

The one thing we did agree on was that, especially when traveling with colleagues, clients or one’s boss, avoiding the in-flight flick was a must. Fortunately Rush Imprint has some offerings to help you pass the time and save your dignity. For brainiacs and math majors there’s the Touch Screen Travel Sudoku Game. Its compact unit combines the challenge of this popular puzzle game with touch-screen technology. It features a compact stylus storage compartment, count-up timer, a blue backlight and different skill levels to keep players of all levels challenged. For those who like a little variety, the Magnetic 7-in-1 Travel Game Set is the perfect choice. The magnetic set includes Backgammon, Checkers, Chess, Chinese Checkers, Ludo, Solitaire, & Tic-Tac-Toe. Game pieces store in the convenient hidden side compartment. Both games have room for your logo, making them great gifts for colleagues, clients and bosses who travel a lot but don’t want to get caught weeping during The First Wives Club.

I’m off to the Bi-Annual West Coast Marketing Mentors Meeting in Modesto. Remember, “grown men might cry but at least their mascara doesn’t run.

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.”