A Cautionary Tale

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

To come perfectly clean: I have just spent the last eight hours watching a “24” marathon on TV. To make matters worse, it’s Tuesday, in the middle of the day and I’m not sick, tired or out of work. Oh, and I have Tivo.

My day started normal enough. I got dressed for work, grabbed my coffee and headed out of the kitchen for the fifteen-step commute to my office in the back of the house. But, I should have never gone the through the living room. Because there it was—the remote control—right there in plain sight. Okay, it was under the couch, but just the same, it was calling to me, begging me to click the shiny red button in the top corner. Next thing I know, my kids are home from school, pulling pizza crumbs off my shirt. I asked them if they learned anything, than slithered away to my office in shame.

My name is Virgil Winston…and I am a television addict.

And I take no comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone. I am fully aware that there are more television sets in the United States than there are people in Japan. Six of them are in my house alone. I suppose I can take comfort that not one of them is in the bathroom. My point: it’s time to start reading. It’s time to join the good folks in Iceland, who read more books per capita than any other people in the world. Now, whether this has anything to do with their TV reception is beside the point. What matters is this: we can’t allow ourselves to become spuds at the cost of our minds.

There are a lot of books out there. In fact, one new book is published every 16 seconds. For those folks who are reading them: good job. For those that aren’t: well, chances are you’re not even reading this. But, just in case you are: give reading a chance. As they say on one of my favorite commercials, “the more you know, the more you grow.”

Rush Imprint wants to help you find your way. They’re doing it with their ultra cool Book Markers. These are handsome and nicely weighted metal Book Markers, which can be clipped securely to books, ledgers and note pads. More than that, they are the ideal way to get your custom imprint read time and again, page after page.

So, what are you waiting for—I hope it’s not the commercial. Start reading today. Make the world a smarter place. Starting with yourself.

As for me, I’m going to go curl up in bed with a good book. I’ll tell my wife to keep the TV on low. Until next time, remember the words of P.J. O’Rourke, “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”

One In A Billion

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I still remember my ninth birthday. The whole beautiful thing—friends, family, presents, games, cake, candles and, of course, Uncle Isadro, who at the end of my party, put his teeth back in his mouth, raised his scotch to me and said, “Kid, ten million people share your birthday…you’re not that special.”

Now, Isadro was a bitter old man who obviously never had kids, let alone a wife or, for that matter, friends, but I was an impressionable young kid and his words had a profound affect on me. I felt anonymous and uninteresting—not the best gift for a nine year old. I made a wish and then blew out the candles, convinced that with all the other wishes that day, I didn’t stand a chance. And, sure enough, Julie Andrews and I never married.

Now, had it not been for the word “lieutenant” who knows how long I might have stayed in that gloomy state of depression. That was the word that won me first place at the annual spelling bee at the Jim Morrison Elementary School. To this day, I can still remember the feeling I had when I picked up that trophy. It weighed no more than a few ounces, but it had my name on it. First Prize. Best Speller. I felt out of all the billions of people in this world, there was no one who could claim what I had just won. I felt special…and what with Uncle Isadro back in rehab, no one was going to take that away from me.

Truth is, we all need to feel special. We all need to stand out once in awhile. This is why we need to reward others…and when we do, we need to make it count. We need to present awards that reflect how we genuinely feel about those we honor. The Extra Terrestrial Medium is the answer. This award is not just bold and unique, but it’s futuristic, giving the distinct impression that you were “looking at things to come.” That’s a message we should all send. Each piece is a unique work of art with differing color and size—the perfect award to recognize achievements that are out of this world.

Well, I got to run. It’s tango night at the Y—proof positive that no one in the world can dance as bad as me. Until next time, “If you want to stand out, don’t be different; be outstanding.”

Winstson. Virgil Winston

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Alright, I’m going to flip flop a little from my last post. The only thing cooler than an Etch-A-Sketch, would be an Etch-A-Sketch satellite system, complete with laser gun, infrared scope and rappelling rope. Yes, I still passionately love low tech and stupid, but, at the end of the day, there is nothing better than cool. I think half of America would agree with me, even if it is the half that, as my wife would say, “doesn’t know better.”

In fact, I’m proud to say I’ve seen every James Bond every movie ever made and, the truth is, if I wasn’t in the promotional product business, I’d probably be an agent myself. My family gets embarrassed when I say that out loud (as if saving the world was a bad thing), but I don’t care what the world thinks. Agents have always been misunderstood. And, besides, I don’t squash their dreams, do I? Even when my wife says that one-day she wants to cook a pasta dish that people will like. As if that’s going to happen.

I admit it…I have the spy bug. I like things fast and dangerous, with lots of cool looking gadgets, starting with the USB 1.1 Memory Pen & Laser Pointer. Yes, it’s a pen. Yes, it’s a pointer. But, open it up and it’s a USB 128MB jump drive for putting every secret document you ever had, or at least your grocery list. It comes in a cool case and would make any gadget lover weep—man or woman. And, oh yes, women love gadgets, too. And I think it’s high time woman come out of the closet and admit it. Go ahead say it out loud, “I am woman…and I love gadgets, too.” Feel better.

This pen combo is a great promotional gift for anyone looking for a little spice in their life. Go ahead; give it a try. Let it bring out your inner spy.

As Jack Bauer from “24” says, “I got to go.” My son’s kite fell into the neighbors yard…and my wife says, “I’m going in.” Until next time, wish me luck.

Margaritaville

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

This just in: 27% of all male college students believe life is a meaningless existential hell, which brings me right to our featured product of the day: the Etch-a-Sketch Key Chain. My regular readers know what I’m talking about. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe we need to lighten up a little, to stop thinking about the grittiness of life and start “living on sponge cake and watching the sun bake.” It’s time to lay back in the proverbial sun, turn off our minds and start “wasting away in Margaritaville.” Figuratively speaking, of course.

You know it’s true. Our toys are so adult like—cool, high tech, expensive and functional that we’ve all but forgotten how to be lazy, purposeless and silly. Well, I’m here to end that, to challenge brave men and women everywhere to take action: to perform more random acts of senseless fun. And, for my money, the Etch-A-Sketch keychain is a good first step. It’ll take you straight back to your childhood. You remember that, don’t you? All those wonderful hours spent twisting the knobs of your Etch-A-Sketch, creating elaborate Frank Lloyd Wright creations, only to shake them up and start all over again.

With this perfect promotional gift, you won’t just carry your keys; you’ll carry your childhood. That’s a gift that lasts forever.

Well, I got to go. It’s time for me to start searching for “my lost shaker of salt.” It may be October, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s still “a warm wind to blame.” Until next time, see you in Margaritaville.

50% Chance of Showers

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

The cosmos contains approximately 50,000,000,000 galaxies, with somewhere near 1,000,000,000,000 stars in each galaxy. Underneath those stars, there are 6,526,685,554 people on earth, which may not mean much to you, until you consider that if the entire population of China were to run past you in single file, you would not live long enough to see the end of the line. It’s a big world and, yet, there is one thing we all have in common, each and every one of us—from Anyang, China to Dakota City, Iowa—we all love the weather. “Just how cold is it going to be…and should I bring a coat.”

We don’t just love it. We’re weather freaks, especially my wife’s side of the family. In fact, my father-in-law was a frustrated meteorologist, who gave up a promising career on Flagstaff, Arizona’s Channel 14…all because a severe hail storm hit in 1973, moments after he called for a “few scattered clouds with mild temperatures in the mid 70’s.”

Everyone told him it wasn’t his fault, but he felt disgraced, and unable to look the town folk in the eye, he eventually moved east, where he retired as a postman, carrying mail through rain, sleet, snow and on sad days, even hail.

I could say I digressed, but since I never really began in the first place…let me just get to it…and tell you I have an item here that is just the right gift for 6.5 billion people, with special Rush Imprint pricing for anything over 2 billion. It’s the High Sierra Tahoe Weather Station. With a sleek modern design, this weather station features an alarm clock with snooze, month/day/year calendar, while displaying temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius. It also has a powerful LED backlight and a remote thermometer that you can put outdoors, all packaged in a nice gift box from High Sierra.

And, remember, nobody ships to China faster than Rush Imprint.

Well, I’m off to get some pepper. I’ve been trying to convince my son it’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open…and he’s been trying to prove me wrong for a week. Poor kid. Until next time, remember what my father-in-law says, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

The Good Ol’ Days

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Today, I want to talk about Frisbees, also called “pie tins,” Pluto Platters and in Rush Imprint’s case, the 9” Flyer. First off, let’s just say I’m a nostalgic freak. I love Hula Hoops, 3-D glasses and the Fonz, not to mention Ozzie & Harriet and Father Knows Best, black and white shows that came on before I was even born. Truth is, if I had the Flux Capacitor, the invention that Dr. Brown used to make time travel possible in the Back to Future Films, I would certainly go back to simpler times.

Now, my wife would call that pathetic, arguing that even knowing what a flux capacitor is, was all the evidence she needed to prove I didn’t have a real date until the day I met her. While, she’s wrong by a good two months, there’s no denying that I represent a lot of people out there, individuals who secretly wish we lived in simpler times.

Well, now with the 9” flyer, we can have it. It’s the perfect promotional toy to bring out not just the kid in us, but the nostalgic. Ever since students at Yale were throwing around a few pie tins from the Frisbie Pie Company back in the mid 1950’s, over 200 million units have been sold. We love them. It’s more than a hobby for kids and dogs, it’s a sport—two sports, in fact: Ultimate Frisbee and Frisbee Golf, which are perfect for companies of all sizes—competitive and easy to play. It’s a great team building activity. And guess, what…your name is on every flyer. For instructions on how to play, go to http://www2.upa.org/index.php for Ultimate Players Association or http://www.pdga.com/ for the Professional Disc Golf Association. You’ll be glad you did.

Well, I’m off to the South Texas Origami Convention, where I’m entering my “Portuguese Swan” in the competition…if my wife hasn’t shredded it. Until next time, remember, “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.”

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Who do you love? Come on…who do you really love? Yes, you love your spouse, kids, parents and friends. Yes, I know…they light up your life and complete you. But, between you and me…who do you really love? Yeah, that’s right. You love yourself, don’t you? We all do. Carly Simon was right, “we are so vain” and, yes, “I do think that song is about me.”

Ever since that first cave man stared into some pond, we’ve been looking for ways to admire ourselves, if not find ways to free unsightly pieces of spinach lodged between our teeth. Thankfully we discovered glass in 5000 B.C., which we were able to turn into the mirror in 3500 BC, which not coincidentally coincides with the first hair cut, not to mention the birth of the entire skin care industry.

Face it, we’re obsessed with mirrors, with an average 7.3 mirrors in each house, or 22.4 in the case of Jesse Jackson. Mirrors make great promotional or tradeshow gifts…and, fortunately, Rush Imprint has plenty to choose from, at all different price points. We have the Micro Mirror, Computer Memo Holder & Mirror and the Oval Translucent Sewing Kit & Mirror, which I hope I don’t have to tell you is NOT intended for facial surgery. And, of course, we have the deluxe Robot Series Compact Lighted Mirror, which is so beautiful it could turn a humble monk into Warren Beatty.

Go ahead, get a mirror and let the loving begin.

Now, I’m off to see Lil’ Kim, who I have yet to see since she was released from prison. Until next time, remember the words of Henry David Thoreau, “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”

A Quarter Past the Potato

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

If you think you’ve had a long week, remember the ancient Aztec week was twenty days long, which not even a three-day weekend could save. Throughout history we have used all types of time-telling devices—sundials, pendulums, candle clocks, hour glasses, calendar clocks, and for the ancient Incas of Peru, even time measured by how long it took to cook a potato, which thousands of years later, has became a little more sophisticated by my own grandfather, who proudly believes he can measure time by his own bowel movements.

Yes, we’ve come a long way, which is why I’d like to introduce you to the Planet-Time Clock. This promotional gift item will stand out on any desk. It makes a stunning gift with the silver tone globe contrasting against the black weighted base…all with a generous sized imprint area for your logo and/or message. Of course, the exciting thing about this clock is this: the globe rotates once per minute advancing the time and the Meridian and Equatorial bands. This is not just a timepiece, but a conversation piece.

There may be thousands of ways to tell time, but how many of them are sleek, powerful and accurate—certainly more reliable than a potato…or a trip to the bathroom.

Well, I’m off to the Opera with my wife, where I predict in three rotations of the globe, I will be fast asleep. Until next time, remember, “There is no time, like the present.”

Google Cool

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My Aunt Irene has what doctors call Internet Addiction Disorder, which is compounded by an aggressive form of Relational Googleitis—an inability to stop Googling everybody she ever met. In spite of her lug of a husband, she wants to believe her life is better than most of the people she knows, including the boys and girls she shared the first grade with.

While Irene is the extreme, there are many of us who, if not in the same boat, are most definitely sailing in the same waters. We love our computers. And if we’re not Googling our high school class for convicted felons, we’re listening to music, organizing photos, doing taxes, getting recipes, playing games, making movies, charting genealogical roots, gambling, dreaming, searching and, once in awhile, even working.

Enhance that computer experience and, guess what? You’ve just taken one giant leap toward entrenching your life—and promotional products—into the lives of your potential customers. Computer gadgets never go out of style. And the cooler the better.

And, yes…it doesn’t get cooler than the USB Laptop Fan. This refreshing gift is perfect for the laptop user. No batteries needed—it’s all USB powered. It also comes with a strong clip to hold it in place, a clear case with snap-shut lid and a gift box. You’ll get people turning their heads for this one…if only for the fresh breeze coming their way.

Well, I’m off to my next door neighbor’s wedding, a man my Aunt Irene tells me once served four days in county jail for disorderly conduct. Until next time, remember, if you want to be cool, you have to stay cool.

The GUMvelope – Promotional Candy

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

The largest bubble ever blown was 23 inches in diameter.
Record set on July 19, 1994
Susan Montgomery Willams, Fresno California

Ever since that great California ad man, Gary Dahl, invented the Pet Rock in 1975, we’ve been looking for the next big thing. Well, I just found it. It’s called the GUMvelope. I just love the name—trademark rightfully pending. This promotional tradeshow product is the perfect blend of originality and simplicity. It’s gum with your name on it. A 12 pack of Sugar Free Peppermint Gum in a handy, silver dispenser wrapped with an imprinted envelope.

Sure, you expect company names and logos imprinted on mugs, shirts, pens and hats, but gum? That’s a novelty…a novelty that makes you want to dig into your pocket and share with the world—five beautiful sticks at a time. Oh…and by the way, North Americans spend approximately half a billion dollars on gum every year. In other words, that’s a lot of people to please…a lot of customers.

But, please…remember the gum etiquette: no popping, no cracking and no unlawfully disposing of gum under the furniture. Friends don’t let friends chew and drop. Chew responsibly.

Now, I’m off to the Friends for a Cell Free America Rally being held out by the only payphone left in town. Until next time, remember the words of Hank Ketcham, “Flattery is like chewing gum. Enjoy it, but don’t swallow it.”