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.”

Road Trip…Literally

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Things have been a bit chaotic in the Winston household so I decided this weekend would be an ideal time to take a road trip up the coast. Mrs. Winston doesn’t share my penchant for the open road as she suffers from acute carsickness and the kids were tied up with birthday parties and soccer practice, so I decided to go it alone. I was a little uncertain about making the trip solo until I realized it meant I would be able to play my music free of teenage disdain and I could stop at every tourist trap from here to San Francisco to hunt for unusual souvenirs for my new book. You wouldn’t believe how many different ways there are to brand a decorative toilet seat cover. Don’t worry; I’ve covered it thoroughly in Chapters 4, 8 and 56.

I left the house early Saturday morning with my Duval Travel Mug and a cooler full of sandwiches, full of positive expectations for a fruitful and relaxing trip. Unfortunately that was a pipe dream as I am writing my blog from inside the Monterey Emergency Room. I’ve had plenty of time too since I’ve been waiting in a “room” for over three hours without so much as an offer of aspirin or a cold compress. I could use one too since both my index fingers are swollen and quite possibly sprained…or worse.

I can’t go into too much detail because my injuries make typing difficult but suffice it to say, I was in a freak photography accident. Apparently the little signs that are posted by shore warning sightseers not to wander out too far are not completely without merit. I was just planning to grab a quick self-portrait on the rocks for my book jacket so I hung my coat on the sign, set the self-timer on my camera and headed out. I had just lit up my best smile when a huge wave came out of nowhere and took me out. I went under, hit the rocks, lost my glasses but managed to make it out with my camera and my life. Alas, my dignity is still on the rocks. I felt more than a little foolish walking back to the car soaking wet and bleeding but at least I was a live fool. I was also fortunate to have a first aid kit with bandages and antibiotic ointment at my disposal. I recently attended the opening of a local skate park that gave away First Aid Kits in Zippered Pouches. Smart giveaway. I took three. Hey, with my luck it’s a real practical item to have on hand. It’s a good thing I was able to stop the bleeding too because I’m going in to hour four and I haven’t seen so much as a surly nurse or even a candy striper since I checked in.

Well, I’ve got to go find a doctor to look at my typing fingers. Remember, “a picture is worth a thousand words but it’s not worth breaking a finger over.”

Walk It Off

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

This morning I was awakened by the five words that strike terror in the hearts of married men everywhere. I used to think the phrase, “My mother is moving in” was the worst sentence a man could hope to hear his wife utter. That is, until I heard her say, “I’m starting a new diet” as she struggled to pull on something called skinny jeans. I started to ask if they were called skinny jeans because you have to be a toothpick to wear them but one look at my wife’s face told me to shut my trap. The truth is, I think she looks great as she is but once she sets her mind to something, there is no stopping her.

Don’t get me wrong, I want her to be happy and if wearing jeans that cost as much as a car payment makes her happy then I’m all for it. I don’t even mind that she diets. The problem is that Mrs. Winston is not a do-it-yourselfer. She believes that dieting is a group activity which means my morning pancakes are about to be replaced by oat bran flakes and the cocoa crispies my youngest enjoys are about to hit the trash. So, in the interest of parental bonding, I decided that today would be a good day to take the kids to the local International House of Pancakes for some real food. Nothing says good morning like a Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity®.

My daughter declined because apparently she actually enjoys oat bran, so it was just us guys. I was just about to settle in with the morning paper and a my chocolate chip short stack when I came across an article about how overweight employees are costing employers a bundle in Worker’s Comp and medical leave. Apparently being fat is fatal to the bottom line and companies are starting to take notice. The truth is, we are, as a country, getting bigger every day, and not in a good way. People are growing unhealthier every year and it’s not only hurting the body carrying around the extra pounds, it’s killing profits for companies who employ portly workers.

Many companies are looking for ways to administer health and fitness programs, so now is the perfect time for you to give health related promotional items. You know the adage, so be part of the solution and offer your clients, or your own employees, some healthful assistance. A Fitness Pedometer with your company’s logo imprinted in the front cover will put a spring in the receivers step and they will think of you with each footfall. The LCD display shows elapsed time and steps taken and includes a Standard Calorie Consumption by Walking table, belt clip and batteries. They say walking 10,000 steps a day is good for the bottom line, double entendre intended, so it’s a gift that is certain to be well received.

I’m off to the farmers market to surprise Mrs. Winston with a bouquet of organic carrots. Until next time, “Walk tall, walk fast and count every step.”

Dream On

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I’ve had the same dream for the last three nights in a row. It’s starts with me playing at the final table in the World Poker Tour (WPT). We are down to three players and I am the chip leader. To my left sits a dwarf with a giant mustache, wearing a purple cowboy hat and to my right sits Pamela Anderson. She’s on the short stack, meaning she has the least number of chips at the table. Milton Berle is the dealer. The hat wearing dwarf folds and the former Mrs. Tommy Lee goes all in, throwing in her top for good measure. I left that detail out when recounting the dream to Mrs. Winston for obvious reasons, so mums the word. I check my hole cards and find that Uncle Milty has blessed me with two ladies (Queens) and I make the call. Pam, I figure after three nights in a row we are on a first name basis, flips over rockets (aces) and I see that my ladies are far behind. Vince Van Patton and Mike Sexton are calling the action in their usual colorful fashion so there are numerous jokes about Pam doubling up and the crowd is chanting, “Virgil!” After all, it is my dream. Then it gets weird.

Suddenly the dwarf stands up on his chair, pounds his chest and flips the table over all the while, singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” at the top of his lungs. Everyone is frozen with shock and the crowd goes quiet. I look up to discover that everyone in the audience has turned into giant lobsters and they are descending on the poker table, claws clicking wildly. One particularly fierce looking lobster reaches toward me, claw outstretched. It clamps down on my wrist and starts to drag me toward what I imagine is his lobster lair to cook up some Winston stew. Just as it starts to rain, I wake up, drenched in sweat and screaming into my pillow.

Dreams like that are one of the reasons I’m such an insomniac. Being chased by angry lobsters is exhausting. Needless to say, I’ve made an emergency appointment with a psychiatrist because even I can’t decode all the symbolism in that one. Part of my therapy involves writing down every dream as soon as I wake up so I keep a journal next to my bed which is now located in the den because Mrs. Winston can’t sleep through all the screaming.

Journals are the new “must have” item; there are food journals, exercise journals, dream journals, even work journals. Which is where Rush Imprint comes in. The spiral-bound Colorblock Journal is the perfect item to hand out at team meetings, orientation or any venue where there is an opportunity for team building. This one features a two-tone protective cover, an elastic pen loop and 100 sheets of lined paper. It doesn’t include a pen, so be a sport and throw one in.

Someone once said, “The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories.” If that’s true, I can look forward to a good night’s rest tonight. I’m off to the neighbor’s to apologize for the late night screaming. My wife baked them a bundt cake to thank them for not calling the police.

Spring is in the Air

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

April is an important month. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of the most important months of the year, at least in this country. It’s also my favorite. Sure it has its drawbacks; all those April showers promising to bring May flowers, taxes are due and of course there’s spring cleaning. But April also has great holidays like April Fool’s Day, Passover and Easter. It also marks the beginning of daylight savings time, everybody comes down with Spring Fever and, the number one reason I love April, baseball season officially begins.

I admit, I’m not a sports nut. I don’t know the stats of every player in the major league, I don’t watch Sports Center and I was usually picked last for the team in high school. Except when Joe “Stinky” Callus was there and then I was picked second to last. Baseball is different though. I don’t watch much on TV but I love going to the games. There is something about getting the family together, heading to the stadium in the fresh air and seeing that baseball diamond. The smell of hotdogs, peanuts and almost stale beer permeates the air and the crack of the bat and roar of the crowd gets my blood pumping. I guess it reminds me of my youth and going to games with my Dad. He taught me about the game and what it means to be a fan. I’ll never forget the first time I went to a game with my dad. I don’t remember who won the game, or who was playing for that matter. What I do remember is walking in to the stadium and being handed a giant foam bat that said Dodger Stadium Fan Appreciation Day in big blue letters. I think it was the first promotional item I ever received on my own. It was truly a special moment and even though I’ve collected dozens of t-shirts, commemorative rulers, baseballs and butt pillows over the years, it’s still a thrill.

Today’s offering from Rush Imprint combines two of my favorite things, baseball and marketing. The Baseball Falling Water Timer is practical, whimsical and an excellent way to be remembered by a new client or an old customer. In fact, I am pitching it (pun intended) to my son’s peewee league for their annual giveaway.

Well I’ve got to run, it’s fan appreciation day and there is a rumor that the home team is giving away branded croc sandals to the first 300 people through the gates. Remember, “If it’s worth giving away, it’s worth putting your name on.”

Taxing Matters

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I owe, I owe
So it’s off to work I go
I owe, I owe
So it’s off to work I go
I owe, I owe, I owe, I owe, I owe, I owe!

My dad used to sing that little ditty in the car at the top of his lungs as he dropped us kids off at school on his way to work. Dad isn’t a particularly gifted singer but what he lacked in harmony, he made up for in enthusiasm. His parody of the Heigh-Ho song from “Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs” was one of his favorites so he sang it a lot. I’m convinced that song was one of the main reasons my brothers and sisters and I are all card carrying workaholics but that’s another story. Most days I didn’t mind the singing but it was always kind of embarrassing when he sang on carpool day when Timmy Stringer was riding with us. Not only did he sing loudly and off key, but Timmy’s dad didn’t work at all so my dad would usually find himself mid song when he’d remember Timmy was in the car. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, or cause little Tim to ask a bunch of awkward questions, Dad would start making up weird lyrics about food stamps and unemployment insurance, which would lead to lots of eye rolling in the back seat and a punch in the arm from Timmy.

I found myself humming that almost forgotten tune from my youth today for a slightly different reason. I received a rather unsavory surprise in the form of a phone call from my accountant; I owe a bundle in taxes. I made quite a bit more money last year than in previous years (my book is selling like hotcakes) and that extra income means that the Feds want a bigger piece of my pie. Mind you, I’m not complainging about having a profitable year but like most people; parting with my hard earned cash hurts. As I drove to my accountant’s office to pick up my tax documents, I found myself humming, and then singing the “I owe” song at the top of my lungs and I have to admit, it made me smile.

I decided to look on the bright side and turn my loss into a win and convinced my accountant to order 300 Dollar Sign Stress Relievers to hand out next tax season. Forking over bundles of cash has a way of making even the most Zen person a little testy so a little stress relief is in order. He thinks it’s a humorous ways to get new business and remind his clients that hiring a good accountant is the best stress relief money can buy. Personally, I prefer a massage or a Caribbean vacation but a good chuckle works well in a pinch. While it’s true that we can’t escape paying taxes, we can at least have a bit of fun and remember that it beats the other thing we can’t avoid.

The good news is Uncle Sam gave everyone an extra day so you have until April 17th to mail in your forms. I don’t know about you but I’m not taking any chances and am heading to the post office now. With any luck, I’ll get in just before midnight.

Can The Satin Stainless Knife Make You A Hero?

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As regular readers are well aware, I’m something of a television addict and my current favorite addiction, “Heroes,” is on hiatus. It’s been gone for weeks now and is not scheduled to return until April 23rd. I’m counting the days. For those who are unfamiliar with the best show on TV, it’s about regular people who wake up and discover that they possess mysterious new powers. The show follows them as they struggle with their transformation into real life super heroes. Of course there is a villain or two but for me, the real drama is watching how regular people handle their newfound strengths. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m obsessed.

I think part of my obsession is the idea that anyone could wake up one day with special powers. I guess some part of me is still that kid, hiding under my covers with a flashlight after lights out, reading comic books and dreaming of flying like Superman or clinging to walls like Spidey. As I kid, I’d have loved to be able to fly at supersonic speeds but these days, I prefer Business class. I also wished for X-ray vision, especially around Christmas time when I would try to see through the piles of tightly wrapped packages under the tree. As an adult, I realize that some things are better left unseen, like my wife’s closet. If I got to choose one power to possess, I’d like to see the future. Just think if the good I could do! I’d be able to look ahead and see new marketing trends and find out which promotional items were going to be hot months, or even years, ahead of anyone else.

I think deep inside, everyone wishes he (or she) could be a superhero. Who wouldn’t want Batman’s utility belt? For those of us who live in the real world, Rush Imprint offers the next best thing. The Satin Stainless #12 Knife was created to successfully tackle virtually any task. It has 12 different functions including a standard knife blade, nail file, scissors, awl, fish scaler, saw, and phillips/slotted screwdrivers all contained in a stainless steel body with plenty of room for your company logo or promotional message. It’s a promotional give away that is guaranteed to make a hero out of you, at least as far as your clients are concerned.

Well, I’m off to Stockton to make an appearance at the World Deep-Fried Asparagus Eating Championship. I don’t care for asparagus but they are giving away limited addition promotional plates so I plan to get there early. Until next time, I leave you with the words of another great writer, Ernest Hemingway, “As you get older, it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.” If you don’t have one, be one.