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.”

Thank You Very Much

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

If you read my column on a regular basis, you know that I am a card-carrying insomniac. You may not know that I am also a card-carrying member of Oprah’s Book Club. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I have had an Oprah Winfrey addiction for quite some time. The bad news is there is no cure. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to feed my addiction. Not only can I watch her on TV but there’s a magazine, website and radio station all devoted to the woman with the Midas touch. She’s a full-fledged icon and I have been working on a few ideas I hope will become one of her favorite things. While preparing my pitch, I came across a quote that really hit me. “Be thankful for what you have and you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.” She has a good point. Giving thanks leads to getting more things. Maybe that’s not exactly what she meant but it works for me.

In my view, nothing says thank you like a Pop Top Tin with Mini Mints. The best part is that these edible bites of gratitude are fresh, versatile and can be easily mailed anywhere. They also make an ideal tag-along at trade shows, picnics, parties, and businesses. The packaging is printable so you can promote your company while spreading thanks.

I will leave you with a final thought from my favorite talk show host. “Devote today to something so daring even you can’t believe you’re doing it.” Good advice. I’m going to take my mother-in-law shoe shopping. Wish me luck.

Big Night

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

The Academy Awards Show is this Sunday and my wife has never been more excited. She loves watching the Red Carpet arrivals and who can blame her? I especially enjoy Joan Rivers because chances are she will say exactly the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time and the results are usually uncomfortably hilarious. It’s kind of like watching “The Office” with famous people. This year’s show promises to be bigger than ever, literally. With the nomination of Jennifer Hudson and the growing popularity of America Ferrara (“Ugly Betty”) and Tyra Banks, bigger is indeed better, or at least just as beautiful.

It’s not that these ladies are fat, mind you. It’s just that compared to your average stick figure actress, these women are a lot closer in size to the average American woman. Since women have been forced to stare at endless photos of skinny super models and lollipops* like the Olsen twins, Nicole Ritchie and Kate Bosworth the emergence of actresses with actual bodies is pretty refreshing. I am pretty sure Mrs. Winston is not alone in her excitement to see women weighing more than one hundred pounds strutting their stuff down the red carpet; especially considering the average American woman weighs around 164 pounds. Incidentally, did you know that the human body has enough fat to produce seven bars of soap? I am prohibited by threat of divorce from revealing my wife’s weight but I can say that while she is less than the national average, she has never been accused of being a stick figure. That’s good news for me since I prefer a woman with a full body.

As you know, I have quite a few celebrity clients; just last week I helped Tony Danza’s former roommate design a marketing plan for his new homemade jam company. So, as you can imagine, I’m pretty dialed in. That’s how I was able to find out that a certain PR company is sending all the presenters and nominees giant personalized chocolate bars to encourage the trend toward fullness. Smart move. It’s a time honored marketing tradition that if something is hot, jump on board and if you discover a brilliant idea, steal it. That’s why I suggest you send your VIPs delicious chocolate bars that spell out your message. Rush Imprint has high quality Chocolate Bars in three sizes; your logo or personal message will get double exposure since both the bar an the wrapper can be customized. It’s the perfect promotional item when you want to ensure your message will be well received.

Mrs. Winston always says, “I never met a piece of chocolate I didn’t like.” I’m off to make some chocolate dipped strawberries; Mrs. Winston and I have a date to watch the Oscars together and it really puts her in the mood.

Mood Music

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My daughter told me about a Canadian study on the effect of music listening on work performance. It turns out, listening to tunes while working leads to improved performance. The study seemed to indicate that at least part of the reason workers produced more work at a faster pace was because hearing their favorite music put them in a good mood. It makes a lot of sense, actually. In fact, I never write my blog without first cranking up Burt Bacharach. Another study found that of the music lovers who listen while they work, 79% felt it improved their job satisfaction and productivity. So workers are happier and they get more done.

That’s why I suggest you jump on the bandwagon and promote your employees mental health while simultaneously upping productivity in your office. That way, everybody wins. Most built in computer speakers simply don’t give good sound, which is why the Icon Vase Speaker with two-way surround sound and innovative audio lens technology makes a great gift. It’s easy to use too, just plug and play. Its USB powered, doesn’t need an adapter and the tuned tweeter offers improved clarity. The sound is so good, everyone will want one. You may want to give one to favorite clients as well. Just remember to put your name on it so your customers will remember who put them in a good mood.

As it turns out, my daughter didn’t give me this information simply for my edification, she had an ulterior motive. It seems my eldest was longing for a new ipod that she said would help her study for her SATs. I have to admit, she made a compelling argument and I was more than a little proud of her ability to make a sale.

Well, I’m off to MC a local celebration of International Pancake Day (February 20th if you are interested). Remember, “music makes the world go round but you still have to sing for your supper.”