To Die…or to Speak

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

We all know that the number one fear in America is not death, heights, going to the dentist or even spending an hour with Joan Rivers. It’s speaking in public. I’ve tried myself to overcome the fear—breathing exercises, yoga, hypnotherapy and even a brief foray into Colonics, which is just a quaint way of saying they give you a lot of enemas.

And, of course, everybody says, “just picture your audience in their underwear,” which might have worked if my 88 year old Aunt Esther hadn’t once dropped her napkin in my presence, her purple thong wistfully peeking its way out of her Juicy Couture sweats…a train wreck made even worse when her husband, Hal, caught me looking and winked.

No, I needed more help than that. So, I enrolled at the Dale Carnegie Institute for Public Speaking, studying under some of the most gifted orators of our generation. It is here I overcame my fear, learning a lesson I’d like to pass on to you now. The most important thing about public speaking is not what you say or how you say it. It’s not eye contact, posture, projection or poise. The key to public speaking success is having a really good pointer in your hand…something that distracts the audience from your stumbling words.

I’m not talking about just any pointer, but the ultimate Presentation Laser Pointer, which is the perfect gift for those executives who have everything…and even those who have nothing, including wit, charisma or passion. Trust me, this thing is cool. You control your Power Point presentations remotely using this compact system. What’s more, its base unit connects to your computer, picking up signals from the wand to switch slides, allowing the laser pointer to direct your audiences’ attention to areas on the screen…and, more importantly, away from you. Now, how’s that for a cure.

Well, I’m off to the Tucson Society of Philographist’s (autograph collectors), where if I’m lucky, I will finally get my coveted Yo Yo Ma signature. Until next time, remember the words of Jerry Seinfeld, who never thought it was right that death would be the number two fear, saying, “That means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Onions, Garlic & Stress

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Let me just come right out and say it. Clark Gable had breath that could kill a yak. I’m talking breath that was so horrible Vivien Leigh could barely kiss him in Gone With the Wind. Truth be told, Scarlett was the one who didn’t give a damn—she just wanted to get off the set. Now, I realize Clark drank a good deal of whiskey and, what with his false teeth and all, there were valid reasons for the breath he had. Just the same, he clearly points out the fact that even the rich and famous get halitosis. For that matter, so do 74 million other Americans. We are without a doubt, a country in need of a mint.

But, don’t worry, Rush Imprint has you covered…and not just for their timeliness and speed. These guys know something about bad breath… just ask the guys in shipping. In fact, they have all the mints you need, including the Custom Wrapped Jumbo Cinnamon Mint, a certain conversation piece…the Flat Top Tins-Super Mints, with the cool tin and large imprint area…or one of my favorites, the Credit Card Mint Dispenser. Put your logo on any one of these trendy wrappers, boxes or tins and then watch as your clients or staff line up for more—their marriages and careers saved.

Well, speaking of bad breath, I’m off to the Harrison Ford Achievement Awards. Until next time, remember the words of Uncle Dan, our family’s most gamy offender, who said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Uncle Dan knows what he’s talking about.

It’s a Small World

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My brother Jack was born on the same day that Fidel Castro became Prime Minister of Cuba, who also shares the same birthday as John McEnroe, who once screamed obscenities at an impressionable young ball boy for not bringing him his towel fast enough…an act that soured that boy on the world of professional tennis forever.

Of course, for those of you have read my biography, you know that boy was me. Do I regret giving up a promising tennis career? Not at all. In fact, I’m grateful for McEnroe’s temper. While he may have gone on to one unsuccessful talk show after another, I am celebrating my 25th year in the marketing world, fortunate enough to be sharing the promotional products that will reach out and touch the lives of generations to come, continuing today with…drum roll, please…the 3-In-One Note Jotter.

The 3-in-1 Note Jotter is a small, simple and extremely affordable leave behind reminder of who you are. The case comes with a patriotic blue pen, red pen and a pair of 100-sheet sticky pads…and is available in a cool translucent blue with your message imprinted. Pick up a few of these today…and spread the love.

Now, I’m off to my youngest son’s birthday party. I got 500 Anderson Plumbing balloons for the kids…each one attached to a beautiful Hank’s Liquor Store Click-Switch Pocket Light. And my wife says I don’t know how to plan a party. Until next time, remember the words of Oscar Wilde, “Hear no evil, speak no evil—and you’ll never be invited to a party.”

Branding and the Art of the Tattoo

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Esquire Magazine estimated that 1 in 8 Americans was tattooed, 14% of which were Republicans. Now, I love a good tattoo…just not on me. I’m afraid of needles and, probably more accurately, the way my sagging flesh might someday distort the artwork.

Truth is, the tattoo is the ultimate advertising, a walking logo for girlfriends, mothers, roses, Chinese symbols, death chants, snakes, hearts and, of course, attitude and lifestyle. Eminem has several tattoos, including one on his wrist that says, “Slit here,” which is almost as telling as Charlie Sheen’s chest tattoo that says, “Back in 15 minutes,” both of which are much more understandable than Mike Tyson putting a picture of Mao Tse-tung on his right arm. I can only believe he thought it was a bottle of imported beer or maybe he asked for a nice picture of a “cow tongue” and it got lost somewhere in the translation.

In any case, there are rules when it comes to tattooing and branding…and we’d be wise to learn what we can from this long lost art. In fact, there are three simple rules:

1. Be careful what you put on your product, because it will be there forever…and you only have to look at Johnny Depp to believe me. After breaking up with his lifelong soul mate, he was forced to turn his “Winona Forever” into “Wino Forever.” Have the right dates, the right sentiment, the right spelling…and you won’t regret it.

2. Don’t over brand. Don’t over tattoo. Yes, you can have too many tattoos. Put too many words on your product and you’ll end up looking like one giant ink spot. Just ask Tommy Lee. Nobody reads his body anymore—there’s just too many. Don’t let this happen to you or your company. Cut down on words. Make your point quickly, then stop.

3. Don’t be afraid of a message that only a few will understand. Including a message that only your team or company will understand, adds a little mystique, making your product all the more desirable. Read Angelina Jolie’s stomach and you’ll know what I mean. It says, “Quod Me Nutrit Me Destruit,” which if you studied Latin, you would know means…“That Which Nourishes Me Also Destroys Me,” a reference I’m sure to her Billy Bob Thorton days.

Okay, that’s it. It was a long post, but I felt we needed to talk about it. I’m off to the American Society of Dermatologists Convention, who says that 50% of the millions of Americans who get a tattoo eventually want it removed. Until next time, remember what my mother* always said, “The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who have tattoos, and those who are afraid of people with tattoos.”

* Norwegian Mermaid on her right ankle

Where did you get that?

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Besides humans, the only animal that can stand on its head is the elephant. And what does this have to do with your next marketing promotion? Absolutely nothing, except that it makes me wonder just how many animals did they have to go through to find one who could do the trick? While odd, it’s not as strange as the scientist who conclusively proved that if you were to pass gas continuously for 6 years and 9 months, enough wind would be produced to equal the energy of an atomic bomb.

Bottom line, our society loves the odd, the weird and the ridiculous, which leads us right to the Liqui-Stapler. This is a whimsical gift that is sure to start conversations, beginning with those five all-important words…“where did you get that,” which not coincidentally are the same words my grandfather wants put on his tombstone. This novelty stapler not only works, it uses standard staples and has a liquid filled see-through chamber with a stock globe-floating icon. Who thinks of these things?

Well, I’m off to the Roanoke Miniature Golf Finals, where my cousin hopes to become the youngest back-to-back winner in Virginia history. That’s right, Virginia’s not just for lovers anymore. Until next time, remember, millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the first one who asked why.

When in Rome…

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My grandfather has always been a history buff, so it’s not surprising he’s always thanking the Romans, not for introducing democratic principles, but for inventing the whole idea of kissing on the lips. You see, in ancient times, a husband returning from work would kiss his wife to see if she’d been drinking during the day…and, now, 600 or so years later, my grandfather wakes up each morning, thanks the Romans, then turns to his wife of 61 years and puckers…leaving my grandma secretly vowing never to visit Italy.

Lips…they’re the focal point of our face, the pathway for our words and our affections. And, guess what, we better take care of them, unless we want to see the demise of another civilization. All of which brings us to our featured product of the day—Flavored Lip Balm, aka KISS, or Keep It Simple Stupid, which is not meant to be derogatory, but to serve as a simple reminder that the best gifts in life are not only simple, but take care of others.

Tie your Lip Balm into any event that includes the sun and you’ll offer the protection that will make your customers and employees remember you with every kiss.

Now, I’m off to the Gilroy Garlic Festival, where I’ve just taken an order for 20,000 Credit Card Mint Dispensers. Until next time, remember the words grandpa stole from Bob Hope, “People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy.”

Mrs. Shirley-Partridge Winston

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Growing up I had a hopeless crush on Miss Pittsburgh, 1953, also known as Shirley Jones of the Partridge Family. I followed her life like a rabid dog, collecting her autograph photographs, piano playing cards and “I Think I Love You” key chains. Of course, my prized possession was the Partridge Family Lunch Box, which my mother cheapened with the sardine sandwiches she stuffed inside, convinced they would give me the brainpower I needed to compete with what she called the “smarter kids.”

Anyway, to make a long story short…I still have that lunch box. It’s that rare commodity we call in the business…a collectible…that something you won’t throw away because it has financial or sentimental value. In other words, it’s a marketers dream.

This is an important lesson for us all. We need to give away products our customers or employees will want to keep. Of course, nobody is suggesting that Round Golf Pencils will achieve the same cult status as the 1968 Klingon Action Figure, but we can certainly make our products more memorable. We can…and we must…make our products something our customers and employees will want to keep.

How do we do this? We begin by asking what is the significance of the gift we are giving. Sure, sometimes you’re just filling a bag with stuff, but other times it’s a lot more. Maybe it’s the first day on the job, or the ten-thousandth customer or, perhaps, you’ve reached sales quota for the first time in a long while. Whatever it is, we need to mark our achievements and milestones with not only the right product, but with the right message. Include dates, inscriptions, words of praise and gratitude…and you’ll make your give away a product they’ll want to keep.

Now, I’m off to the beach for a family picnic. Say hello if you see us. We’ll be the ones with the black socks and sandals. Until next time, remember what Mrs. Partridge always told Laurie when she was feeling especially moody, “I’m always here for you, honey.”

Truth In Advertising

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

There’s a lot of false advertising in this world. French Fries originated in Belgium not France, Great Danes come from Germany not Denmark and a ten gallon hat holds only six pints of water. And for that matter, Madonna was born in Michigan not Liverpool.

And because of these everyday deceptions, it’s life affirming when you come across a product that does exactly what its name implies. Of course, I’m talking about the Shorty Pen-on-A-Rope. It’s short. It’s a pen. It comes on a rope. Yes, it’s good to believe again.

Beyond its unique shape and opening mechanism, this new age pen comes packed with versatility. Wear it as a convenience or a fashion statement. It’s almost as bold as the emerald green Versace dress Jennifer Lopez wore at the Grammy’s on March 7, 2000, not that I noticed all that much. Anyway, I digress. The translucent blue pen features an unusual open-close system—simply pull the cap up to extend the point, and push it back down to retract. It’s more than a pen on a rope. It’s your company’s name on a rope.

Next time you’re in a rush, don’t even think about it…just get this one…you’ll be glad you did.

Now, I’m off to the Michigan Anesthesiologist Conference, where I have it on good authority that there’s not a speaker in the house who won’t put you to sleep. Until next time, remember the words of my Uncle Rex. “Honesty pays, but it doesn’t pay enough to suit most people.”

2+2 Still Equals Four

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My Uncle Lou is a numerologist who lives and breathes numbers and seeing as how he’s doing fourteen months in a minimum-security prison for a few minor accounting errors, he has a lot of free time to spend on his hobby. I bet you didn’t know an average drop of Heinz tomato ketchup leaves the bottle at a speed of 25 miles per hour or that the probability of getting hit by a meteor is 1 in 200 million, which are probably the same odds that Uncle Lou has of finding a wife once he gets out of the big house.

Now, while most of us aren’t as obsessed as my uncle, numbers are an inescapable fact of life. Unfortunately, most of us are mathematically challenged and we need all the help we get. In short, we need calculators, making them the perfect promotional give-away, guaranteed with 2-1 accuracy that they will be used every day, all day.

And the Jumbo Desk Calculator is your solution. It’s not just a nice looking desk accessory with stylish lines, but a full function calculator with large soft-touch keys and an angled LCD for easy viewing. Your logo—or prison cell number depending on your circumstances—will be imprinted in a prominent place on this dual powered calculator, which works off light and still works in the dark, ideal for when the warden yells “lights out.

Now, I’m off to balance my checkbook with my prized 1974 vintage TAB soft drink calculator. Until next time, remember what Uncle Lou always says, “there are 293 ways to make change for a dollar,” and every one of those ways will keep you out of jail.

In Praise of the Clip

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

If you’re anything like me, you probably can’t help but feel empowered when you lift a paper clip from the magnetic pull of its holder, almost as much as you feel oddly safe when you gingerly return the clip back to its home.

Now, I know that may sound Norman Bates to some, and perhaps it’s one of the reasons my wife has started to ask for separate vacations, but I can’t hide the fact that…yes, I love the paperclip. I believe it is one of the greatest inventions of our time. And with apologies to penicillin, the light bulb and even the IPod, I would like to set aside today to honor the paperclip. We can begin with a nod to the great Johan Vaaler, that spry Norwegian inventor who in 1899 took a piece of wire, bent it to a rectangular hoop, then brilliantly allowed the end parts to lie side by side in contrary, but beautifully symmetrical directions. It makes you glad to be an American, even if he is from Europe.

It is in his honor, that we feature the Paper Clip Buddy, offered in translucent blue with rainbow clips or a yellow version with black clips. Of course, it also includes a 12-piece clip in a patented magnetized clip well, that will draw even the most discerning of clip aficionado’s and, yes, there are aficionado’s…mostly in hiding, though.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to the garden to spend a few quiet moments in gratitude for the simple conveniences of life. Until next time, remember what Confucius liked to tell his kids, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”