The Winner Is…

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

It’s January and you know what that means, it’s “Awards Show” season. You can hardly channel surf without landing smack dab in the middle of an acceptance speech. First up are the Golden Globes, where somebody is likely to get sloshed before their acceptance speech; then the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards where actors give awards to other actors; and the granddaddy of them all, The Oscars. If you live in Los Angeles, you run the constant risk of red carpet related traffic jams.

Awards Show season is one of the busiest times of year for me. Not only do I design promotional items for the gift bags the presenters receive, I am literally besieged with requests from celebrities looking for “gifts” to send out at voting time. Now I can’t name names, but I can tell you that I heard from a very reliable source that Meryl Streep sent out hundreds of Prada gift certificates to key members of the Hollywood Foreign Press. Rumor has it that Kate Winslet sent out 1000 custom coffee mugs, featuring pictures of her own children that said “Kate deserves an Oscar. Do it for her little children.” Talk about hitting them over the head, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get your message across. I’m not saying Leo should send diamonds to the voters but some nice cubic zirconias might be the promotional item that puts him over the top.

All the celebrity back slapping and self congratulatory speeches that are an integral part of most awards shows can be a bit much at times but, you have to admit, receiving an award for a job well done feels pretty darn good. Everyone likes to be recognized for excellence in the workplace. You can give your employees the red carpet treatment with a Reflections Award that beautifully recognizes their hard work. Your event doesn’t have to be televised to make an impact; you just need to give out and award with a unique, eye-catching design and optically perfect crystal to show your appreciation for a job well done.

Clint Eastwood once said, “There’s a lot of great movies that have won the Academy Award, and a lot of great movies that haven’t. You just do the best you can.” He also said, “Go ahead, make my day,” so I tend to think he makes a lot of sense. I’m off to the cleaners to pick up my tux. Turns out Leo liked my idea about the cubic zirconias and those “in the know” say he’s a lock, so he invited me to sit at his table during the Golden Globes. Look for me; I’ll be the one wearing a “Marketing Guru to the Stars” button on my left lapel.

Career Day

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

As I nervously prepared for career day at my youngest son’s school, knotting my tie at least a dozen times, I suddenly remembered what my father used to tell himself before an important speech, “Never let em see you sweat.” He’d look in the mirror and repeat those words, over and over and as my anxiety level rose, I did the same. I dabbed my brow and cranked up the A/C and then it was my mother’s voice in my head, her side of the family is pretty loud, saying, “Never let em see you shiver.” Winston family lore has it my parents dueling sayings got their start on a cross country drive to the first ever Tradeshow Trinkets Convention in Wichita. I tend to believe it since my wife and I have the same temperature argument every time we get in the car. It usually ends with me barking at her to wear a sweater and her yelling at me to stick my head out the window but that’s another story altogether.

The point is, I was about to speak to a room full of 5 1/2 year olds. Would they be able to grasp the intricacies of effective marketing techniques? How would I explain the importance of discovering one’s Unique Selling Position? Beads of perspiration popped out on my forehead and my teeth began to chatter. It was worse than I thought.

Apparently I worked myself into lather because my son came into the room and shook me back to reality. He looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said the magic words. “Don’t worry Dad, just give them a bunch of stuff.” Of course! Why was I worried about talking about the nuances of branding when I had so much to show them?

I took off my tie, pulled on my vintage Mr. Bubble T-shirt and loaded up my Wenger 18” Duffle with a few of my favorite promotional items. The kids will really get a charge out of the Dimensions Jr. Writing Pad. It comes with a pen so they can take notes on my speech. If that doesn’t wow them, I’ve got loads of Chocolate Coins and a killer magic trick. Little Al is a genius. He thinks so too and is forever quoting from The Little Prince. “Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

Well, I’m off to class. Miss Graves hates when parents are late for career day and I don’t want to be sent home with a note.

Take A Number

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

My grandmother had a saying, “Poetry in advertising is as dead as a cockroach at a square dance.” She certainly had a way with words, not a fluid or flowery way, but she got her point across. What she meant was, symbolism and metaphors are not the best way to convey your marketing message. To truly make an impact, you need to simplify. Which is partly why, as much as she liked words, Grandma had a real love affair with numbers. Words can be twisted and convoluted but numbers never lie. Two plus two is always four. Simple. As much as I am a fan of pithy phraseology, I appreciate Grandma’s point of view. Numbers are, quite simply, the universal language.

Are you in the numbers game? Remind your clients that when it comes to numbers, you are the go to guy or gal. Suduko is the latest craze in mind games and this electronic version comes with five difficulty levels with more than 10,000 number puzzles per level. It also includes a game editor function that allows you to create new puzzles for endless enjoyment. For those folks who cannot resist writing down a word or two, the imprintable storage case contains a notepad and pen. Even if your business isn’t about crunching numbers, this game is so addictive that your clients won’t be able to put it, or your name, down. Which makes it the perfect way to say “Happy New Year” to your clients and gives you your very first tax write off of 2007. Grandma would say that’s a pretty smart way to start off the year and since her other favorite phrase was, “you can’t win an argument with a corpse,” I’m inclined to agree.

Well, I’m off to the Detroit Auto Show where I’m taking several super top-secret meetings with auto executives from around the world. Naturally I’m taking along Electronic Suduko Games with my name imprinted on the cover as gifts to remember me by because as my daughter likes to say, “keychains” are so last year.”

Family Ties

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Earlier this year, my brother Phil moved to Namibia to capitalize on that country’s new found fascination with American celebrities. He’s working on a line of his and hers Brangelina bobble heads and, if it’s the success he hopes it will be, he’s going to follow up with Baby Shiloh shoehorns to commemorate the first celebrity kid born as a Namibian citizen. He is very excited about his new marketing ventures but has been feeling homesick lately. Being a family guy, and my kids’ favorite uncle, Phil misses us almost as much as he misses In-N-Out burgers. So, to bridge the gap, he sent us an In Touch Web Cam so we can all talk, in real time, over the Internet. It’s a pretty nifty little gadget that includes a clip so you can position it in a convenient location on your desk. It includes software that is so easy to install my five year old could do it. Actually my five year old did install it because I was “taking too long and he had some very important business to discuss with Uncle Phil.” I think he’s trying to get in on the shoehorn promotion using his position as the child of a minor celebrity. He’s a real chip off the old block. I couldn’t be more proud.

Well, I have to cut this one short. It’s the day after Christmas and I’ve got bicycles to assemble and left overs to eat. Remember the wise words of someone who totally gets it, “from a commercial point of view, if Christmas didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent it.”

Champagne Wishes

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

2006 was a banner year for branding and I am proud to have had a hand in helping plaster the names of thousands of companies on some of the most unique promotional items to hit trade shows, gift bags and celebrity golf tournament/fashion show/charity dinners this side of the Mississippi. Come to think of it, I did pretty well on the other side of it too. Who can forget the Click-Switch Pocket Light, Staple-less Stapler or the Robot Series Roll Up Calculator? As you know, I don’t like to brag but I do believe in celebrating one’s accomplishments and sometimes the best person to give you a pat on the back IS you, or in this case, me.

My first thought was to celebrate the conclusion of a great year by popping open the bottle of bubbly that has been collecting dust on the top shelf of our pantry. Then I came across the following disturbing factoid. “You are more likely to be killed by a champagne cork than by a poisonous spider.” Which is a very good reason to steer clear of the bubbly stuff this New Year’s Eve. Let’s face it, the good stuff is on the pricey side and I don’t think the fact that if you put a raisin in a glass of champagne, it will keep floating to the top and sinking to the bottom is a compelling enough reason to risk a hang over or do serious damage to your finances. If you still think champagne is the only way to ring in the New Year, I have a solution that is both festive and classy. Oh, and it still allows you to promote yourself and your company while thanking clients, colleagues and employees for a great year.

Our 1-Ounce Chocolate Champagne Bottle is the perfect way to spread holiday cheer to everyone on your list, even the tea totalers. And don’t worry about causing dieters to ditch their New Year’s resolutions; at only 1-ounce, this gold or silver foil wrapped treat won’t break your bank or the recipients scale.

My wife and I plan to tune in to Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Watching that ball drop in Time’s Square is a thrilling experience as it is but this year is special because Ryan Seacrest has agreed to wear the promotional earmuffs I created. They play Auld Lang Syne in seven languages while keeping your ears warm. Yes sir, 2007 promises to be a very good year indeed.

Communication Breakdown

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Yesterday was a dark day in the Winston household. It was a day I had long feared but never dared speak of, lest saying the words may make the imagined horror a reality. That’s right, my cable went out…for an entire day! I was half asleep when I pressed the remote to get my morning fix of CNN, MSNBC and The View, only to be jolted awake by a screen full of static. I ran frantically from room to room, clicking remotes and began to sweat as the grim reality set in. As I sat on hold with my local cable company, I booted up my computer so I could at least read the news, only to discover that I was unable to connect! Not only was I unable to watch Ryan Seacrest’s hard hitting interview with Bill Phillips, who is best friends with one of the cousins of an actual guest at the TomKat Wedding, but I was unable to get online and find out which celebutante was flashing which body part at what hot club and who their new BFF is. Since I was also unable able to email or IM anyone, I was officially out of touch. Being out of touch electronically is akin to being stranded on a deserted island, and not in a cool “Survivor” with the possibility of winning a million dollars way, but in a Tom Hanks talking to a deflated volleyball way.

This communication breakdown gave me time to think and I came to one very important realization, communication is vital. Without the ability to connect, we are lost. Don’t wait for disaster to strike, show your clients and employees that you understand how important it is to stay in contact by giving them a gift that shows respect for their favorite communication devices. The Millennium Leather Communications Jotter is a smart black case featuring a convenient Velcro and elastic belt loop attachment with Velcro closure. Most electronic devices such as a cell phone, PDA or Blackberry fit snugly into the expandable compartment. It includes a writing pad and an attractive gift box with ample space for imprint or debossing. It’s the perfect gift to communicate your appreciation, without breaking the bank.

You’ll have to excuse me, the cable is back and I have quite a bit of catching up to do. In the meantime, remember the words of John Powell, and my Aunt Patsy, “Communication works for those who work at it.”

Picture This

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Not long ago, I spent an afternoon flipping through the Winston Family Album, all forty-three volumes. Looking at old photos really brought a smile to my face; my parents wedding day, the day Uncle Lou was released from prison for “accounting errors,” and of course the day I created my very first promotional item. It was a red, white and blue night-light that played the Star Spangled Banner in Portuguese. Looking back, that didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense but I was seven so I’m cutting myself some slack. I was enjoying my trip down memory lane so much I almost forgot to take the dog for a walk, which would have led to a memory of an entirely different kind.

My point is, everyone loves pictures. They remind us of who we are, where we’ve been and who we were there with. When it comes to gift giving, it’s important to connect with people on an emotional level. In other words, good business is not necessarily all business. Give your clients and employees something to remember you by with a Metropolitan Leather Photo Box, a sleek leather storage box that holds photos or other keepsakes. You may even want to customize it by placing a photo of last year’s office holiday party in the integrated photo frame on the lid.

Remember, just because a picture is worth a thousand words, doesn’t mean you have to pay a lot for it. I’m off to photograph my youngest son’s first trip to the Christmas Tree farm. He’s never used a real axe before so it will likely be a memorable event.

Women’s Work

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

A brilliant marketing mind told me that the average person cannot tolerate being told he is wrong. Change the pronoun and you have my wife in a nutshell. Not only is my wife always right, she has bionic hearing too, which is why I have decided to dedicate today’s column to womankind.

Consider the following female facts:

• Female ants do all the work
• Women blink twice as many times as men do
• In Japan, Santa Claus is a woman
• The female angler fish weighs up to half a ton, while the male is only a few millimeters long and spends his life attached to her nose

As you probably know, I am an advocate of non-gender specific gifts but there are times when specificity is appreciated. Since an International Women’s Day was proclaimed in 1909 in order to celebrate the working women of the world, it is high time to celebrate the women who work for you.

Show the women in your employ that you appreciate their business acumen…and that you recognize that in order to get the job done, they need a lot of stuff. The Wenger Women’s Tote offers plenty of storage room in a feminine business tote. It includes an open compartment; a front zippered organizer for pens, electronics, and accessories, zippered center and interior storage compartments and an interior strap with snap closure to keep tote shut during travel. If she carries her office with her, give her a professional laptop bag with space, protection, and style. The Wenger Women’s Compu-Case features a removable, padded sleeve that holds laptops up to 15″ and makes packing and unpacking a breeze.

I’m off to take my wife and her mother to dinner. It should be a fun evening considering her mother’s favorite saying is, “Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.”

The Real World

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

It is a widely accepted marketing principal that in the minds of consumers, “perception is reality,” and the reality is, it’s a cold, cold world. Literally. Show your customers that you ‘get it’ by gifting them with a hot item they can really use. As the temperature drops, the need to transport hot liquids rises. A useful gift like a travel mug, emblazoned with your company’s logo, goes a long way…in cars, cabs, buses, trains and subways to be exact. What’s better than that? A Travel Mug With Hot Chocolate, that’s what. It’s the little things that make a gift, and the gift giver, really stand out, like a piping hot cup of cocoa on a chilly day. Reality is sometimes cold but a little hot chocolate can make it seem a lot sweeter.

I once read that, “Reality is for people who lack imagination.” Speaking of which, I’m off to Las Vegas to co-host the Billboard Music Awards with Lindsay Lohan. See you at the after party!

Playing Games

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Monday marks my youngest son Alvin’s favorite day at school, “Show & Tell,” which is no big surprise given the myriad of gadgets he has to choose from. Last year he wowed his fellow kindergarteners with an anatomically correct Vincent Van Gogh Action figure, which was a huge success considering the previous year’s now infamous Scarface Talking Key Chain debacle. To tell you the truth, Show & Tell was always my favorite day too, which proves one thing: Marketing is in the blood.

In the promotions game, every day is Show & Tell so it’s kind of like being a kid again; and isn’t that what every adult with a job, mortgage and car payment really wants? One way to keep that childlike wonder alive is by playing games. The Lifestyle 7-in-1 Desktop Game Set reminds us that we all have a little kid inside who is itching to get out and play. The set includes game boards and game pieces for checkers, chess and backgammon, 28 dominoes, cribbage board and pegs, a standard deck of cards and four dice; all neatly stored in wooden case. It’s the perfect gift for the whole office and reminds your employees that a little playtime goes a long way. Enclose a note reminding your minions to “play as hard as you work” or inspire them to meet a goal by challenging them to, “keep your head in the game.” It’s also a great gift for customers and prospective clients when you pair it with a message that says you “play for their team.”

I have found that a little whimsy goes a long way when it comes to gift giving so take a page out of the Winston Play Book and remember the words of my second favorite columnist, Dave Barry: “You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.” I’m off to referee a craps match at the Sunny Haven Home for the Young at Heart in celebration of National Dice Day.