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.”

Dare To Be Bold

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Okay, I’m a flip-flopper. I know it’s the opposite of what I said last week, but if there is one rule in marketing, it’s that there are no rules. And I say this not just because my Uncle Marty was Richard Nixon’s button man in his ‘68 campaign, but because in our line of work there is only one thing that matters…results. And that means mixing it up and dazzling the customers, which also means we can’t, once in awhile, dismiss giving the big, bold and beautiful gift.

Now, before you say it’s inappropriate or out of budget, consider this optional tact. Instead of offering your give-away swag to everybody who walks through your doors, you might give it to every 20 customers, or the first 200 to walk through your doors or maybe do a raffle to create even more buzz. After all, sometimes the promise and anticipation of winning makes your company’s name stand out all the more.

And, of course, when it comes to memorable, I can’t think of anything more impressive or unforgettable than the Cutter & Buck American Classic 20 Leather Duffel. This all leather duffel is the perfect Travel Bag. It has a large main zippered compartment, front easy-access pocket with magnetic closure, with a bottom board and metal feet for added protection…and, of course, the signature Cutter & Buck lining, with a detachable, adjustable shoulder strap.

With your company’s logo imprinted right on the bag, it’s the gift to give to the man or woman who has everything, which is why I sent one to Angelina and Brad. I thought it would be perfect for diapers and extra rattles.

Well, I’m off to the Pet Rock Reunion. They’re honoring my grandfather with a lifetime achievement award. Until next time, remember, it does not take a very brave dog to bark at the bones of a lion.

Dare To Be Boring

Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Let me just say, I’m all for bold, colorful, in your face, flashiness and I have the leopard skin disco suit to prove it. I’m also all for the hip, sleek and high tech gadgets that make me feel like James Bond…and I have the neighborhood’s only Bluetooth toilet paper dispenser to prove that as well. I mean, you have to stand out and be noticed, right? Isn’t that what marketing 101 is all about? And, while we’re waxing philosophical, isn’t it true that no two snowflakes are alike and we’re all different, unique…and, well, blah, blah, blah.

Yes, it’s true. But, not entirely true. Allow me to let you in on my Uncle Aldo’s great secret: Uniqueness is overrated. And for that matter, so is being different, exciting and good looking. Now, he doesn’t just say that because his wife likes to remind him of those facts every day of his life…he truly believes it.

Truth is, in the world of promotional marketing, being practical is a good thing. So, is being boring and utilitarian. In fact, these are the things I like to give the most. The more boring the better. Think about it. What do the key chain, paperclip and sticky notes have in common? Yes, they’re boring. But, they’re also reached for everyday. And this is the ultimate goal of promotional marketing…you want to give away something that will be reached for everyday, keeping you and your company on top of the mind.

The lesson for today is short and simple: In your quest to get noticed, do not over estimate the power of those simple, boring and yet incredibly useful products. The Bottle Opener Key Chain, the Paper Clip Buddy or 3″x3″ Notepads just may be the exact products your clients will reach for everyday.

And speaking of boring, my wife is making me watch Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves tonight. So, until next time, remember the words Henry David Thoreau once told my great grandfather Rex, “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it.”