Brains, Stories, Reality and Marketing

A Marketing StoryThe human brain is incredible. It has the ability to quickly process bits and pieces of information, draw conclusions, and make decisions about our ever changing world.

Thousands of years ago, this skill served homo sapiens well in determining what we could and could not eat, and what was and was not interested in eating us. Today, we use these same decision making skills to decide what products and services we want to buy. Marketing depends on the nuances, oddities, and complexities of the human brain.

Our brains, while amazing, are not perfect. Nor is the world in which they operate. In making decisions, we never have complete or completely accurate information. Even if we did, none of us has the time to review and analyze it all. Beyond that, the world is dynamic and people behave in different and unpredictable ways. The world changes and people change with it. All the information we see, is all the information that there is… at least in our individual versions of reality. We use that which we see, experience, and know to make decisions.

To make sense of the world, we tell ourselves stories about reality. We seek brands that align with our stories; brands that we believe will improve our personal reality. We buy products and services we perceive to help us to solve problems and create opportunities. These things address the wants and needs of our current narrative – which is subject to change without notice.

Marketing serves as an important shortcut in the human decision making process. People rely on marketing to help them make decisions in a more efficient manner. Effective marketing recognizes that people make those decisions with incomplete information. They don’t know everything, nor do they want to. What they want to know about is the information that supports their story.

A core function of marketing is to focus attention on the information that aligns with and reinforces the story of the individual customer. What we buy and where we buy it says a lot about who we are and what we value. People are going to reach conclusions about what brands to choose with imperfect data in imperfect ways. That’s why it is so important for brands to have an authentic story that is compelling, easy to understand, and aligned with the person who their customer aspires to be.

If you’re interested in improving your marketing, think about the story of your customer. Integrate your brand with that story. Then make sure that your story is authentic by delivering on your promises.  Something for your incredible brain to think about.

7 Guerilla Marketing Lessons from Al Lautenslager

Al LautenslagerAl Lautenslager is the author of the best selling book Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days. He helps people understand and use Guerrilla Marketing to grow their businesses. Yesterday, Al gave a great presentation at Sinclair Community College to the members of AAF Dayton and PRSA Dayton. In his presentation he shared a wide range of strategies, stories, tips, and tactics for getting marketing results without spending big bucks. Here are 7 of my favorite things Al shared:

  1. Time + Imagination = Great Marketing:
    While a big budget can certainly help your marketing efforts, it is not necessarily a requirement.  Al shared numerous examples from fun vehicle wraps, to decorated escalators, to a floating target in the ocean – all of which were very creative, incredibly affordable, and extremely impactful.
  2. Your Best Prospects Are Your Current Customers:
    You have a relationship with your customers.  You have already worked to earn their trust and get their attention.  Make sure you explore every opportunity to help them.  Strive to avoid them from choosing another vendor for a project and then later telling you “I didn’t know you did that.”   Spending at least 50% of your time serving your existing customers is a great way to build sustainable marketing success.
  3. Think Outside the Billboard: 
    Al showed some really fun examples of outdoor advertising that used a billboard or sign as part of the message, but incorporated creative concepts to think beyond the rectangle. The idea was to not just settle for something that is status quo but to really think about how to create a remarkable piece of marketing that grabs people’s interest.
  4. Start the Day with Marketing:
    Such a simple idea with such powerful potential.  This might have been my favorite tip that Al shared.  Begin each day with some act of marketing.  It might be a thoughtful email message to a client or a handwritten thank you note.  Perhaps it is by writing a blog post or pitching a story idea.  Regardless, start each day by actually executing 3 to 5 small things that help market your business.  That adds up to thousands of actions a year which can easily translate to marketing success for your business.
  5. Make Yourself Part of the News:
    We are surrounded by news – all day every day.  News stories represent opportunities to be an expert resource to journalists covering a story.  They also represent opportunities to find creative ways to tie your business into the story.  Al shared some great examples of how he did this in his business and some of the great results it produced.  When news happens, make a conscious effort to incorporate it into your marketing efforts.
  6. Features Tell but Benefit Sell: 
    People spend way too much time talking about their 87 bells and 14 accompanying whistles and far too little time telling the story of how the customer will benefit from these things.  While features can be incorporated into the message, effective marketing needs to focus on what’s in it for the customer.  Resist the urge to blather on about your features and instead show people the benefits.
  7. Networking Matters: 
    Al pointed out that surveys show that the primary reason people join groups like Chambers and Professional Clubs is networking.  Building a network of reliable, trustworthy experts is not expensive and can pay big marketing dividends. Al suggested creating simple networking goals for events such as meeting 10 people, getting 8 business cards, following up with 5 of them, scheduling lunch or coffee with 3 of them, and ideally developing a business relationship with 1 or 2 of them.  Fortunately, AAF Dayton and PRSA Dayton events are great places to forge these valuable connections.

Al grew up in Mason and worked at Kings Island the year it opened.  Not only was here there when the Brady Bunch came to film their famous King’s Island episode, he was in it.  Al played the orangutan mascot in the episode.

Al closed by challenging those in attendance to take his common sense advice and make it common practice.  Thanks to Al for making the trip to Dayton and thanks to AAF Dayton and PRSA Dayton for putting together such a great lunch.

You can find Al on Twitter at @GMarketingGuy

The Digital Marketing Team Goes to “Camp”

WordCampDayton2014LogoWhere do digital marketing, web design and content management professionals in Dayton go to camp? Not the woods (no Wifi!). They go to WordCamp. Or, they will — starting this year. WordCamp is a two day conference dedicated to developing websites and publishing content using the highly popular WordPress content management system and it is coming to Dayton for the first time.

Camp will commence with a day of “WordPress 101” on Friday, March 7, from 8am-3pm at Wright State University’s Small Business Development Center. WordCamp continues on Saturday, March 8, focusing on more advanced techniques for publishing, customizing and developing sites. Saturday’s event runs from 8am-5pm, and attendees will be able to choose sessions based on their interests and skill level.

The Ohlmann Group is sponsoring the event, so our tech-savvy team will be on site learning new techniques too. Just like real camping, you will learn about yourself, find that you are capable of more than you knew, and make some great friends. Unlike real camping, you (probably) won’t come home with mosquito bites.

Registration is open now, but space is limited. Sign up today!

A Divine Night at the 2014 Hermes Awards

andy speechLast weekend the Ohlmann Group team got together with marketing firms and advertising agencies from across Dayton for the industry’s annual bacchanal: The American Advertising Federation-Dayton’s Hermes Awards. Our own Jim Hausfeld, a past president of AAF-Dayton,  served as Chairman of the event. We were happy to have Jim with us, as the awards happened to fall on his birthday. Jim, along with Senior Art Director Andy Kittles, had even more to celebrate after taking top honors in the Integrated Campaign category. Andy accepted the life-sized bust of Hermes for his work on the Props & Hops campaign for Hartzell Propeller (below).

Hartzell Props & Hops Campaign

Beyond the awards, the night held even more surprises. Walter Ohlmann, our CEO/President and fearless leader, was honored for over 50 years of work in Dayton’s advertising industry. He has shaped many lives, and we were happy to share this fantastic milestone with him. The members of the Ohlmann Group staff pitched in to get Walter a beautiful pin, which captures the Ohlmann Group logo in stunning solid gold.

The true attraction of the night, however, was the chance to spend time together connecting with our comrades. As Walter told the staff on Monday morning, reflecting on the current Ohlmann Group team:

“We have truly come together as a family… It is so much more than just esprit de corps. We really like eachother and like to work with eachother.”

Speaking, I believe, for the entire staff — we couldn’t agree with Walter more. The Ohlmann Group is a fantastic place to work. Not only because we worked together to produce work worthy of nine awards this year, but because we enjoyed every minute of it. Doing what you love is a rare opportunity, and that makes the Ohlmann Group an even rarer place to work. We are all doing what we love. 

Want to see for yourself how much fun we had? Here’s a gallery of photos from the 2014 Hermes Awards. All of the photos in this post were taken by the incredibly talented Julie Walling, the full gallery from the night is available on her Flickr page.

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Welcome Rob Walblay, Media Analyst

ROB-profileThis week the Ohlmann Group is proud to welcome our new Media Analyst, Rob Walblay.

Media Analysis is a cutting edge role in marketing. Data has always been the backbone of successful agencies, like the Ohlmann Group. Today, however, nearly every aspect of marketing (and life) can be reduced to sums and tables. Having the best marketing strategy is no-longer a platitude or a goal to strive for, it is an absolute which can be quantified.

That is Rob’s role: ensuring the Ohlmann Group provides not only the best marketing strategy in comparison with our competitors, but the literal — mathematical — best possible marketing strategy.

The shift towards a data driven world may not seem so titanic on the surface, partly because the Ohlmann Group has always provided the highest quality of service to our clients, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find it is a complete paradigm shift. It is the difference between Newtonian physics and Quantum physics. In Newton’s time, people knew that when you dropped things they fell and even that laws of physics were unified, universal and quantifiable. On Earth, for instance, gravity accelerates objects at a smooth 9.8m/s2. Newtonian physics, like “old school” marketing strategy, could tell you the result of almost any action with a very high degree of accuracy and a bit of hard work. Modern data analysis, however, can dig into the quarks and bosons of a marketing strategy to tell agencies know not only what to expect, but why they can expect it.

To wrap this metaphor: Media Analysts, like Rob, are the Large Hadron Colliders of marketing, and they are turning the world on its head.

With Rob’s help, the agency can become more accountable to clients by offering greater degrees of transparency and education. Over time, Rob’s work can uncover patterns, formulas and strategies which empower the Ohlmann Group to do things other agency’s might call impossible. These strategies (if you will indulge me once more) are like the Warp Drives and Quantum Computers of marketing  — total game changers.

Rob Walblay is here to create the future.


P2P Advertising: Great Products are Great Stories

If you look in any garage worth it’s grease, you’ll find a can of WD-40. The lubricating spray is so effective that it needs no advertising or branding beyond a simple acronym (which, BTW, stands for Water Displacement compound attempt #40).

WD-40 was originally designed for the aerospace industry to protect the outer hull of atlas rockets from rust and corrosion.  It worked so well that aerospace engineers began sneaking cans home for their own use. If the creators of WD-40 had less insight (or the endless throng of intellectual property lawyers and communication specialists that mark today’s corporate world) they would have put a stop the practice immediately. Lucky for bike mechanics everywhere, however, the company recognized the opportunity its fans had provided. In 1958, they introduced the now instantly recognizable blue and yellow aerosol cans for at-home use.

This is just one example of how a great product or service, the kind every firm should seek to provide, earns much more from consumers than revenue — it earns advocacy and fandom. Peer-to-peer advertising, known as “word of mouth” in a pre-Twitter age, can be a company’s marketing, R&D lab, market research and creative departments all rolled into one. Recall this post from a few months back, about a tin foil company that was surprised to discover their product had a cult following in the beauty industry. This kind of epiphany is only available to companies that engage their consumers and employees, and remember that social media is more about listening than talking.

If your firm provides genuine value to consumers, they know it. Now, give them a great story and a platform to help them show it.

Meta-Morphosis: Television as Social Media

Last week, the SyFy Channel entered a Brave New World of reality television with the debut of Opposite Worlds. The premise: two groups live side-by-side, separated by glass, one in the “Stone Age” and one in the “Space Age.” From executive producer Brant Pinvidic:

“Each week they’ll be competing for where they will fit in the game, battling to live on whichever side they want to be. It’s a really interesting social experiment in how your living environment affects how you play the game both socially and physically. You have to make smart social decisions: Do you stick with the team you feel a connection with, or are you more desperate to live in more comfort?”

The premiere garnered SyFy’s highest ratings in the valuable female 18-24 demographic since 2008. The show’s twist on the Survivor-clone reality drama is cool, but what has me excited about Opposite Worlds is the show’s roots in social media.

Players are ranked in a real-time “Popularity Index” based on viewers’ tweets about them. The most popular player each week is rewarded, the least popular player is punished. (As a small aside: this premise is 100% ripped from an episode of Doctor Who — making me love it even more). Meanwhile, the “Space Age” team members have access to the internet, giving them an opportunity to influence their popularity by interacting with viewers via Twitter. Not meta enough for you yet? Each week, the audience also chooses the “Decider,” the player tasked with determining who will be eliminated. Combine that with the fact that Space Age team can communicate with the audience without the other Stone Age team’s knowledge, and you have a some insane potential.

Regardless of  Opposite Worlds’ outcome, it gives us a window into the future of broadcast media. Here the silo isn’t just broken, it is written out of existence. In Opposite Worlds, the television programming IS social media. If you will indulge a metaphor: Twitter is paint, the broadcast is canvas, and only together would we call them a complete painting. If done right, the result could be a masterpiece, and (like all masterpieces) it will be imitated. The rights to develop Opposite Worlds for Canadian television have already been sold.

Check out the Space Age team’s feed here. Opposite Worlds airs Tuesday and Wednesday at 10p.m. EST.


Online Advertising – Breaking the Rules

Anyone who has talked to me about online advertising (or online strategy in general) will know that I have one pet peeve which rises above all the others: videos which play automatically. Aptly describing my aversion to this marketing tactic would take a compound adjective big enough to fill this entire post. In lieu of this, I give you: “User’s Response to Auto-Play Video” as performed by the singularly talented Lucille Ball:

If you think this is just a pet peeve, let me refer you to Time magazine’s tech writer, Matt Peckham, who said Facebook’s recent addition of video ads was: “Like someone planting a Vegas billboard outside your window that turns on any time you want to admire the scenery.”

But, like so many aesthetic rules, braking the web-wide pact against intrusive video ads can result in pure magic. For your viewing pleasure, I present Push Up Muscle Shirts from (DISCLAIMER: You will want to have your speakers turned on for this.)

Just goes to show that taking risks in advertising can pay off big. By subverting the dominant paradigm you can change an ad that makes people feel like this:

Into something more like this:

NOTE – If you liked that, here are the rest of the sites from the campaign:


Guest Post: Social Media Lessons From 2013

This is a guest post by Stacey Waxman: Stacey is a freelance writer with a focus on social media and marketing. She can be found typing away on her laptop in Cleveland, OH. Stacey welcomes your feedback via email

Social media made the headlines frequently in 2013. Twitter launched its IPO on the stock market successfully, and Facebook recovered a bit from its not so successful IPO the previous year. Vine and Snapchat took off, and even the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) agreed to allow public companies to utilize social media to disclose information.

This was just in the United States.

In China, the e-commerce site, Alibaba, paid $586 million for part of Weibo, the country’s most popular microblogging site. At the same time, in the Ukraine, cell phone servicers expected an explosion of data traffic when protesters organized against the government over social media sites mimicking the Arab Spring of 2011.

All of these events lead to one major point. There is a vibrant global marketplace for accumulating followers and friends. Naturally, there were plenty of gaffes and blatant examples of celebrity narcissism broadcast over social media, and businesses are still uncovering ways to leverage these platforms. There were many lessons to learn from social media in 2013. Here are just a few.

Mining Social Media and Security

What happens when Raptor X is used in conjunction with the plug-in called Social Bubble? The user sees the geographic locations of Twitterers and their tweets. In addition, Raptor X may have the ability to capture data related to financial and commercial transactions.

The federal government developed Raptor X specifically to data-mine social media sites through the 2012 Project Quantum Leap experiments. Many casual users of social media embrace the convenience of mobile technology. However, they may be unaware of how easily their information can be obtained. Cyber security to protect personal information is a key takeaway from this past year.

Social Media Will Move the Marketplace

On April 23, 2013, the Twitter account for the Associated Press (AP) was hacked. The hacker sent a fake tweet that read: “two explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” Within seconds, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 150 points.

Later in June, Carl Icahn opened his Twitter account primarily to broadcast thoughts on his battle with Dell computers. However, on August 12, he tweeted that he had obtained a large position in Apple. This resulted in an increase in Apple share price of about 5 percent.

This last year provided concrete proof that social media is just as important to stockbrokers and day traders as it is to the news media.

Social Media is Going Visual

Twitter proved that 140 characters can say a lot, but the maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words still holds true. Twitter launched Vine in January as a mobile platform for sharing short looping videos. In June, Instagram enabled video on its service. Snapchat proved extremely popular as a method to share photos and videos without the permanency of Google+, Facebook or other social media sites. The user controls the length of the length of time the recipient can view the photo or video. Once the recipient has seen the clip, it disappears. Facebook offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion, but Snapchat turned it down.

Social Media is Growing Up

Lastly, 2013 showed that world leaders are embracing social media. Warren Buffet, Jamie Dimon and Pope Francis have opened their own Twitter accounts. During the Super Bowl, a power outage stopped play for 34 minutes. Oreo tweeted “No Power, No Problem,” and included an image of an Oreo cookie with the caption “you can still dunk in the dark.” This one tweet generated a huge response and proved that social media is a powerhouse for advertising.


Reflections on 30 Years at the Ohlmann Group

IMG_20131227_144645Helen Mumaw looks back on thirty years at The Ohlmann Group:

Wow! It was 30 years ago that I began my journey at The Ohlmann Group, known back then as Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman. I remember it like it was yesterday.  It actually began about 6 months before I was hired.  I needed a change in careers and saw an announcement in the P/O/N newsletter that Linda Kahn had just been promoted to Sr. Vice President/Media. She had a client who advertised on the radio station where I worked at the time. I called her and sent a resume hoping that she might need an assistant.  She called me back 6 months later for an interview.  I actually came to work the weekend before Christmas to help her out of a jam but my official 1st day was the day after Christmas and what a gift it has been! I am privileged to have worked with all three founders as well as some very talented and colorful co-workers who have seen me through 3 babies, buying a house, getting those babies through college and out of the nest, and, more recently, my dad passing away.  I have experience the incorporation of computers into our offices, then adding the internet and email to our toolbox. I still use a rolodex (it’s faster than creating an address book) and binders (according to the printing industry by printing all my orders, I am actually stimulating forest growth and the economy).  I still prefer phone calls to email and CD’s to iTunes, but I do love my smartphone and tablet.

I have also enjoyed working with many media reps over the years.  I have tried to walk that fine line between partner and client with each of them.  I’ve never minded when a company would send their newest rep into meet me. It has been my pleasure to aid in the training of many fine media professionals. I chuckle at some of the advertising opportunities they have brought me.  I always joke that if you want to advertise on a Baby’s behind, I can probably find someone doing that.  I’ve placed ads in restrooms, gas stations, movie theaters, restaurant menus, in about every magazine “genre” you can find, had messages trail behind airplanes, recommended trade shows, seen the outdoor industry move from hand painted bulletins to printed vinyl to digital signs, seen internet advertising transition from the next big thing to mobile, and mourned the state of the newspaper industry.

I am not sure what the future will hold, but if Walter, Linda and Lori will let me tag along, I’d like to find out.  Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for taking me onto the team and making me part of The Ohlmann Group family!