Cindy Zwayer Looks Back on Two Decades of Marketing

Over the last 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some very unique, exciting projects. One of those projects involved purchasing turf sod from Southern California and having it delivered to our fulfillment house here in Dayton, Ohio in the dead of winter for a direct mail promotion. I also coordinated the purchase of golf balls from famous golf courses in England, Ireland, Scotland, and custom-made cases to display the golf balls. Yet a couple of other projects involved coordination of “empty” wine bottles for a “Message in a Bottle” direct mail program and a taste test of yellow Jelly Bellies to go in a large glass light bulb container for a “Power Source” direct mail campaign.

So much has changed over the last 20 years. When I joined The Ohlmann Group in 1994 as Print Production Manager, one of the latest technologies at that time was the transporting of art files to our print vendors on a “SyQuest disk.” Courier services were very involved in the back-and-forth delivery of the disks and mechanical proofs. In today’s technology an art file may be shared via “drop box” and most proofs are viewed via vendor portal or email. Oh, how times have changed!

Many things have changed, but there are TWO things that have stayed constant – talented creative people that I have the opportunity to work with every day and the ample supply of chocolate treats here at The Ohlmann Group.

Better Together: TV & Social Media

Recent data from Nielsen shows that, in spite of rumors otherwise, we watch a lot of television every day. How much is a lot of television? On average about 5 hours of it as well as 34 more minutes of time shifted programming.

TV is dead? Um… not quite.

What’s helping to drive television’s continued popularity may surprise you – it’s social media. Social media is not replacing television in our lives. What it is doing is changing how we watch television.

In the past watching television was an isolated, catatonic, and passive human experience. We stared, like couch bound zombies, across the living room at the glowing pictures and chuckled in sync with the laugh tracks. Today, television watching is becoming something all together different.

Television viewers now use social media to make the television experience active and engaging. People watch television with iPhones or tablets in hand, while chatting about programs in real time with friends & strangers on Twitter and Facebook. They share opinions. They express feelings and desires. They share jokes and create their own back channel conversations around the programs. Programs themselves are commonly using hashtags to connect viewers and foster this dialogue.

Social media has not killed television, but has actually made it better. Sports fans talk trash and celebrate together in real time. Awards shows are marked with banter and commentary. Shows are found and discussed, critiqued, and supported in real time. The opportunity for marketers and brands to learn and serve people has never been better.

The new world of marketing is not about tightly defined platforms, but rather about a seamless stream of content and conversation that transcends a single form of media.

It appears that the revolution will in fact continue to be televised and you can talk about it with your followers on Twitter.

Getting Engaged

Today’s PRSA Dayton’s monthly lunch meeting featured a panel discussion on the topic of Creating Writing that Engages an Audience.  The panel of experts included Val Beerbower, Jim Dillon, Norm Vallone, and Leigh Wilkins and was moderated by the always engaging Natasha Baker.  The discussion lasted just over 30 minutes, with panelists fielding questions from both the moderator and the audience, and it was very insightful.  Some of the tips and takeaways I got from the meeting included the following:

  • Great writing often starts with research and a strong understanding of theme or purpose.
  • The writing process is often messy and rarely easy, but persistence is the key to producing a great written piece.
  • When you get stuck, get out and fill your brain.  From taking a walk to reading “junk food” pop culture magazines, to reading the latest story from The Onion for a good laugh, don’t be afraid to step back, recharge, and then re-approach the task.
  • Know the interests and needs of the audience.
  • Understand the culture of the publication or client so that your writing is appropriate in voice and tone.
  • Outline your work and start with the part of the outline that comes easiest.  Often that is not the beginning.
  • No matter what the topic, it matters and can be important to someone.  Find that meaning and use it for inspiration.
  • Writing is frequently a solitary act and it can be helpful to take breaks for social interaction with others.
  • To get the wheels turning, try writing something silly or fun.  Once your brain is warmed up then turn to the task at hand.
  • Don’t fight about everything.  Learn to push back when it matters and to sometimes concede with it does not.
  • Writing often flows from experiences.  Always be exploring new experiences and considering new concepts and then incorporate these elements into your work.

The event was informative and entertaining.  I learned some things, was reminded of others, and spent time with friends and marketing colleagues from around the Dayton region.  It proved to be a great way to spend my lunch hour.  Thanks to PRSA Dayton for organizing the event and thanks to Natasha and the panelists for giving your time and sharing your knowledge.

Celebrating Pam Fister’s 30 Years of Fantastic Work

Pam-300x225The Ohlmann Group recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of joining of Pam Fister joining the Ohlmann Group. Pam serves as assistant broadcast media buyer, and is an incredibly talented and kind individual. Here is what she has to say about the occasion:

I can’t believe that it has been 30 years since I started with the Ohlmann Group, Inc. It really seems like only yesterday that I walked through the doors for the first time. It is an honor and privilege to be associated with the group of professionals I work with. Walter Ohlmann is the epitome of the consummate ethical professional, along with being a mentor to the agency. When I started it was nothing to get invoices handwritten in military time. Once, we were missing an invoice from a man at one of the smaller stations in the market, and it turned out his puppy had eaten the invoice. I have seen the evolution of social media and the effect it has made in the traditional marketing plans for clients. I can’t imagine what the next thirty years will bring in the advertising industry, but I am excited to be a part of the ever-evolving process.

On behalf of the entire Ohlmann Group team, thank you for everything you have brought to the agency over the last 30 years. We have all been privileged to work with you and even more blessed to know you.


A Great Night for The Ohlmann Group at the AAF-Dayton Mercury Awards

IMG_20140520_201620Last night, the Ohlmann Group enjoyed a fabulous evening at the American Advertising Federation – Dayton’s Mercury Awards ceremony. These awards recognize excellence in advertising sales and support, and are voted on by members of AAF-Dayton. They are the service-based parallel to the Hermes Awards, which recognize creative achievement.

The Ohlmann Group spends 365 days a year delivering anything our clients and creative team can dream. The Mercury Awards are a gratifying reminder that our efforts do not go unnoticed. Ohlmann Group team members were awarded five Mercury Awards as well as the coveted Vendor of the Year award, which went to Linda Kahn. Here are our winners and the fields in which they were recognized:

Best Ad Agency Rep – Linda Kahn

Best Media Buyer – Helen Mumaw

Best Print/Specialty Buyer – Cindy Zwayer

Newcomer of the Year – Mike Blackney

Unsung Hero – David Bowman

Vendor of the Year – Linda Kahn

0520142019The category of Best Media Buyer, in particular, offered a heartfelt moment for The Ohlmann Group. Linda Kahn, who has won the category six times, is considered “Best Media Buyer Emeritus,” and Helen Mumaw took the prize for the second time in 2014. The pair have worked side by side for many years, pushing eachother to greater levels of expertise. Seeing two leaders of Dayton’s advertising community celebrate together was a real treat.

In addition to winning Best Ad Agency Rep, Linda was awarded the night’s ultimate prize: The Vendor of the Year Award. This honor recognizes the individual who received the most votes from AAF-Dayton members across all of the categories. It is a rare achievement, and well deserved. Linda credited Walter Ohlmann, our fearless leader, for making her success possible through decades of visionary leadership.

On behalf of the entire Ohlmann Group staff, thank you to all who made this successful evening possible. Thank you to the AAF-Dayton members for your support, community partnership and honest appraisal of our efforts. Thank you to Walter Ohlmann for envisioning an advertising agency which would leave an indelible mark on Dayton, Ohio. The greatest thanks, however, must be reserved for our clients. None of this would be possible without the many organizations which have trusted our team to make their advertising visions into spectacular reality. We look forward to another 65 years of faithful service.

Meghen Welly, SAA Valedictorian, Joins the Ohlmann Group Team

meghen_welly_photoWhat makes working at The Ohlmann Group such an exceptional experience? There is all the free popcorn you can eat, but what really stands out is the opportunity to work closely with a team of exceedingly talented individuals. Today, we celebrate one more addition to that team. Meghen Welly, a soon-to-be graduate of Dayton’s School of Advertising Art (SAA), has joined us for an externship. We are pleased to welcome Meghen into the world of advertising and marketing.

abbracci1 (1)As you can see from her work (left) Meghen is a talented designer with a bright future ahead of her. She is a an artist at heart, and her course was set when she realized a career in advertising would allow her to work professionally as an artist. Meghen is striving to become a world renowned designer. We have no doubt she will succeed, as she has already made a big impression on the Dayton advertising community. This week Meghen was named valedictorian of her class at SAA, and she has already gotten to work for our design team.

Jim Hausfeld, our Creative Director, had done a mock interview with Meghen prior to her placement at the agency. He had nothing but praise for her when we found out she would be joining our team.

“I feel great that we were able to bring Meghen in to work with our team,” said Jim “She really presented herself well in her interview and comes to us highly recommended from SAA.  It’s going to be a beneficial relationship for both of us.”

Meghen, to her credit, is more interested in getting down to business than talking about herself — a great quality for an individual looking to excel in a field where passion for the work means everything.

“It is cool that i am getting to work on actual design pieces,” said Meghen. “It would be great to create something for a client that they use and will be seen places.”

Meghen is right. The work we do at The Ohlmann Group is cool, and we are happy she is doing that work alongside the rest of the team. Thanks to Meghen for letting us set in motion a career that we are sure will be long and fruitful, and thanks to SAA for sending us such a talented individual.

12 Mercury Award Nominations for The Ohlmann Group Team

jim mercuryThe Ohlmann Group team works tirelessly to create the best advertising and marketing in Dayton. Why? Because we love what we do. That being said, it is nice to have your hard work recognized. We recently received a bevy of good news in that regard, team members at the Ohlmann Group were nominated for an outstanding 12 Mercury Awards from AAF Dayton, our city’s chapter of the American Advertising Federation. So, without further ado, here is the list of our nominees:


Cindy Zwayer

Best Print/Specialties Buyer

David Bowman

Best Ad Agency Rep

David Bowman

Best Social Media Rep

David Bowman

Unsung Hero

Helen Mumaw

Best Ad Agency Rep

Helen Mumaw

Best Media Buyer

Ian Bowman-Henderson

Best Social Media Rep

Jim Hausfeld

Best Ad Agency Rep

Jim Hausfeld

Best Audio/Video Production Rep

Linda Kahn

Best Ad Agency Rep

Linda Kahn

Best Media Buyer

Mike Blackney

Newcomer of the Year

The Mercury Awards recognize excellence in the sales and service aspects of the advertising business, in the same way that AAF Dayton’s Hermes awards recognize excellence in creative work. Being nominated is a great honor, and we thank everyone who has supported us. It is a privilege for our agency to work with all of our outstanding clients, and an individual privilege to work with such fantastic peers.

You’re The Best Around, Nothing’s Gonna Ever Keep You Down

Last Thursday evening The Ohlmann Group marketing team joined a small group of businesses from across the Dayton region to celebrate being named by the Dayton Business Journal as one of Dayton’s Best Places to Work for 2014.   The event featured a marching band, costumes, songs, cheers, fun, food, drink, and an auditorium filled with exceptionally talented and extremely friendly professionals from a diverse set of businesses.  It was an honor to be included in such a great group of local firms.

Each business was called upon to come to the stage one by one, accept the award, and offer a brief acceptance speech.  Some were poetic, others philosophical, some serious, others humorous, some impromptu, while others were scripted.  What all of them shared was a sense of pride in having created a place where great people can enjoy doing great things.  I was given the honor of delivering the acceptance speech on behalf of The Ohlmann Group, which I was happy to share with those in attendance.  I figured I’d share it here too:

“The secret to what we do at the Ohlmann Group is simple.  In fact it really is no secret at all.  We have built our culture around love.  

  • We love our craft – Walter Ohlmann .  Creating the future is fun. 
  • We love our clients – we care deeply about them, their businesses, their lives, goals, hopes, dreams, & aspirations and we work hard to deliver real results for them through our efforts. 
  • We love each other – we’re like a family.  We work closely together as a team,  fighting, laughing, crying, celebrating, cursing, grieving, and growing with each other and collectively as one.  We genuinely care about each other, a sentiment that generates from the leader of our organization Walter Ohlmann, who demonstrates how much he cares for each and every one of us whom he employs every single day.  

I love my job, and I love working for Walter Ohlmann and the company that bears his name.  It is an honor, and the Best Places to Work is a reflection of his hard work and dedication.  Thank you.” 

While the DBJ Best Places to Work award is a wonderful honor, the real prize is getting to come here each and every day and do what I love along side of such a talented group of passionate creative, strategic, and media marketing professionals.

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