Project wrap-up: Report on my fall marketing campaign

30 day ball trial - the weirder the better!

As we wrap up this series of personal marketing projects I’m declaring my own campaign a huge success. Not only can I walk again, but I have a completely different relationship to my body than I did when we began, or even before my injury. I feel much more IN my body, and yes, even athletic. I’m in better shape, have improved my balance, and am really beginning to enjoy and look forward to working out. All in all, I’d have to rank it right up there with the RV ad campaign as a very successful personal marketing project.

You may recall that the goal I chose was to literally walk again, because when we started this series I was in the process of recovering from a protracted injury. Progress was slow and I was in danger of becoming very discouraged, so I chose this goal to reinforce my preferred vision of myself as healthy, whole, and free.

In the early stages of the campaign I took a picture of myself walking on a nearby trail. Of course I was not able to walk yet at that point, so I just stood on the trail with one foot ahead of the other to simulate walking for the photo shoot. I printed out two copies of the photo and taped one to my bathroom mirror and the other to my refrigerator, along with the slogan “I walk because I can” written on a Post-It note.

That was a very, very effective ad! Soon I noticed myself repeating the slogan to myself whenever I tried to take a few steps across the room. Then it occurred to me that I actually could go for walks on that trail, even if they were for a ridiculously short distance. The first time I had to get a ride and was only able to make it about 20 feet, but I’ve increased the distance every week since then and yesterday I was able to drive myself and walk over 200 yards!

With that ad in place and working well, I referred to a couple of classic marketing tools to find a deeper emotional hook for the next round of ads. The purpose of market research and a competitive analysis is to find out who you’re communicating to and what you’re competing against. In this case, since I’m marketing to myself, I wanted to find out where the emotional juice was for me in the walking problem and what I found attractive about my other options.

I discovered that I was really distressed about the shift in my identity from someone who freely navigates and manipulates the physical world to a person who had become very dependent, disabled, and frustrated that I had to wait for many things I wanted to do. However my competition turned out to be the seductive flip side of that same dependency — the ease and convenience of some parts of my new life.

The really interesting breakthrough came when I synthesized those insights in the positioning exercise. Rather than trying to persuade myself out of the truths I had discovered, I thought like a marketer and accepted them as the preferences of my target demographic. Then I set out to deliver exactly what my target (me) seemed to want — a way to feel strong and capable in my body again, without being inconvenienced too much! Therefore I decided my marketing strategy would emphasize both athleticism and convenience. Below is an excerpt from my notes:

I will reinvent myself as an athlete, framing my current situation as an athletic injury rather than a disability. This will tap into and amplify my core self image as strong, athletic and capable of anything, and will challenge the core internal and external issues I identified in the competitive analysis. I will focus on activities that I can do immediately (no patience required!). My marketing campaign must make sure to stress that these activities are convenient, simple, and safe.

I wasn’t sure how to implement this strategy at first, but developing such an accurate profile unleashed many advertising ideas over the next few weeks. Most of them have worked well; some really well. I also think the overall effect has been much more than the sum of its parts because all the activities have been integrated around a common strategy. I’ve basically completely surrounded myself with the idea, simulation, and actual experience of being an athlete, and have managed to do it in a way that’s so convenient I often barely have to get off the couch! Wow.

In addition to the photo ad mentioned above, here are some of the things I did:

  • Bought a little notebook and started keeping a training journal (I imagine that’s what athletes do).
  • Changed my answer when other people asked, “what happened?” to a simple, “I hurt myself running”.
  • Started carrying a water polo ball around with me to encourage other people to talk to me about that instead of my crutches.
  • Practiced handling my ball whenever I was sitting still, such as on the phone or watching TV.
  • Also took my ball to the pool for my physical therapy workouts; swam with it; practiced throwing it at stuff (fun!).
  • Bought a couple of books about conditioning and drills for water polo and integrated some of those ideas into my workouts.
  • Bought a Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit, which provided actual exercise as well as stimulating most of my senses with athletic experiences.
  • Dressed the part – changed into workout clothes when I played with the Wii.
  • Ordered a logo mug from the online store of the team I want to play on and used it every day at my desk.
  • Photoshopped myself into a picture of that team.
  • Also joined their mailing list and attended a game.
  • Changed a frequently used password to my campaign slogan.

The two most effective elements in this campaign have been the water polo ball and the Nintendo Wii. Each of them has contributed to reshaping my self-image in a major way, and the Wii has been great therapy for my feet as well.

I decided to carry the ball everywhere I went for 30 days to get other people to relate to me differently, which has been fascinating, but what I found is that it taught me to relate differently to myself as well. The 3-dimensional tactile experience of handling it frequently has really driven home the message of athletic change more effectively than any other element of the campaign. I play with it all the time, especially when I’m sitting on the couch. It’s turned out to be one of the best ads I’ve ever devised.

And the Wii Fit is just awesome. I usually don’t mind actually working out, but I really hate and resist leaving home to do so, especially when I’ve just awakened or arrived home from work. Now I’m able to get a really fun, decent workout about a foot away from the couch! Again, remember that marketers don’t try to change people; instead, they tailor their offerings to give us what we want.

The ball and Wii are both good examples of how marketing can be much more comprehensive than what we would normally think of as advertising. In this campaign, I have reinforced my athletic image with media as diverse as TV, a sports ball, a drinking mug, and other people, as well as my two-dimensional photo ads.

I started this personal marketing campaign in mid-September, so have been running it for about two and a half months. As I said, I feel completely different about myself now than I did when I started. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suddenly totally buffed and thin. You might not even notice a difference on the outside. But it does seem to have awakened my inner athlete, and solved at least part of the puzzle about how to get myself to exercise regularly that has spanned several other past ad campaigns.

Was all of this a bit of trouble? Sure. But no one thing was very hard. I took a couple of pictures. Ordered some stuff online and played with it. Talked to people a little differently. Went to a ball game. Changed a password. Most if not all of these activities have been really enjoyable in their own right. And because they were all informed by a single unifying strategy, about a dozen different easy activities all worked together to achieve a really powerful result. Obviously it’s more effort than I would go to for a simple, easily-achievable goal. But for larger important things that are resisting the strategies that normally work for you, this kind of intervention can really kick some serious goal butt!

So how did your personal marketing campaign go? Did you do one? What goal did you choose to work on and what marketing strategies did you come up with? What was your favorite ad? What results are you noticing? Let us know in the comments!

Want to play with us on the next group project? We’ll make a New Year collage together in a few weeks for your 2009 goals. Start saving your magazines!

Other articles in this series

  • Week 1 – Choose a goal
  • Week 2 – Do market research on yourself
  • Week 3 – Write a slogan for the campaign
  • Week 4 – Take a picture of yourself having the outcome you want
  • Week 5 – Analyze the competition
  • Week 6 – Decide how to position your behavior change
  • Week 7 – Choose a prop to enlist the people around you to talk about your goal
  • Week 8 – Look for opportunities to simulate the experience/outcome you want
  • Week 9 – Make and deliver your personal ad
  • Week 10 – Project wrap-up

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