A picture of your target result is worth at least 1000 words of crisp, powerful copy

visualize yourself in Paris

We’re working our way together through creating a marketing campaign for a personal goal. The series began in mid-September with How to choose a goal for your back-to-school marketing campaign. Check the end of this post for the complete list of articles in the series.

We are hard-wired to respond to pictures. I think that’s because our brains were processing visual information before we were even human, and certainly long before we had language. Images get to us; we remember them and act on them. Sometimes we even seem to try to make our world look like it does in the picture. Advertisers know this, so they make sure to expose you to lots of images of their logos and products, especially pictures of people that look like you using their products.

This is one reason it’s so effective to visualize a result you want – to see yourself succeeding in your mind’s eye. Your brain sees the outcome in your imagination, believes it, and gets busy changing the parts of your world that don’t match that mental picture.

We can do even better than mental pictures, though, because technical toys like digital cameras and photo editing software give us the ability to externalize our visualizations, and then to repeat our exposure to them more frequently than we might remember to do on our own. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s advertising.

The Put yourself in the picture hack

This week we’re going to get the power of imagery working for you with the Post-It note ad you made in the last episode. The Post-It note ad was a quick and dirty hack because I wanted to show you just how easy it is to get a pretty effective ad campaign going very quickly. In keeping with that philosophy, you should prioritize speed and simplicity for this photo shoot too. However, I do encourage you to dress the part if you can, as that’s usually an easy way to make your photo more effective.

There are two paths to getting the picture you need for this ad:

  1. Take a picture of yourself actually doing (or pretending to do) the thing you want more of, or
  2. Stage a picture that looks like the result you want.

See Put yourself in the picture for tips about taking this photo. Get a friend to hold the camera, or even better, pick up the dandy Gorillapod flexible tripod so you can take your own picture. I find the Gorillapod to be a nearly indespensible piece of equipment for doing these personal marketing photo shoots, because:

  • I can leave out the awkward explanation about what the heck I’m doing and why I’m dressed like this.
  • Plastic is infinitely patient while you take several shots to get it just right.

Take a few pictures until you think you have one that looks like you’re plausibly doing the activity that represents the result you want.

If your goal is for something that it’s just not possible to take a picture of right now – say you want to run with the bulls in Pamplona or ride in the Tour de France – then collect pictures of the component parts and assemble them into one picture with either scissors and glue or software. (Just make sure one of the component parts is you!)

You can find photos of far-away places with Google Image search or search for Creative Commons-licensed content on Flickr. I explained how to assemble your fake picture in Put yourself in the picture with Photoshop and Put yourself in the picture with glue.

Assemble the photo you’ve taken with your background image if necessary. When you have a completed picture that you like, print it out and tape in on the bathroom mirror, next to your Post-It note.

A couple of caveats

Your mind interprets images very literally, so the results of your advertising may not always be quite what you intended. Be on the lookout for outcomes like the ones below, and adjust your picture if necessary.

I once helped a friend take pictures of herself to make ads for a job she wanted. Since the business was closed while we were there, we photographed her driving to work, parking in the employee parking lot, and walking toward the building as if she was going to work. She subsequently got a volunteer job at that organization! She did drive to work every day, but that wasn’t quite what she had in mind.

One of my goals for 2008 was to do a lot more playing outside with my partner in our new RV, so I put several pictures of doing outdoor activities in beautiful places in my New Year collage. Only problem was, the year before I’d mostly done that sort of thing by myself, so that’s what I had pictures of. Even when I camped or hiked with other people, the pictures I ended up with were the ones they took, of me standing by myself. I went ahead and used those photos anyway, because I liked them. Even though I knew I should edit them to show the outcome the way I really wanted it this time, I didn’t take the time to do any PhotoShop magic. However I did place a mental asterisk on the collage to remember to visualize my partner in the pictures with me. Guess how well that worked? Yep, I mostly camped by myself again this year.

My implementation

My goal for our fall campaign is to walk again, since I’ve been couch surfing for three months due to injury. So all I need for this step of the campaign is to get a photo of myself walking. I should be able to find several of them in my photo archives, or I can ditch my crutches for a few minutes to stage a fake walk.

The question that comes up immediately, though, is how far ahead of where I am should I be in the picture? I could show a photo of myself walking to the kitchen, or to a local coffee shop, or hiking on a back country trail, or even climbing Mt. Rainier. Each of those choices would represent a very different interpretation of walking.

This seems to be a question that comes up frequently in personal marketing, and I’ve found the answer is to just try one of them and see how it feels. I notice that I have an internal twinge in response to an ad when I get it wrong, that doesn’t go away until I fix it.

In this case, I’m going to ask a friend to take a picture of me on a beautiful level paved trail near the water in my neighborhood. It’s a place I really like, that’s one of the quintessential locations where I “go for walks”. I haven’t been able to walk on that trail for a quite awhile, but it feels within reach fairly soon if I keep up with the exercises I’m supposed to do. I’ll throw my ad up on Flickr and tag it tbyb when I’m done with the photo shoot, so you can see my example.

Update. My new version of the Post-It note ad with the walking photo is available on the Examples page. I put one copy on my bathroom mirror and another on the refrigerator for extra measure. They seem to be working really well.

Your action steps

  1. Take or find a picture of yourself doing the thing you say you want. If you can’t do that, gather pictures of the component parts (such as a photo of a cruise ship and another of you in vacation clothes).
  2. If necessary, do a little glue or PhotoShop magic, until you have a picture of the result you want with you in it.
  3. Print the picture.
  4. Tape it next to the Post-It note ad on your bathroom mirror.
  5. Optional: Take a photo of your combined picture-and-Post-It ad on the mirror, upload to your Flickr account, and mark with the tag tbyb.
  6. Join us on Monday for your next step.

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

Related articles

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