Create a brand for your goal: Decide how to position your change

create a brand for your goal

Branding starts with a decision about how you want to position your product in the mind of the consumer. In personal marketing, the product is your goal or behavior, and the consumer is you. The position of your brand has less to do with what that goal actually is, than with about how you think it, which benefits you associate with it, and what feelings those benefits evoke. Positioning is also about differentiating your goal, with its associated benefits and feelings, from competing options.

This is the point in the marketing process is where you have an enormous advantage over commercial marketers, because you know so much about you! While they’re busily segmenting the population into ever more specific sub-groups and then studying them to discover a position that will be appealing, you only have to appeal to a demographic of one consumer that you already know very well.

Take a look at this list of breakfast cereals. Each of them are made from pretty much the same ingredients, so their manufacturer has had to find some other way to differentiates it from the others. As you read through the list, notice the first thoughts you have about the ones you recognize. Do you see how you’ve been taught to think about them in different ways? This is positioning. Some of the cereals have been positioned to appeal to children and are promoted as being delicious or fun to eat, Others target the adult market, and associate themselves with strength, health, or fitness.

Let’s consider how we might use positioning in personal marketing. Say your goal is saving money. Depending on what’s important to you, you could position that goal in your mind in any of the following ways. Each of them will combine differently with who you are to evoke a set of feelings. None of them are “right” or “wrong”, just different. Your job as a personal marketer is to figure out which of them will work best on you, and then intentionally amplify those feelings. So saving money could be positioned as:

  • A loving and responsible way to care for your family
  • The ticket to a lifelong dream, such as owning your own home
  • Getting ever closer to fun, such as saving for a vacation or expensive toy
  • A way to keep score in the competitive game of business and/or life
  • A strategy to achieve financial independence so you can control your own time
  • Putting something away for a rainy day, to provide for your own security

Do you see how each of these ways of thinking about accumulating money has a different flavor? Some of them may resonate with you, and others probably leave you cold. You can generate a similar list for any goal you have, such as losing weight, exercising, cleaning out clutter, graduating from college, getting a better job, etc.

The brand position hack

Your work this week draws on the notes you generated from three previous articles.

Read over your notes from each of them and brainstorm possibilities for how you might position the goal you’re working on. Which of the possible positions is potentially compelling enough to win you over? Consider who you are and what motivates you. Take a good honest look at your competition. Ideally, you want to choose a position for your behavior that makes you feel something, and build your brand around that. Work with your lists until you have identified a specific position for your goal.

My implementation

I’ve been working on the goal of walking again, because I suffered an injury about a year ago that’s created mobility challenges ever since. The road to recovery has been much longer and more frustrating than I thought it would be, so I want to create a personal marketing campaign that reinforces my self-image as mobile, active, healthy, and free.

Target market research

  • Although I’m currently out of shape, I have a core identity that is strong and athletic.
  • My strengths include a lot of willingness and desire (and of course, personal marketing).
  • I miss some activities that have been off limits for quite a while, such as hiking and sports.
  • I also miss the freedom to play with my home environment, doing stuff like gardening, landscaping, painting, carpentry and maintenance.
  • I worry about becoming more disabled.
  • I like to stay home and prefer unstructured time.
  • I spend more time than I want to watching TV.
  • This whole thing has taken a lot of patience – I’m frustrated and tired of waiting!

Competitive analysis

  • As time goes by, I struggle against the habit of thinking of myself as a disabled person.
  • There’s a learned passivity that goes along with that identity, that worries me very much.
  • There’s a seductive convenience and simplicity that goes along with it as well.
  • Other kind and well-meaning people reinforce my identity as disabled many times every day.
  • I do have a legitimate fear of injuring myself again.

My market research and competitive analysis revealed several issues that might be useful for my marketing campaign. I was especially struck me how many items seem to center around identity. The process of recovering from this injury has been humbling and frustrating, but I find that I worry more when I stop being frustrated and start to just accept my lot and enjoy the benefits (like better parking places). At those times it seems that my identity is morphing against my will into someone I don’t want to be. A marketing position that speaks to my worries about identity will tap into those feelings, and leverage the emotional power they contain.

After some thought, I decided to reposition my current situation as an athletic injury (which it actually is) rather than a disability. Therefore, the strategy for my marketing campaign will focus on reinventing myself as an athlete. This idea will challenge both the internal and external issues I identified in the competitive analysis, and will also tap into my core self image as strong, athletic and capable of anything.

The ad campaign will do well to focus on activities that I can do immediately (no patience required!) and must also make sure to stress that these activities are convenient, simple, and safe. If I want to run negative ads against the competition I can talk about how sitting around watching TV makes me weaker and less able to do the other things I want to do.

Can you see how helpful it was for me to do the two analyses above? The first ad in my walking campaign was fairly generic — a picture of myself walking and an affirmation (“I walk because I can”). That ad has actually influenced my mindset quite a bit. But now I can do even better because I’ve injected some very specific strategy that will add power to my next round of ads for this goal. By using the same methodology as commercial advertisers, I’ve found a way to connect the goal to my gut and my heart. Now (again taking a page from their book) all I have to do is shamelessly exploit that insight.

Your action steps

  1. Look over your notes about yourself from Target market research: put your customer first.
  2. Also read the notes you made about competing behaviors from Know your enemy: Who or what is your competition?
  3. Brainstorm several ways that you could position your goal with its necessary behavior changes
  4. Choose the position you think will be most compelling to you.
  5. Write down your marketing strategy
  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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  1. Posted October 27, 2008 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Hey, great post! I work for a branding/market research firm, so this is interesting to me.

    I’ve always been taught that a brand is something non-concrete – it’s the set of associations that someone has when they think of your brand. In that way it’s sort of a like a mental heuristic.

    I typically view positioning, then, not as synonymous with a brand, but rather… metonymous? Positioning is a tool that signals how you want your brand to be viewed.

    Maybe that’s nitpicky, but I wanted to share.

  2. Posted October 27, 2008 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Er, sorry to be spammy, but I had something else to add.

    In my work, I’ve learned to structure positionings in the following format:

    [Name] is a [how it is differentiated] for [who it is relevant to] that [highly regarded benefit].

    So an example of that in my own personal advertising would be:
    My LARP is an intellectually-stimulating and fun game that will allow me to connect with other geeky people like myself and share my ideas with them.

  3. Lynn
    Posted October 27, 2008 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Lise, thanks for the feedback. I was aware when I wrote the first paragraph that I wasn’t saying it quite right (I need to read the Ries/Trout book), so I really appreciate you chiming in as an expert on the topic to clarify the relationship between branding and positioning. So would you say that brand is a subset of position, or vice versa?

  4. Posted October 28, 2008 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I would say, rather, that a position is a subset of a brand.

    More specifically, a position is a brand signal. Other things can be brand signals, too, like a logo, for example.

  5. Lynn
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I modified the first sentence from “Branding is about…” to “Branding starts with…” I think that’s more accurate, and trust that smart readers will let me know if I still don’t have it right. Thanks again, Lise.

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