My Marketing Strategy Can Kick Your Marketing Strategy’s Ass

When it comes to diet and fitness, there is nothing new under the sun. And yet, the marketing strategies used by the diet and fitness industry have changed significantly over the last decade or so. Why?

The Original Greek God

Ever since Charles Atlas printed his famous ads -back in 1940s- on the back of every comic book, the diet and fitness industry mostly used Aspirational marketing strategy.

They figured that if they put the kind of guy (or girl) we all aspire to be like, they can sell a ton of …whatever they’re selling.

This strategy is still used and hugely popular amongst less-than-creative marketing execs everywhere. Case in point, the recent Body by Jake ad featuring my favorite UFC fighter, Randy Coutore. I mean, who doesn’t want to be this guy?

Some Things Never Change

But some do.

Outside of few isolated incidents of this tried and true marketing stand-by, diet and fitness industry has largely abandoned the Aspirational strategy. Instead they have been using the Identification strategy.

Examples abound:

  • Kirstie Alley, the zaftig, used-to-be-famous actress best known to me from the ’80s sitcom Cheers is a spokesperson for something called Organic Liaison diet program
  • Dr? Phill, the chubby TV show host, has “designed” an entire wight loss management system for those who identify with him, called The Ultimate Weight Loss Solution
  • Valerie Bertinelli, the (former?) wife of Edie van Halen and a TV actress in One Day at a Time soap opera, is a spokesperson for Jenny Craig. And let’s face. While Valerie used to be one hot tamale, she is now mostly known for being short and chunky.

More and more, advertising strategy is moving from Aspiration to Identification.


Aspirational strategy has the benefit of appeal to all. We all want to be fit, healthy looking, strong, etc. However, as the old marketing idiom goes “when you market to everyone, you market to no one”.

Identification strategy is effectively a niche strategy. Kirstie Alley has a very limited appeal amongst young males. But what she lacks in appeal to young males demographic, she more than makes up for in appeal to mid aged house wives demographic.

And why now?

I think it’s the ease of delivery. I think this Identification strategy is working now because if Charles Atlas tried his Aspirational strategy today, it would be the equivalent of the Blunderbus shotgun. And what’s needed today is a sniper.

Blogging in real time

I just saw a commercial for dog food. It featured a homely looking mid-aged lady feeding her dog some dog treats. Clearly an Identification strategy.

This Identification strategy is everywhere.

  • Can you think of any other industry that has changed its strategy en-mass?
  • Do you think Identification strategy is easier to deliver to target audience?
  • What strategy are you using?


Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi πŸ™‚

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  • Anonymous

    Nice takeaway Dino!
    No wait, I am the one who is supposed to get the take away?
    well either way, I see what you are saying and now I know what I have to do.

    I’m calling my Reverend, my grandma, my weird uncle who’s on parole, my emo cousin, and my gay sister – oh and my personal trainer, (mine and my dogs) and then I am getting them all to be spokespersons for me on each of the social media platforms

    Bring it on multiple demographics!
    My strategy is going to whomp yours now. So take a pepsi challenge too if you can handle it!

    LMAO. Nice title – evidently got me a little too into the spirit πŸ™‚
    (but what you gonna do about it? huh punk?)

    • Dino Dogan

      you know Alex, Im glad you got some kinda takaway from it, because it just left me perplexed. Why a change? Why now? What does it all mean?!?! lol

      Anyways…I’d buy an ebook from your dog πŸ™‚

  • Armand Polanski


    I like the new information I got from you. Does using the idea of 4HWW on my blog an Identification or Aspiration strategy?

    • Dino Dogan

      I dont think its either. I think it falls more in the category of Associative strategy. 4HWW has brand juice, as does Tom Ferris, and affiliating one’s self with that gives a casual passer-by an instant pause.

  • custom term paper

    Thanks for sharing! I want to say that this article is awesome,

  • The JackB

    Identification is just much more interesting and believable to me. I am always skeptical about these claims that the fitness people put out. Don’t show me a professional athlete using it because I don’t buy it turning him into that guy. But some regular shlub, well maybe…

    • Dino Dogan

      I think a lot of people feel that way. But do you feel that you’re being manipulated (perhaps more so) when they present to you with someone you can identify with?

      • The JackB

        I know that they are trying to sell me something. The question is whether I believe that what they are selling can do what they say it can. When it comes to getting shape there are some things that are ‘obvious.’ If I adjust my diet and exercise I will see results.

        The question I ask is whether their way is better and more effective than the others I have at my fingertips.

        • Dino Dogan

          That sounds very rational which is always a red alert for me and a signal that Im covering up something deeper, emotional, even reptilian.

          I say that under some pretty solid evidence that we dont buy based on rational decisions, we are not perfect calculons, and there is always something else underneath the rational explanation.

          But thats just me, of course. Im sure you are different πŸ™‚

          • The JackB

            I’d be lying if I said emotion was never involved in purchasing decisions.

  • Jens P. Berget

    Hey Dino,

    I am actually not sure what strategy I am using, but reading your blog post, I must say that it’s probably the identification strategy. I am telling stories, personal stories, and I am using testimonials as well (for the University where I work). I have never thought about using the “perfect” customer in my stories. It’s just me πŸ™‚

    I believe the reasons why a lot of companies are using the identification strategy is that most of us have become immune to advertisments, and by using the identification strategy, it’s much harder to understand that it’s actually marketing?

    What about car commercials, some of the new ones seems to be using the identification strategy… like this one from Volkswagen (it’s called the force, and it’s everywhere here in Norway)Β

    • Dino Dogan

      When you use student testimonials on your University’s page, you are most definitely using the Identification strategy. After all, who is looking at those pages? Potential students…so it makes sense to show them other students who like the place.

      What you might think about is to use parents of the students in the testimonials as well (if not already doing so). Because when the potential student brings his parent to the website, the parent will want to hear from other parents.

      When you broadcast the famous or accomplished past students, you are using Aspirational strategy.

      As for the car commercial, Im not sure what thats about. Remote start is a pretty standard feature on US, so its nothing to write home about. Is that not the case in Norway?

      Having said that, I thought the commercial was really cute.

      Actually, come to think of it, I think the car commercial is using Aspirational strategy. Because the buyer (mom and dad) are made to envision themselves making the kid feel special. And which parent doesnt want to do that?

      • Jens P. Berget

        Using parents of the students in the testimonials is a great idea. We don’t have a tradition for that kind of testimonials in Norway though, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t start one πŸ™‚

        We have remote start on “all” cars in Norway. But,Β I was looking at the commercial in a different way. I was looking at it from being a dad, and that this car was playing the family card. Where people who are driving this car is first and foremost thining about taking care of their kids and being a happy family.. because that’s the only reason why the dad pressed the remote start.. so little darth vader would finally feel his force πŸ™‚

        • Dino Dogan

          Yeah, I think you’re right. This IS playing both sides of the coin. Aspiration and Identification. And yes, get out there, get a camera, and talk to parents about what they like about your particular University. That will be huge πŸ™‚

  • Billy Delaney

    I fit into the identification strategy in part because I am aiming to have a conversation with primarily baby boomers, whom I identify with, understand and want to help.
    This article has got me really thinking and I thankΒ  @bullish:disqus ink for sending it my way as a tweet. You do get around Dino!
    I am reading your links to this post and I will have more to ask you about it later date. thanks

    • Dino Dogan

      Both strategies are staples. I think your comment made me realize why (at least in part) the Identification strategy is taking over.

      Since the early 50s and the proliferation of mass media and the baby boomers who ruled the 80s, people have become very distrustful of the experts.

      Experts represent the Aspirational tribe, whilst peers represent Identification tribe. And generally speaking, people want to hear from their own peers. So go get those baby boomers πŸ™‚

      However, remember that boomers still might have the circuitry which makes them susceptible to expertism. So they may not be looking to identify, they may be looking to aspire.

      Thought for food πŸ™‚Β 

  • Ryan Critchett

    I love this stuff. If I understand this right, identification marketing is aligning with a specific group of people? Or better yet, having them align with you. The strategy I’m using, and am demonstratively emphatic about, is being the person you are when you’re eating ice cream, in your pajamas, with your audience and customers. Sure, you should have some semblance of professionalism, but that’s just because it’s socially reinforced. Help people. Be real. Have great shit and you’ll win pretty big.Β 

    • Dino Dogan

      mmm…ice cream πŸ™‚ …wait..what did you say?

      Wud up Ryan πŸ™‚ thnx for a cool RT..YOU ROCK!!!! Skype soon?

      • custom essay

        Why everything happand like that?I think a lot of people feel that way. I like when they present to you with someone you
        can identify with?

  • Derek Potocki | Goalsblogger

    Hi Dino,
    I’ve recently entered fitness weight loss/gain niche and your advice is worth of trying to implement. Whatever works… Great post. I really eniojed it.

    • Dino Dogan

      Cant wait to see what you d with it. Report back πŸ™‚

  • Brankica | How to blog

    I don’t want to be R. C. I would rather get back and shape and look like Cyborg again πŸ™‚ And not sure how I can identify with the mid aged woman feeding the dog, I just ordered a (too expensive) bag or no-grains pure protein dog food. Would that woman do the same?

    • Dino Dogan

      How about if a cute serbian girl who is a sharp-shooter was selling dog food on TV, would you buy that dog food?

      • Brankica | How to blog

        That would work. Or a cute bosnian guy, same thing πŸ™‚ :*

        PS are you ever gonna go back to Jersey shore :))))?

        • Dino Dogan

          yeah…we’re leaving AZ in a week or so, camping along the way…will be back in NJ before 4th of July. Barbecue?

  • dissertations

    hahah))) cool) my marketing straegy cant do this)))) but it is just for now…

  • Anonymous

    I don’t want to be Randy Coutore, I want to be the goddamn Batman.Β 

    Anyhow. There’s room, I think, for both kinds of marketing to coexist. If identification marketing serves niches, then surely there are products that occupy no particular niche — like toilet paper.Β 

    Of course you CAN create niches within the toilet paper industry or you wouldn’t have recycled toilet paper (which I hope isn’t recycled from… uh… let’s all forget I brought that up), extra-smooth toilet paper, the works.

    Maybe toilet paper is a bad example because aspirational marketing is not the right approach to that particular commodity.

    It just occurred to me that identification marketing is basically aspiration marketing that targets a segment of the population. Think about it. Two of the examples you pointed out involve people going through a process. They want to lose weight or eat healthier foods. Those are aspirations. But they want to lose weight the way Dr? Phil tells them to. Β (Love the ‘?’)

    That way, aspiration and identification are bound together. ‘I’ve committed to Dr Phil’s weight-loss program because I want to lose weight. Dr Phil’s my age, speaks my language, so he probably knows what I need to do. I couldn’t find a better weight-loss program if I tried.’ — That sort of thing.

    • Dino Dogan

      You are pretty astute in marketing for a writer guy πŸ™‚

      Btw..thnx for reading carefully enough to catch Dr?Β  thang πŸ™‚

  • My Time Matters Blog

    Identifying and relating to people is the way to go … as they can relate to you, and these types of relationships build trust. I’d assume that’s a great strategy for most of us people that are trying to brand ourselves.
    Cool post Dino.

  • Margar David Profesore