Do The Impossible: Andy Nulman @ The Art of Marketing

The following is my take on a recent presentation I attended.

Before attending the Art of Marketing conference in Montreal last week, I had no idea who Andy Nulman was.  In fact, at the beginning of his presentation I wasn’t sure I was going to get anything out of it.  As it turns out, his talk was a surprise highlight of the day for me.

Andy’s mantra is “Do The Impossible”.  It sounded like a pretty clichéd, impractical mantra about goal-setting until I learned why he really does believe in the impossible, and how it can be converted into real-life application.

He began his presentation by sharing a story of his youth when a teacher told him that something was impossible, and how that led him to challenge the impossible throughout his life.  He says that he learned that “abnormal is good”, and that value-added comes from the freaks and weirdos like, he says, Richard Branson or Guy Laiberté.

He then went on to show a clip from Apollo 13 when they figured out how to fit a round filter into a square filter casing (a round peg in a square hole, get it?).

Here’s where his presentation became interesting.  Andy founded a company called Airborne Mobile which, by the summer of 2004, was a small nobody player in the media world as he says it.  He and his partner decided to set an impossible goal of $150-million by the next summer, and created a faux Montreal Gazette front page trumpeting the sale of his company.  He presented a plan to his staff and showed them this visualization of the end-goal.  In the spring of 2005 his company sold for $110-million.

In another display of his determination to overcome the impossible, he explained how, within days of taking over leadership of both the English and French productions of the Just For Laughs comedy festival in the 90’s, he was invited as a guest on a popular Francophone TV show Chabada alongside the famous Quebecois comedian Yvon Deschamps.  He was nervous about the political implications of appearing on the show, being a newly-appointed English-speaking head of a Quebec cultural institution.  After nearly backing out, he decided to face it head on and not only appear on the show but make Quebec TV history…. somehow.  He decided that to achieve his goal, he would get naked and upstage a popular comedian, something he considered to be impossible at the time.

To achieve impossible goals, he described his visualization techniques working from the end goal and moving backwards.  In both $150-million sale goal, the getting-naked-on-tv goal, and every other impossible goal, the steps are the same.  Visualize your end goal and take the steps in reverse, visualizing in sensory detail every single step along the way backwards to the present.

He then showed us the video clip of his appearance on Chabada where he really did get (nearly) naked on TV – evidence of achieving the impossible.

This idea of goal-setting is nothing new for many people, but it was nonetheless inspiring to see it in action.  The core of his idea, from a marketing perspective, was that in the world of new marketing, doing something impossible will set you apart, and that it is possible to do the impossible.

He says to leap before you look, and fail your way to the top.

What I took away from Andy’s presentation, from the perspective of an online marketing strategist and Account Manager, was a strengthened belief in establishing well-defined, specific performance goals and benchmarks, and a well-defined and specific series of steps in order to reach those goals and benchmarks.

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