Shaping Up

Toronto-based Slimband uses proven weight-loss tactics and success stories to help clients reach an ideal weight

VP of marketing Lisa Borg.

Shortly after the ATF Health Group hired Lisa Borg as its head of marketing, she determined that one of its companies, the Toronto Laparoscopic Band Centre (TLBC), needed an overhaul. Though the organization had been performing laparoscopic weight-loss surgery for years and was quite renowned in its field, there still existed a sort of stigma associated with turning to surgical treatments as a weight-loss option. Borg sought to educate society on the severity of the obesity epidemic facing North America, in addition to demonstrating the importance of surgical options as a long-term solution to successful weight loss. Utilizing her marketing savvy and business smarts, she succeeded.

“Obesity is a disease, yet many people think that overweight individuals are lazy or have no willpower,” Borg says. “Family, friends, and their doctors tell them to diet and exercise, even though it is proven that this is not always successful. Through education, we hope to help people make an informed decision about the treatment of obesity and, at the same time, remove some of the misconceptions surrounding weight-loss surgery.”

A native of England, Borg’s marketing career took her all across the globe—working in real estate, the film industry, and five-star hotels in India, Europe, and Dubai. After meeting her Canadian husband more than a decade ago, she settled in Toronto and joined the ATF Group in 2008. “What attracted me most to joining the company was the fact that they were doing something that was making a real change in people’s lives,” Borg explains. “As a marketer, you’re often promoting a product or service that only solves a problem or adds value. Through the clinic, I could actually see my work having a direct effect on not only extending our patients’ lives but also making them healthier and happier—that is extremely gratifying to me.”

When she first joined the group, it primarily marketed directly to the medical community rather than the consumer. Borg felt that the clinic wasn’t reaching as many patients as possible in that approach, so she decided to rework its entire marketing plan, starting from scratch with a fresh approach. “We transformed our marketing strategy, from the brand name to content, messaging, imagery, and everything in between,” she says. “We then created a campaign that focused on our actual patients sharing their success stories.”

Stephanie M. lost 115 pounds with the help of Slimband. Here, she is on location at a Slimband commercial shoot.

By focusing on sharing personal stories of patients’ weight-loss journeys, Borg was able to touch prospective clients in a more emotional way. The nationwide marketing program included print, web, outdoor, and TV advertising, and showed the consumer that they, too, can reach their long-term weight-loss goals through the Slimband Clinic. Clients saw that not only would they achieve weight-loss results, but they would also have a five-year follow-up plan with counseling, continued medical treatment, and support groups—touches that demonstrated the clinic’s dedication to its clients’ well-being. “The clinic has seen year-over-year double-digit growth since we launched this initiative,” Borg says. “Furthermore, in the first year we managed this without increasing our marketing budget from that of the previous year!”

The marketing initiative has also seen Slimband become more socially acceptable, with many clients now sharing their Slimband weight-loss journeys on YouTube and Facebook. “This has obviously led to a greater awareness of the Slimband brand and generated interest in the procedure,” she adds.

Slimband has also seen substantial growth in its medical practice; with new clientele interested in the procedure, the clinic has expanded from its single location in the Yorkville neighbourhood of Toronto to becoming a national company with offices across Canada. “We’d like to continue on our path of growth,” Borg says. “Education will always play a key role in our success, and we feel that user-generated content within social networks will be a driving force in this direction. Helping our clients become successful in losing their excess weight and keeping it off will encourage them to share their success with others and in doing so, help us achieve this goal.”

For any other marketers hoping to achieve similar results with their brand, Borg recommends taking a similar approach, and not being afraid to push the envelope. “Be bold!” she says. “Follow your convictions, but test often and measure your results. Believe there’s always room for improvement, and never stop learning.”