As most of you know when we’re not running, cooking and traveling, we’re both marketers by day. Marketing (especially small business marketing) is something we are both very passionate about, and we wanted to dedicate a post to recognizing fitness brands that are truly making an impact on the marketing landscape.
Brand marketing is ever changing, providing unique and creative challenges and opportunities for those of us in the industry. Fitness marketing truly takes that to the next level, and as more and more Americans place a personal emphasis on being active and healthy, fitness brands are poised to realize complementary increases in sales.
We’ve identified fitness brands that are utilizing our 5 Keys to Effective Fitness Marketing to help illustrate what works well in an increasingly crowded market.
Understand the importance of brand recognition. A company’s brand is more than just a logo or slogan. It’s the culmination of creative elements, message building, and a long-term vision for a company. To that end, it’s crucial to spend real time in this phase of a company’s development because it ultimately conveys what your brand (and company) deems important from a product and values standpoint.
Though many of the most famous fitness brands started small, it’s the ones that clearly took the time to build a cohesive brand statement and strategy that are the most well known.
Our favorite used-to-be-small-but-is-growing-fast brand is Altra. This running shoe company started out fairly under the radar while building a brand that sets itself apart from the other, more commercialized running shoe brands. Altra didn’t begin in a corporate boardroom; it began in the back room of a Wasatch Mountain running store. Elite athletes and running store managers, alike, wanted to create a shoe that allows people to run the “way they were born to.”
While the notion of zero drop shoes is controversial in the running world, we can’t deny that Altra has taken their belief in the base components of running and evolved that into functional trail and road shoes for a passionate community of runners. Altra is synonymous with runners who are blazing their own trails.
Know the effects of website user experience. Usability probably sounds like a buzzword by now, but the importance of consumer experience on a brand’s website is paramount. This experience should be pleasant, helpful, and provide much more than the consumer is anticipating. And it can make the difference in them buying from one company versus another. The fitness industry is already a competitive one. Don’t let poor website usability be the reason for lost sales.
At the outset Lorna Jane Active Living is an Australia-based women’s fitness apparel company. By offering attractive, comfortable, and more cost-effective options than some of the competitors in their space, an increasing number of active women are learning about the benefits of their apparel. But those aren’t the only pluses.
The brand’s website is extremely user-friendly. Simply want to shop? Perfect; that option is right on the homepage. Want to feel like part of a larger movement of women encouraging women to be fit and healthy? You’ve come to the right place. From the homepage you can visit the Move.Nourish.Believe blog that offers endless health, fitness and life tips/tricks customized for women. You can also access the My Active Life video series, as well as the Active Living Magazine.
The experience is so incredible on this site; it’s truly a one-stop-shop for purchases and information, with plenty of calls to action. This is the stuff website dreams are made of.
Focus on building an arsenal of original, owned content. Social media is a wildly effective tool for brand promotion, thought leadership, and consumer engagement, but it’s even more important that the content a brand creates and shares via social channels lives on an owned platform (such as a website, landing page, or blog), as well. As the social space becomes more crowded, and platforms shift brand account valuation as they see fit, fitness companies need to focus on marketing their original content.
Take, for example, the mobile and online app Strava. It comprises a community of athletes from around the world and gives them the opportunity to connect and compete with one another through social fitness. But Strava takes it a step farther than most other “exercise tracking” apps; they actually foster the community itself through owned, original content that lives on their blog.
From tips such as “How to Prepare for Riding a 100K” to personal runner testimonials on what inspires them, Strava is more than a tracker. It’s an educational resource and motivational tool for runners and bikers, alike. They also provide app feature update information (critical in this age of ever-changing technology capabilities). There’s no need to search an endless, gray FAQ page; Strava offers up their own content in a way that’s engaging and helpful by knowing what their customers want and need and then providing it to them within their properties.
Maximize the best mix of media relations and promotions. We talk to small business owners all of the time who don’t yet know the power of media relations (free, earned media) + a strategic paid promotional plan. Startups and young businesses often don’t have the budget to pay thousands of dollars for print and web ads. Regardless of how much a company can spend, it’s important to understand the importance and credibility of earned media coverage.
Now more than ever, consumers are relying on reviews, articles and influencers to shape their purchasing decisions. It’s rare to find someone who just saw a pair of trail shoes on the shelf and spent $100+ without reading reviews and/or asking another runner for their opinion. The same goes for fitness trackers, headphones, activewear and the list goes on and on. One company that seems to have found the right mix is Jawbone, maker of the UP wristband and app system designed to help you be more in tune with your body and become healthier over time.
Yes, they advertise here and there. But honestly they have received a TON of earned media coverage by showcasing the company’s ever-evolving marketing and development plans. From new features to app updates, there’s hardly a month that goes by where they don’t have something new to talk about. And because getting and staying fit is more important to Americans now than ever before, the earned media coverage prospects for Jawbone are almost limitless.
Create and activate an engaged customer base. Influencers, ambassadors, community members – all ways to describe people so in love with a brand that they are willing, often unprompted, to share their positive experiences via social media, product reviews, and blog posts. So why not leverage this positivity and give them ways to engage further?
The fitness industry comprises everyone from the first-time exerciser to elite athletes and everyone in between. Which means there are customers at every stage of the health/wellness/fitness journey who are passionate about the role fitness plays in their lives and would be willing to share it with others. It just takes a little research, consistent follow-up, and management to create a positive community that enjoys writing, posting, and reviewing on a brand’s behalf.
We love the #teambits social ambassador community Energybits has created by selecting people who are passionate about health and fitness, having them sample the product and then asking them to promote their experiences online. Through blog and social posts and unique discount codes for their readers/followers, this brand went from a barely-known product to being a recognized choice of fitness instructors, cyclists, and ultra runners alike.
Building an engaged customer base is scalable and doesn’t have to require a large budget. Some of the big-time bloggers will want payment for posts, and if you’re comfortable with that, great. But there are also thousands of health and fitness bloggers who would appreciate the opportunity to beta test a new product or the invitation to be part of a grassroots community that promotes a brand’s products and values.
We know. We’ve put a lot of information out there, but it’s important to explain that all of these elements can work separately or in tandem with one another. The best marketing plan for one company won’t be the best for another.
Active Harmony is not just a blog. It’s also an agency managed by two people who are passionate about small-business marketing. With more than 15 years combined experience in marketing and public relations, we understand what it takes to give brands a competitive edge. Have an idea or need assistance? Visit our website to learn more and request an initial meeting.