When starting a yoga, Pilates, or gym business, the first step to marketing is defining your brand. Among common marketing mistakes, missing this step is the most detrimental and difficult to reverse. You mustn’t skip this step, because everything that you say or do as a business after that should adhere to that brand.
This article explains how you define your brand from the beginning. If you’re already well underway on your business, it’s okay – better late than never. But it’s worlds more effective to get clear on this up front so all your materials express it.
Here we tell you how to avoid the most common of marketing mistakes, and define your “ethos”.
Soul-searching: Value Proposition
The process begins with some soul-searching. You first need to define your value proposition.
Your business’ value proposition is what you offer clients that makes your service or product worth paying for it instead of paying the competition for it. It must be something your business uniquely offers, or something unique about the way in which you offer it. Answer:
- How are you different from your competition?
- What need can you fill that is not being well-met by competitors?
Be specific! For example, here are the answers for my marketing business:
- My company is different because of our approach to marketing. It is scientific, based on data, and measured. Most marketing companies are filled with creatives and no math people. We have both.
- The need we fill that is otherwise largely un-met in the market is that we offer a scientific, concrete, measurable marketing strategies and tactics. This is the main reason why our clients choose us.
Once you have defined your value proposition, you can take it a step further to define your ethos. In other words, what are the core values that your ideal client would have? What kind of spirit do you want your member community to embody? The basis of your brand and all the expressions of it (e.g., company name, logo, brochures, website, studio decor, equipment you buy) should emanate:
- the beliefs and aspirations that define characteristic spirit of the community you want to create, and
- your value proposition
To fill in #1, start with a brainstorm list of these characteristics/values. Then brainstorm taglines or short phrases that embody their essence. Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually use any of these taglines if you don’t want. It is simply an exercise in defining the “vibe” you want your business to emanate and attract.
Now let’s explore how this translates into expressions of your brand.
Brand Marketing for a Gym
First let’s look at an extreme gym example, for illustration of:
- Successful execution of ethos, and meanwhile
- Ineffective ethos.
David Barton Gym set out from inception in 1992 to be nothing like other gyms. Their ethos brainstorm would’ve included attractiveness, boldness, energy, inspired, awareness, sensual, community, uplifting, feeling good, elitism. They landed on a tagline: “Look better naked”. They were recognized for their interior design, which successfully represented their brand. Their messaging, imagery of perfect bodies, decor, and even their locations (e.g., Vegas, Miami) were in line with this brand.
However, was this a good marketing for a gym? While the gym got a lot of initial hype after it’s opening, and grew to ten locations around the U.S., it has downsized significantly in recent years. Only three locations remain. My guess is that they couldn’t sustain membership with such an intimidating message the the average fitness prospect. I’m sure they set out to be inspiring, but a simple focus group of their target market would have revealed the real feelings the brand incited.
Crossfit Box Brand Messaging
The Dinami website has beautiful professional photography. However, the metallic-tone images are only of sleek, perfect-looking, beautiful people. Yet their About Us page claims they are “warm and inviting”. An elite athlete may find this website warm and inviting, but most people will not. Dinami’s Facebook page also has only great-looking athletes, even when the images are of their actual classes. For anyone not completely bold and confident in their ability to rock Crossfit, the inconsistent brand message results in a website that is not warm and inviting at all.
Exodus Elite has “elite” right in the name. Yet, their website is nothing like Dinami’s elite-athlete vibe. Exodus’ images are warm in that the images are of real people in their gym, smiling at the camera. There’s a mix of fit and non-fit looking people, and no one seems perfect. The exercise movements shown are a mix of heavy and light weight. As another example, one recent blog post is called “Get Stronger, Lose Weight, Move Efficiently.” Anyone, fit or fit-aspiring, would find this a friendly title. If Exodus Elite is trying to attract a variety of local fit-aspiring individuals, they have the right words and images.
However, they still seemed to have skipped the ethos step, because their name doesn’t match the rest of the messaging… and the name is the most important part of a company’s marketing! “Exodus” I guess is referring to people en masse who are switching from a traditional gym membership to Crossfit? “Elite” can represent nothing other than elite athlete in this context. The most important thing of all, their name, is inconsistent and does a terrible job of representing who they are. If I saw the two names separated from their websites, and had to guess which name went with which site, I would have guessed the opposite.
Yoga Studio Brand Messaging
Let’s think about these principles in the context of a yoga studio. Some studios choose an elitist, hard-core vibe. As an example, here students might value wearing the latest yoga brands, and looking top-notch in them. They might feel accomplished if they’ve done some cirque de soleil type moves better than others in the class. While another yoga studio’s students may value more of an inward experience. They may attend class to feel grounded, access a spiritual connection to their deeper self or a higher being, to feel one with others in class. They feel accomplished if they’ve achieved a state of calm, rejuvenation, or energy from class, rather than what they “did”. Yoga studios need to examine where they want to land on this spectrum. Not only should the name, brand messaging, and decor align with this, but so should your class line-up and your teachers.
The best thing you can do for your branding is to do it in the right order. Don’t cobble it together, and don’t skip steps. That doesn’t mean you need to spend more than you can handle. Take it slow, just be thoughtful with how you take each step. Good luck!