How does your health club brand resonate with consumers?

Six hands touching against a blue sky to show a sense of connection

Recently, an email dropped into my inbox from Steve Tharrett, co-founder of ClubIntel, a U.S. based strategic consumer insights firm whose mission is to elevate the member experience for the club industry. It was to notify me on a white paper they had just published called: ‘Does your brand resonate with consumers?’. It’s an intelligent and well written piece that I would urge anyone with an interest in the industry to carefully read.


Below is an excerpt:

‘In a mature industry, sameness becomes the norm, uniqueness the outlier. Offerings blur, prices drop and consumers begin dictating what the market will offer. Marketing becomes a game of who can offer the best deal , rather than “How is my business different”, and “How will my offering benefit the customer in ways my competitors can’t?” Messages, like the businesses themselves, begin to blur, leaving customers to make their selection on price alone.

Why are we approaching this inherent evil of mature industries? According to data from the soon to be released 2014 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report (prepared by Club Intel), the health/fitness club industry is showing the aforementioned symptoms of a mature industry. Consequently, health/fitness clubs are finding themselves swimming in the sea of sameness where facilities, equipment and programs have all be come eerily alike and being able to offer the lowest price or best deal has become the predominant message consumers hear.

Over the past year we have been involved in conducting brand insight studies for clients, what we call Attitude, Awareness and Usage (AA&U) studies. These studies look at a brand’s competitive uniqueness or sameness , including: a brand’s awareness among consumers compared to competitors; a brand’s imagery and personality attributes, and whether it or its competitors owns these in the marketplace; a brand’s appeal, and whether its messages set it apart or blend in with its competitors messages; a brand’s health, do es it have a leadership position in the market, and finally, the perceptions the market has about the brand’s value proposition and message. We discovered, as expected, that certain brands had greater awareness than others, and the brands consumers were most aware of were the brands, which “shouted” the loudest (greatest presence in the media). Despite certain brands having created greater awareness in the marketplace, few if any consumers could tell you what was different about them. More disturbing was the fact that over 80% of consumers could not associate a particular brand’s message with a specific brand. We found that consumers perceived certain brands as owning specific personality attributes, but none saw these brands as dominating that attribute. In other words, the various brands had not created a competitive advantage around the attribute. Finally, we saw that the market’s location and demographics played a significant role in determining the best mediums for communicating a brand’s message. For example, in an urban market where the audience is predominately Generation Y professionals, internet advertising, social media and organic web searches were important, while in certain suburban markets composed of an older commuting demographic, radio, TV and print advertising had greater reach.

So what are the big insights from all this?’

You can read the full ClubIntel white paper here (registration details required).