Got Milk? Yes. Got Fitness? No.

Was thinking about the award-winning ad campaign from the Milk Advisory Board, “Got Milk?” Sales for milk went up dramatically across the nation after the launch of that campaign. Then I thought of other advisory boards and associations that boosted their members’ sales from a national ad campaign. The Raisin Growers of California came to mind with their animated raisins dancing across our television screens to the hit song, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” Thus, another award-winning campaign that took a losing product out of the red and into the black.

This made me think about the fitness industry. What if our fitness association, IHRSA, led a powerful ad campaign that could give gym owners the same kind of success the Milk and Raisin campaigns did for those industries?

Why not employ the same marketing strategy with the more than 30,000 health clubs in the United States? Since IHRSA needs more members, and gym owners need more members, and our government is trying to tackle the obesity epidemic, this could be a win/win for everybody.

Let’ s create a really memorable ad campaign that people will talk about, that will inspire and motivate them to go to their local health club. Can you picture full-page ads in USA Today, People and TimeMagazine? Can you picture great billboards around the country? Can you picture a brilliant and widely talked about TV commercial on the Super Bowl? I can!

If Snickers candy bars can make a hit TV commercial using 88-year-old Betty White and 89-year old Abe Vigoda who most of the country thought was dead, then we certainly can make a memorable one using 96-year old fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who still has a great sense of humor and the energy of a teenager. There are so many great brands, like Budweiser, that have produced funny and memorable ads using fitness as a backdrop. The ideas are endless.

Now some of you might be saying, “Okay we agree, but how do you propose this national ad campaign happens and who pays for it?” Here’ s one idea, your mileage may vary. As a gym owner you already pay yearly dues to IHRSA. If you don’t, you should. They do a great job for the health and fitness industry. There are over 30,000 health clubs in the United States. What if they all paid IHRSA dues, which they all should, then maybe IHRSA could afford to set aside a percentage of those dues for a national ad campaign. Help them help you.

Just as an illustration, if each gym pays $500 a year in dues, let’s take $50 or better yet $100 out from each paid member for a national ad campaign. That’s 3 million dollars. Not huge, not small, but a great step in the right direction. Is there more money around? Glad you asked. Yes!

IHRSA spends a ton of money on their keynote speakers to motivate you to attend their conferences, when you really should attend regardless. I love those speakers as you do, but I can’t help but think that you would rather have that money spent on motivating more members into joining your club. As my uncle Warren would say, “I reserve the right to be wrong.”

Also, as I mentioned, our government is trying to fight obesity. I’m sure they would like to pitch in to find a solution, as would the American Heart Association, American Council on Exercise, American Diabetes Association and others. Many of us have contacts in these organizations, and I’m sure someone has Michelle O. on speed dial.

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight, half are obese. Health clubs can be their solution, but 85% of Americans don’t even train in your health clubs. They obviously need some inspiration and motivation. If a great national ad campaign can work for the Milk and Raisin industries, it can also work for the health club industry.

The Florida Orange Growers along with the Florida Department of Citrus have spent tens of millions of dollars over the decades on national ads educating the consumer on the health benefits of Florida orange juice. And their commercials don’t preach, because experience shows that preaching doesn’t work with consumers. Their commercials, like the Milk and Raisin campaigns, inspire and entertain, and they get their message across with a simple tagline like, “A day without orange juice, is like a day without sunshine.” And their newer one, “It makes you feel good.”

Now that says it all, doesn’t it? It’s what we all want. It’s the pain and pleasure principle. We are creatures just like in the animal kingdom, seeking pleasure while trying to avoid pain. Who in their right mind wants the pain of sitting on an airplane flying for 18 hours unless the pleasure at our destination is worth it? Bingo. Hello, Crocodile Dundee! Cheers to the Australian Tourist Industry who understood this and gave us actor Paul Hogan, who put another “shrimp of the barbee” for us. Australian tourism grew from those international commercials and so did Hogan’ s reputation. And now, Tourism New Zealand is doing some inspirational marketing to get people to visit their great country.

The national campaign, “SKI UTAH” also worked to get people from all over the world to ski on “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” Mexico is currently spending almost a hundred million dollars trying to boost its tourism with international ad campaigns. How about Canada’ s Tourism Commission, which did those great international commercials during the 2010 Winter Olympics? They definitely made you want to visit Canada. So, if all these countries, commissions, and associations can emotionally connect with people through great ad campaigns that drive those people to buy their products and get them through their doors, maybe we can too!

Only one catch, you gotta clean up your backyard first.

Through great marketing, you can get a whole town to come into your health club, but if your club is dirty, if the machines are broken, if your staff is substandard, if the atmosphere and experience are boring, if it’s a place with no emotional connection or no positive results, they will never come back again, no matter how great your ads.

Sometimes you only get one shot at something. First impressions are vital. Do you know anyone who wasn’t impressed walking into a Ritz Carlton or a Nike Town or an Apple Store? I don’t. Have you seen the excitement in an Apple Store with all those people sampling the products? Health clubs should have the same excitement from people losing weight and looking and feeling better!

Most Americans wake up in the morning to an advertised alarm clock. They use an advertised razor, eat advertised cereal, drive advertised cars, type on advertised computers, use advertised cell phones, go to advertised movies, read advertised books and stay at advertised hotels. But, most Americans, 85% of them, don’t use advertised health clubs. Why? Most Health Clubs, like their ads, simply do not measure up.

So, if IHRSA were to preside over a great national ad campaign that inspires and motivates people to walk through your door, will your club measure up? Let’s work on it. LET’S GIT ‘ER DONE!

As Columbo would say, “Ah, just one more thing.” One of my favorite books on marketing, and I feel I’ve read them all, is a book called BEYOND DISRUPTION, Changing the Rules in the Marketplace by Jean-Marie Dru. It’ s creative people like Dru who try to change conventional thinking, which leads to innovative marketing for his clients like Apple, thus, the tag line, “Think Different.”

Until next time, “Think different!”