If you ask a woman to name an important trait they love about a man, a sense of humor usually tops the list. If you ask a guy which trait is the most important to him when it comes to a woman? No, it’s trust. Really.
On the August cover of Club Insider was the word TRUST. Powerful word. Norm Cates talked about Trust in the cover story. Powerful words.
As Paul Zak, a professor of economics and the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate University said, “Trust works as an ‘economic lubricant’ that affects everything from personal relationships to global economic development.”
Here are my two cents. If you only want a penny for my thoughts, keep the change.
Think of your Trade Mark more like Trust Mark. A Trust Mark is what the consumer thinks when they see your Trade Mark.
When they see your logo, they either trust you or they don’t. Take the test: Nike’s Swoosh. What are you thinking? I think it’s safe to say that when you see that logo, you trust Nike to make superior athletic gear.
Mercedes. We trust their tag line, “Engineered like no other car in the world.” Apple. Innovative computers, MP3 players and the coolest cell phone on the planet. Yes, I was one of those people who paid $599 for the first iPhone. Gladly. Why, because I trust Apple to make cool products for me that are fun, easy to use and help me to be more productive.
The only complaint millions of us Apple iPhone users have is with their carrier partner, AT&T. They’re about as functional as breasts on a snake. Yeah, Ma Bell. One of the biggest and most successful brands in the world at one time. Not anymore. Thanks to them, I can’t get any reception in my own neighborhood or in my own home. I’m one of those iPhone fanatics uttering those famous words, “Can you hear me now?” And which carrier partner does every iPhone user wish they had? Right, Verizon. Why? We trust them. Lesson 548: Be careful whom you partner with. They can either elevate or diminish your brand.
The United States Post Office. We don’t trust them. How could you trust a place that builds eight clerk windows, but only has two clerks working there at any given time? We’d rather pay FedEx double the money because the lines are shorter, the employees are nicer and we trust them to absolutely positively deliver our package on time.
A health club. Consumers don’t trust them because one day they’re open and the next day they’ve closed. There are fees of every kind: enrollment fees, initiation fees, service and deposit fees. One month you see an ad for $99 enrollment and the next month that fee is waived. Over time the consumer sees a gym membership advertised for $49 a month, the next time it’s $39, then $29 and then it hits $19. They see so many specials and price slashing, the consumer gets the message that the product and service can’t be of any great value. They trust their instincts that maybe if they just wait, someone will come along and charge $10 a month. Bingo. They’re right. Hello Planet Fitness.
Low priced clubs like Planet Fitness look at most health clubs and see that members are paying for customer service that really doesn’t exist. Or, these clubs have amenities that aren’t being utilized by the majority of members. Or, the equipment is always down, the place is dirty and the atmosphere is about as colorful as a tumbleweed. Voila. Planet Fitness builds a box with colorful purple and yellow walls and just enough free weights, selectorized machines and cardio equipment, along with a couple of tanning booths, in a clean and comfortable environment.
They shout out with their ads, in essence saying, “Why pay all that money when you can train with us and get the same thing for only $9.99 a month? Welcome to the “Judgment Free Zone.” Upgrade to $19.99 a month and use any of our 150 locations, with unlimited tanning and guest privileges.” These low cost gyms are like Motel 6. “We’ll leave the light on for ya.”
Filling niches is a part of great marketing. Curves marketed to the deconditioned woman (the couch potato, or potatoe if Dan Quayle is reading this) and became successful at it. Planet Fitness is capitalizing on the failures of the average health club today.
Good for them, but bad for the health club industry, because if Planet Fitness continues to grow and other gyms continue to copy them, Planet Earth (i.e., the masses) will believe that getting yourself in good physical shape is only worth $9.99 a month.
I wish my satellite TV bill was $9.99 a month. I wish my cell phone bill, my electric, gas and water bills, my gardener, house keeper, cable modem, groceries, golf fees, car payment, gasoline, mortgage, and my wife’s Starbuck’s tab were all $9.99 a month. Look at what we’re willing to pay every month to live our comfortable lives, but the most important item we need to really live, our health, we have devalued and commoditized down to $9.99 a month.
What a shame! Shame on us, the fitness industry, for not showing the true value and benefits of our products and services. Shame on us for only getting 14% of Americans into our health clubs. The other 86% don’t trust us to be the solution for their overweight and obesity problems.
But, I’m the eternal optimist. I’m the kid whose Christmas stocking you could have put a bunch of horse manure in and I would have awakened my parents Christmas morning holding that stocking screaming excitedly, “Mom, Dad, there’s a pony around here somewhere!”
So, let’s all of us start in January 2010 and charge $9.99 a month. That’s over 30,000 health clubs in America. Let’s all make our clubs the same size, about 15,000 square feet, with just strength and cardio equipment plus a couple of tanning booths and paint everything purple and yellow. Since we all seem to be heading there anyway and $9.99 seems to be the answer to America’s health care problem, let’s get a jump on it. “Come one, come all and join our Judgment Free Zone for only $9.99 a month. Your New Year’s Resolution Solution!”
And kudos to the first gym owner who later paints his walls a different color with inspirational branding and charges $11.99 a month. Kudos to the next owner who adds group exercise classes and charges $19.99 a month. Kudos to the next who adds spinning and charges $29.99. And kudos to the next gym owner who adds an indoor swimming pool, basketball court, juice bar and great customer service for $49.99 a month. And kudos and kudos and kudos….
Wow, different gyms for different people. What a concept! My father once said to me, “If you and I were exactly alike, one of us wouldn’t be needed.” I told him I would miss him. He adjusted his glasses with his middle finger.
By differentiating ourselves from the competition and thinking way outside the box, we won’t end up like the fast food chains all selling 99-cent burgers. That marketing plan failed miserably. And hopefully we won’t end up like the American automobile industry. Needless to say, nobody’s gonna bail the Fitness Industry out.
If we’re smart, insightful, and innovative, people just might see the most incredible health clubs on earth. These clubs could attract people the way Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and those XpresSpas popping up in all the airports around the country attract their loyal customers. These health clubs could be their daily sanctuary and ritual instead of everywhere else. People will then have their priorities straight and pay less for coffee and more for a gym membership.
And, instead of putting “sale” signs on the windows like a car dealership, we’ll all put the quote from Plato, “In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.”
And just maybe, we might inspire the right people to have Physical Education put back into schools so our kids will grow up smarter and healthier and able to outlive their parents.
And, when the American people are no longer the most obese nation on earth, it will be because they trusted the health clubs to get them fit instead of the gastric bypass surgeons and plastic surgeons or those magic pills, powders and diet fads that cost so much more than $9.99 a month.
When 86% of Americans are training in our health clubs instead of the 14% who are today, it’ll be because we will have figured out that we have a lot more to offer than price. Trust me.