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Creative Health Club Marketing



Three companies share campaign strategies that inspired action.

Creative Health Club Marketing
arketing involves telling people what you do and giving them a reason to contact you. There are many ways of doing this: direct sales, advertising, promotions. But you do have to tell people–you can’t just wait for the phones to ring. According to market positioning expert Jack Trout (coauthor of the best-selling marketing book Positioning [McGraw-Hill 2000]), the average American is exposed to 4,000 marketing messages per day. Where is your message in all that communication? What will make others remember you? Getting prospects to hear what you have to offer and then follow up can seem like a huge challenge. Pair that with offering a service (exercise) that Americans procrastinate about and the task feels overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. IDEA asked three companies that specialize in health club marketing to share successful campaigns. These promotions use a powerful yet simple combination of copy and images to appeal to “real people.”


July-August 2003 IDEA Health & Fitness Source

Company: Established in 1984, Susan K. Bailey Enterprises Ltd. works with more than 20 percent of the top 100 fitness and health clubs in North America, offering market-tested promotions and original copy. Client: HealthWorks Fitness Center, El Dorado, Arkansas Target Market: the deconditioned; qualified prospects Timing: December 2002 Type: direct-mail prospect postcard and former-member mailer (with images of a shar-pei puppy) Mail Run: 5,800 Response: More than 500 2-week guest passes were brought in and activated. Of those, 140 were converted into memberships. Concept: “So many clients look for `something different’ in their advertising, something that stands out from the pack and really grabs attention, especially in January, when every fitness facility generates its biggest advertising push,” says Sue Kell, creative director. “Looking into the shar-pei puppy’s eyes, Susan K. Bailey saw a creative opportunity with a humorous and emotional appeal. The `Ruff ‘ campaign had legs–literally!”



“Coupled with various `Ruff ‘ headlines (`Has the holiday season been a bit ruff on you?’ `Having a ruff time getting started?’), the captivating, good-natured image of the dog was perfect to appeal to the target audience’s sense of humor–and it also got the `cute’ vote. The image doesn’t attempt to define or identify any particular demographic by appearance, but manages to elicit a desire to feel better. It therefore maintains a wide market appeal. Without stereotypical reference, it successfully inspires, motivates and persuades. The many opportunities for wordplay were fully explored, and quite possibly exhausted.” Philosophy: Susan K. Bailey has a unique approach to marketing. “A large part of our job is to do exactly what our clients do: Promote health and well-being. The message that we continually retain in the back of our creative minds is that it’s not just exercise itself that’s important, but the benefits and rewards people experience simply by working out. After all, these are people’s lives we’re talking about. Our work should be easy: Be passionate and create compelling advertising messages to convince individuals they can get more out of life. This is why much of
Images and Copy:

our creative for the fitness industry shows people in `real-life’ situations enjoying life, seizing opportunities and reaping the rewards of being fit. Simple enough, right?” Client Lesson: “This was a universally versatile campaign. It didn’t single out, and therefore didn’t eliminate, any particular audience or demographic. Out-ofthe-box thinking has its place but should not be overused or it will lose impact. No matter where the dog appeared, the first time was the best time in regard to response. A humorous appeal is a tough act to create, and even tougher to follow. It’s a great idea to translate the concept into as many advertising mediums (prospect, referral, former member, take one, print ad) as possible in one short time frame to capitalize on maximum impact and response.” C e l e b r a t e Yo u r Fitness Resolutions Company: In business since 1984, Peak Performance offers complete direct promotions, including design, printing, targeted mailing lists and post office delivery. Its fitness facility marketing and advertising services include brochures, flyers, posters, banners, door hangers and

July-August 2003 IDEA Health & Fitness Source

guest passes. Client: Plymouth Fitness and Jordan Fitness Target Market: the deconditioned market, as well as the active market, ages 30 to 75, with household incomes of $50,000 and higher; special emphasis on family Type: direct-mail supermailer (8.5 x 11 inches, folded in half to 5.5 x 8.5 inches) Mail Run: 15,000 total: 10,000 for Plymouth Fitness and 5,000 for Jordan Fitness Response: 440 new memberships between the two clubs Timing: the beginning of January, to tie in with New Year’s resolutions Concept: “The main headline, `Celebrate your Fitness Resolutions!’ is an emotional appeal that ties in with what is already on people’s minds,” says Jim Smith, president. “The [image of] fireworks exploding behind the headline plays off the emotions connected to New Year’s celebrations. The mailer makes a strong primary offer: Join for only $49 and save $200. It also has a secondary offer–a free club pass–and states that there is a 14-day money-back guarantee. The combination of the free pass and money-back guarantee sends a clear signal that this is not a pressured sales situation

and the club stands behind its customer service. Instead of a deadline, the special offer is limited to the first 250 people per club. This creates a greater sense of urgency, since people can’t simply wait until the end of the month to join.” Images and Copy: “Each of the photos [11 total] has a caption, so when people skim the piece they get an overview of the club’s features and benefits. Photos include every age group, from seniors to children, since the club is targeting a wide variety of ages. The images show no rippling muscles or sweat, which may intimidate nonexercisers. “Copy such as `Friendly, nonintimidating,’ and `We have a unique program that is fun and friendly, with a comfortable atmosphere for all ages and lifestyles– even yours!’ alleviates the concerns that many deconditioned people have about feeling embarrassed or awkward in a health club. “The copy on one panel, `If you want to lose weight, this is the program for you!’ appeals to the single biggest reason people start fitness programs: weight loss. The copy emphasizes that this club offers both nutrition and exercise guidance, [a combination that] provides greater results. This gives the

club a competitive advantage for the biggest benefit that people are seeking.” Client Lesson: Strong emotional appeal is a key factor in successful advertising. Research your target audience thoroughly so you can craft a clear message that will lead to highly qualified responses. Don’t be afraid to combine and package a range of images if that will help promote your concept. A L i t t l e Va c a t i o n From Everyday Life Company: Since 2000, Red Hot Marketing has provided highly targeted direct mail, newspaper ads and billboards for the health club market. Client: Fitness Management Systems, Plymouth, Massachusetts Target Market: young and middleaged couples and families in mostly suburban and exurban areas whose lives are a loud and busy mix of kids, pets, toys and sports; whose underlying reason for working out is to stay healthy; and who know the health consequences of not working out Timing: year-round Type: direct-mail postcard Mail Run: 10,000 Response: 278 people either called or

July-August 2003 IDEA Health & Fitness Source

visited the club. Concept: Red Hot Marketing’s strategy going into a project is to learn as much as possible about the target market’s daily lives. Pushing the club on prospects is secondary to understanding their needs. The piece directly addresses these needs, acknowledges that staying fit is tough, and offers a solution. The message is about accessibility and showing members of the target audience how fitness can enrich their lives. Images and Copy: The front image depicts representative members of the target market enjoying a group exercise class. Both men and women are working out in a relaxed atmosphere. The focus is on an average, nonintimidating woman, who appears to be in her mid-30s, thoroughly enjoying the activity. The headline, “A Little Vacation from Everyday Life” highlights the appeal. The vacation theme is carried on to the back, where the copy mirrors the target audience’s inherent need to “get away” from the daily stressors of life. The club name is bolded for emphasis, as is the opening lead-in sentence, “As busy are you are, staying fit can be tough,” which draws recipients in. A free summer membership offer provides an enticing call to action.
Client Lesson: “Keep your message clear and your results high when using direct-mail postcards,” says Brian Smith, president. “Only advertise one offer and display the expiration date prominently– don’t make it fine print. Repeat the expiration date. For example, use it near the main offer location and then again in the body copy. Limit restrictions to as few as possible and tell the prospect exactly what you want him to do. If you want him to call, tell him. If you want him to stop by, then say so.”


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