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Do health & fitness chains need a web marketing new year resolution?

It’s that time of year again.

With the overindulgence of the festive period, the self-imposed guilt we’re all feeling come the New Year and a desire for a ‘better and healthier’ lifestyle, January offers a golden opportunity for health & fitness chains and their marketing departments.


So what are health & fitness chains such as Virgin Active, LA Fitness, Nuffield Health, Fitness First and the like offering this year to help fill their gyms?

  • Half price memberships;
  • Reduced or zero up front fees;
  • Free membership in January;
  • Reduced personal training fees.

Basically ‘money off’ promotions - it’s the same EVERY January… yawn!

Of course January is a financially tight month for many, but is the related sell simply about money and nothing more?

The gym business model is heavily reliant on an on-going subscription and actual attendance isn’t that important. That said, surely reducing the dropout rates by boosting retention would lower the annual spend on acquisition marketing... after all it’s whole lot cheaper to retain a customer than it is to acquire a new one.

This got us thinking more closely to home: what would encourage us go to the gym more regularly?

Generally speaking the Vie Digital team are pretty donkey-like in our relationships with the gym, with good intention on joining often waning as quickly as our initial enthusiasm.

So how does one encourage a donkey? Could the proverbial carrot or stick approach work for gyms looking to boost their sign-up and retention?

What would the carrots be we pondered, (we dismissed the initial idiotic idea of cakes at the gym)? Or even better what would the sticks be and who would deal out this punishment? A proper thrashing perhaps - a little naughty for a temple of fitness perhaps!

After much laughter and some frankly absurd ideas we struck upon a good idea combining the power of social media with the power of embarrassment and pride.

If we were running a marketing campaign for a gym we would employ comedians, sports people and other celebrities to write up various tweet size comments to either commend and encourage good gym visits or ridicule, insult and scold bad gym visits.

Imagine then, receiving insulting and comic tweets, Facebook updates and phone messages from comedians like Frankie Boyle or Jack Dee displaying their contempt for your lack of will and strength or flirtatious and encouraging messages from David Beckham or Jessica Ennis posted to your Facebook page or sent to your phone for all to see and comment on.

Another possible carrot would be for famous singers to post new songs only available to good gym goers or discounts to buy new clothes (as you have lost all that weight)– the options are endless.

The important aspect of the campaign would be for the client to have the control over the intensity of their plan e.g. more/less rude, more/less regular, etc.

If the gym goer turns up to the gym for the agreed pre-planned amount of times a week then the carrots could get better, more rewarding over time. So, if they stick to their self imposed strategy then they get carrots all the way if they don’t then beware.

After having read the suggestions that the Metro article suggests “Muscle mania: What are the new fitness trends for 2013?” we reckon this could be the way of combining the great tech available out there like the Tracker by InBody and Swimtag (available at Virgin Active) with a fun and comedic look at getting fit and healthy.

The great thing about our social media idea for gyms is that these updates are being posted online for friends and friends of friends to comment on thus giving viral, valid content flooding the social media airwaves spreading the gym word!

Now of course we love this idea! It might even get us to hit the gym again, but what would get you going?

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