When you think about it, the health and fitness industry has had quite a lot of wild and wacky fads – at least in modern history. There is plenty of YouTube gold showing people, looking quite hilarious, using Shake Weights, doing 80s-tastic aerobics, and even wearing Spandex promoting the ThighMaster. We have all seen TV and internet ads for fitness equipment so quirky, we question whether they’re legitimate.

Mainstream health and fitness clubs, for the most part, have lived in a world apart from the wild and wacky fitness fads. Walk into any YMCA or Life Time Fitness, and you’re likely to see standard, high-quality equipment, swimming pools, and separate rooms for cycling or the fitness class of the hour. No Shake Weights…just weights.

But something is changing as Americans become more aware, through technology and better information, of the state of their health and wellbeing. They are realizing that quirky machines, gadgets, and unused gym membership are not the key to better physical fitness. Finding a fitness routine that brings both joy and positive results is what will motivate them to come back and make fitness a part of their overall lifestyle.

Disruption in the Fitness Club Industry

In the search for a lifestyle-friendly fitness routine, a variety of gym alternatives have cropped up over the past few years. These are boutique fitness studios like Pure Barre, CrossFit, and Orangetheory among many others. Boutique fitness studios focus on the experience, whether its having one-on-one training or enjoying a high-intensity workout with a group of friends, its important that the experience easily becomes a part of the members healthy lifestyle.

Its fair to say that boutique clubs and studios are disruptors to the health club industry. In other words, their innovative approach to paid fitness membership is creating an environment that could disrupt or displace established market leading companies. The disruption is happening right now with approximately 42% of the U.S. health and fitness facility members saying they use a fitness boutique[i].

The big question is how are the big-box fitness centers going to compete? Some experts are skeptical that the big brands will be able to re-create the intimate boutique fitness experience in their large facilities. Some gyms, like Golds Gym, have already unveiled their own version of boutique fitness. In the case of Golds Gym, the company launched Golds Studio which is their new boutique fitness brand with a business model and pricing consistent with other boutique fitness clubs. Other gyms, such as Miramont with its boutique fitness brand REVE, are following the same plan.

Millennials have been the driving force behind the growth of the boutique fitness industry so where you find higher populations of millennials and young adults, youre likely to find boutique fitness studios opening in the area. For the established big-brand gyms, older demographics will continue to drive growth over the years to come.

Fitness in Rural Areas

There are some differences with rural consumers. For the overall national adult population, the key demographic for gym members is adults 20-64[ii], which of course includes generation x. But in rural areas, generation x is not as likely to exercise, which means millennials 18-24 and baby boomers 55+ are the two groups in rural America most physically active[iii]. In these small communities, these two age groups have very different needs and desires. On one hand are the millennials who might prefer a more personalized boutique fitness studio experience with their friends. On the other hand are baby boomers who are gym regulars and enjoy spending half an hour alone on an exercise bike.

The great thing about either type of fitness club is that there is opportunity to attract rural customers. Whether it’s a yoga studio opening in a small college town full of young adults and young professionals or a Gold’s Gym looking to grow their membership by expanding their reach into smaller nearby communities. Rural areas certainly have something to offer for both types of businesses. Knowing what makes them different from their urban counterparts can provide fitness clubs with the insight needed to make intelligent decisions when it comes to their marketing and targeting strategy.

The Common Mistake in Fitness Marketing

When reaching rural consumers, what every marketer wants to know is what type of media will deliver the most bang for the buck. With boutique studios, especially smaller ones, there is a bit of a perception that digital is the way to go – think Instagram, Facebook, email marketing, pay-per-click campaigns, online influencers… you get the picture. And since these are great for promoting fitness as a fashionable lifestyle, something very appealing to millennial audiences, it makes a lot of sense, at least on the surface, for marketing budgets to focus on digital. The common mistake is focusing so heavily on digital efforts, which do take a lot of effort, that other opportunities that may seem old-school are missed.

Direct Mail Delivers Customers

According to the 2017 DMA Annual Response Rate Report, direct mail response rates were 1175% higher than social media, 750% higher than paid search, and 750% higher than email. In fact, direct mail has seen an incredible increase in response rates over the last two years, improving by 43%[iv].

For those in the fitness industry, a data-driven holistic approach using both direct mail and digital media is likely the best way to achieve the highest response rates from your campaigns. We understand how to craft the right marking message for the rural consumer, and can help you pinpoint the people most likely to exercise at your gym or fitness boutique.

Want proof? Download the fitness success stories below for detailed direct mail campaign results.

Interested in learning more about how we can help you grow your business and increase return on your advertising spend? Fill out the form to get started today!


Sources: [i] IBISWorld, August 2017[ii] IBISWorld, August 2017[iii] Spring 2017 NHCS Adult Study 06-month[iv] 2017 DMA Response Rate Report

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