Total Body Fitness and Experiential Brand Strategy

We recently interviewed Bill Driskill, CEO and Co-Founder of Total Body Fitness, on The Active Lifestyle Marketer and today we wanted to follow up on that conversation and expand on some of the things we discussed in episode 12. Before we get started though, for those that didn’t listen to the episode, I want to share what Total Body Fitness is and a little history behind this active lifestyle brand.

Total Body Fitness – A Brief History

Total Body Fitness was started in the 90’s after Bill found a passion for triathlon training, racing, and ultimately living the active triathlon lifestyle. He wanted to figure out a way to merge his passion’s with his career. Total Body Fitness was founded as a personal training company. They evolved into training marathon runners, and soon after that progressed into the triathlon training space. Bill said that he was living his dream, “racing and training in triathlon full time, even though I wasn’t a professional triathlete.” Before they knew it Total Body Fitness was hosting triathlon events, purchasing pre-existing triathlon events around the Sacramento region, and training triathletes in the same region. They had created an experiential brand strategy without really knowing what they had done. When I asked Bill if they had done this purposefully he said, “it started as a service to our training clients, but about 2 years later we realized the marketing potential behind this strategy.” So what can we, and other active lifestyle brands learn from this strategy?

Experiential Brand Strategy

Total Body Fitness stumbled on a way for their customers to experience and interact with their brand in a physical  and tangible way. What came out of this desire to serve their customer was a symbiotic strategy where their training clients can interact with Total Body Fitness at events and physically see the progress they are making by training with Total Body Fitness, and on the flip side their event customers and participants can interact with their training programs to improve their event results. It doesn’t matter what side you come into contact with first, there is always another side of the company to interact with and experience, both of which serve the other beautifully. Total Body Fitness has created an effective experiential brand strategy.

There are two other companies in the active lifestyle industry doing this really well. The first example is Red Bull. Red Bull has created an opportunity to interact and experience their brand through their media content created by Red Bull Media House. The content produced by Red Bull Media House serves to connect their audience with their brand. They’re not just creating advertising content, they’re creating entertaining content their audience wants to consume. It serves to connect their consumer with their brand without any financial request. It’s free and entertaining content and their audience desires and longs to consume that content.

Another example is one of the fastest growing brands in the active lifestyle industry, Yeti Coolers. Yeti, in the past few years, has been creating short stories shared on old and new media. These short stories under the title, “Yeti Presents,” give their audience an opportunity to connect with the brand at an emotional level as well. The content isn’t overly branded, in fact it’s difficult to find the brand placement in many of the videos, but the stories are emotionally engaging and powerful. It’s important to note that both Yeti and Red Bull are telling stories that are specifically tailored to their customer persona’s.

This experiential brand strategy is an incredibly powerful tool for connecting an audience to a brand. It must be rooted in a desire to serve and driven by your purpose as a brand. Total Body Fitness understands their purpose and they are providing an experience that supports that purpose. They desire to see people outside, active, and healthy and both their race events and their training programs are supported by their purpose as an organization. Total Body Fitness has a great approach and strategy, but we see an area where they could take their experiential brand strategy to the next level.

Total Body Fitness – Missed Opportunity

Total Body Fitness is doing a lot of things really well as a brand. As we’ve discussed already, they’ve created an opportunity to experience and interact with their brand, but there is always room to grow for any brand and we want to share what Total Body Fitness could do to take their experience to the next level. In the interview, Bill and I discussed the Total Body Fitness approach to new media, specifically social media. He shared that social media is a big focus for their brand and a powerful way to communicate with their audience. Listen to the episode to hear exactly how they are using social media, in this article we want to focus on what could be done to take their engagement in new media to the next level.

Total Body Fitness – “The Media Company”

There are two areas where Total Body Fitness can make adjustments, but there is one overarching alteration that we believe would result in huge growth. The big opportunity is in a change of mindset. If Total Body Fitness can start thinking of itself as a media company that just so happens to host events and provide multi-sport training, the possibilities for engagement and brand loyalty are huge. Under that overarching alteration to mindset around media, there are two specific areas we think Total Body Fitness can focus, storytelling media content and online training media content. Let’s start with storytelling.

The First Opportunity – Real Stories

Total Body Fitness has a pretty large audience. They put on 70 events per year with hundreds of participants at each event. That doesn’t take into account the number of training customers they work with per year. This many customers and participants means that there are numerous stories to be told of how their training, events, and specifically living an active lifestyle has impacted their customers positively. Total Body Fitness has the same opportunity to tell emotionally engaging stories that brands like Red Bull and Yeti have taken advantage of to great success. If Total Body Fitness can find and tell these stories of lifestyle change, stories of accomplishment, stories of overcoming overwhelming odds, and stories of redemption in an emotionally engaging way they can further connect their audience to their brand. If these stories were told well, with no other motivation than to share a great story, they would connect, motivate, and ultimately build brand loyalty with their audience.

The Second Opportunity – Free Educational Fitness Content

The second opportunity we see in regards to media is adding online education training content. The fitness training industry has been dramatically disrupted by fitness brands that have moved their business model all online. Total Body Fitness is in a unique position because a large portion of their business is driven by the events they host throughout Northern California. There will always be a place for these live events because the online fitness market can’t compete in the live space, and Total Body Fitness should continue putting their focus on these events. Where we see opportunity is in offering free fitness educational content distributed via new media. We believe this would help bolster online engagement and ultimately build brand recognition and loyalty. Now, it would be wise to build out a content strategy first, one that Total Body Fitness implements for a 12-18 month period to test results with the goal of supplementing their current “in-person” training with the online media. There is a strong community element in the multi-sport industry and in-person training can be a powerful tool. In-person training is already a big part of the Total Body Fitness experience, and there’s no reason to fix something that’s not broken. We think the key word is “supplementing.”

Conclusion

Total Body Fitness is competing with some of the largest brands in the multi-sport industry in California. When you’re competing against brands like Ironman and Tri-California there must always be innovation. Total Body Fitness is doing a lot of things to set themselves apart and they’re having huge success in the Northern California regions. We specifically love how they are helping break the barriers to entry into triathlon. We believe Total Body Fitness is doing more to make access to this sport easy than any other brand in the industry, and that’s a barrier that must be broken if we want to see multi-sport grow. In order to take their brand to the next level, we believe a slight change in mindset would go a long way in building their brand recognition and loyalty. We didn’t get into it in this episode, but there’s a lot of opportunity for brand ambassadors as well. We hope to see this company around for decades to come, they’re truly a purpose-driven brand and their desire to get people outside and active is real.

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