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Planet Fitness, Are you Really a Different Gym?

Awaiting the left turn signal that leads into our neighborhood, one spied an eyesore of a building, a dilapidated, defunct check cashing operation. It was a sad first impression for the area and embarrassing for us when friends, family and clients would visit. We would wait at that turn signal and chant “Trader Joes…Trader Joes.” Wishing we could transform the building through positive thinking, we even contacted TJ trying to convince them that this was the perfect location.

Then we heard that Planet Fitness is going in there. Yeah! Yippie! But, wait…Planet Fitness? Who are they?

Well, it wasn’t Trader Joes, but anything would be an improvement. We didn’t know the company or the gym but since it was coming in, we started to pay attention.

As the building took shape we heard the radio campaigns. We loved them, they are very clever and they actually spoke to us. They made us want to join. Then the building went up. Huh? I’m confused…. that’s certainly not what I expected based on their ads and messaging.

Their current radio ad announces sequentially:

“If you drink Creatine from a gallon jug, this is not your gym.”
“If steroids is what you call breakfast, this is not your gym.”
“If you have a tattoo of a bicep, on your bicep, this is not your gym.”

And so on. This resonated because I’ve always hated the gym atmosphere. Their tagline and motto is:

“Judgement Free Zone®, which means members can relax, get in shape, and have fun without being subjected to the hard-core, look-at-me attitude that exists in too many gyms.”

Perfect, a gym for everyone. Nobody staring at you, no posing, no overmuscled freaks looking at themselves in the mirror. And best of all, no salespeople. Everyone remembers the used car salesman approach at these places, right?

So, hey, they get it! They are different. This is great! They know what people like me want in a gym.

Then the building was completed. Whoa! Hold on! Where’s my gym?!

The design, branding and overall look screams “hard-core, look-at-me” gym. The building is loud, featuring in-your-face colors and metal accents, things I associate with a typical gym.

Everything Planet Fitness is saying: who they are, their core values and messaging, are all great. But this image doesn’t connect at all. It says, “We’re saying something different, but we sure look the same.” This is a confused brand, a marketing disconnect. Every message, every impression should be in alignment with the values a company stands for. This obviously includes the outside of their building even though, inside, they might very well be different.

It’s certainly better than a run-down, defunct check cashing joint, but I’m just not convinced that Planet Fitness is the gym for a regular guy like me. And I wonder how many ‘regular people’ share this feeling.

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