Are Health Clubs & Fitness Brands Paying Attention To The Emerging Connected Consumer ?


The fitness, health club and "wellness" industries are all going through massive change as the result of 3 drivers: advancing technologies, changing consumers and globalism. I've been paying close attention to consumer trends as of late, in case you haven't noticed (see my content on millennials). A recent post by Brian Solis raised a number of startling facts about Generation "C" - The Connected Consumer that brought this issue to the forefront of my mind again. Health Clubs and fitness brands in general better take note. Here is an excerpt from Brian's post :

No longer can we blame it on the youth. We must blame, if anything, the disruption of technology. Nowadays, age ain’t nothing but a number. It is how people embrace technology, from social networks to smartphones to intelligent appliances, that contributes to the digital lifestyle that is now synonymous with Gen-C.

Solis bases much of his post on Neilsen's recent report "Introducting Generation C: Americans 18-34 are the most connected". But as Solis and the Neilsen report show, the rise of the new connectedness is not exclusive to this age group, its impacting every generation and as a result every industry (like health clubs).

IBM's Report, The Connected Consumer Challenge, also speaks to these massive consumer shifts. As the introduction states, "Today’s electronics consumers expect much more than quality devices – they demand a quality experience. Their interest has shifted from the device itself to what they can do with the device." You can get the white paper here . Yet despite all of these reports I do not think a significant number of fitness facility or fitness brand players in general get it. Based on my first hand experience, many brands are still marketing like its 1990 or earlier. By the way its 2012....

Why ? I think a combination of factors answer this question. Owners and managers whose experiences are based on old modalities like membership sales being THE emphasis is one. Sorry, its a word of mouth world and if your fitness brand or club isn't delivering outstanding over the top experiences or worse bad experiences you are going to SUFFER. You can't sell your way out of bad programming or poor service. Another reason I think health clubs are failing to excel in this arena is the lack of cross polination from other industries who have done a better job adapting to this new paradigm. Regardless I have a message for leaders of health clubs and fitness brands in general. Here is the bottom line (consistent with my recent quotes on twitter from @Garyvee about business and advertising in general) :

"If you do not care about your end user immensely, especially in the next few years, your brand will die." (BTW these consumers are increasingly connected consumers)

"I'm very passionate about traditional media. I don't think it's dead. I just think it's overpriced." (Perhaps you should stop doing so much direct mail and try something different)

And for those of you who don't believe the Connected Consumer should be a major part of your business thinking I have this last quote just for you from @Garyvee:

"There were people walking around saying the internet was a fad, and weren't joking. They won't admit it now."  (Don't be one of those people who did not see it coming).

So tell me, Bryan O'Rourke, what do you about Generation "C", the "Connecter Consumer" ? Am I wrong ? Do you think Health Clubs and fitness brands have changed there marketing in response to this expanding consumer group ? I don't think that's happened enough and it worries me. What do you think ?

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He consults with global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee, is President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and a partner in Fitmarc, Integerus, Fitsomo and the Flywheel Group. To learn more contact Bryan here today .