You’ve probably heard this more than once while embarking on your journey as a small business owner, but it bears repeating: Your brand matters. Your brand has the potential to be the cornerstone of success for your business. On the other hand, your brand can also hurt your business in the competitive and monetized marketplace. In a thriving yet saturated landscape such as the fitness industry, where thousands of businesses are vying for the attention of potential customers, your brand needs to stand out and be a beacon amongst the crowd. We chatted with ClassPass Creative Director Rashi Birla to uncover how your brand can attract new users to your studio—and keep them coming back.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD BRAND?
A good brand is consistent, memorable and demonstrates authority in its industry. Studios and other fitness businesses are no exceptions here. With the fitness industry projected to continue to grow, establishing yourself as an industry leader in a crowded playing field is becoming increasingly important. Will people get a good workout when they visit your studio? Are they going to feel delight when walking into your space, talking to your front desk, or seeing a large mural on the wall of a clever quote? The best brands evoke an emotional reaction. Brands are now manifested in experiences. Every time someone walks into your studio, sees an Instagram post from an instructor, walks past someone on the street wearing your studio’s t-shirt, they are experiencing your brand. What is the intangible X factor about your studio that will get customers coming back? How are you going to emotionally hook them?
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS SMALL BUSINESSES SHOULD BE THINKING ABOUT THEIR BRAND?
Building a good brand for your business has many touch points: your logo, the quality of your classes, website, social media presence, instructors, facilities, your marketing efforts. Design is a huge factor in how your brand manifests itself to the world, and goes hand in hand with your brand strategy. Coming up with a strong and cohesive design aesthetic helps your brand come to life, and gets your brand ready to present itself to the world. Your brand utilizes design to manifest itself through your business’s logo, website, photography, studio interior and all marketing efforts.
HOW CAN STUDIO AND GYM OWNERS UTILIZE DESIGN AS PART OF THEIR BRANDING?
Design is extremely important for all businesses to invest in, but it’s understandably hard to dive into the world of design if your exposure and experience with it has been minimal. It’s a misnomer to assume design is too complicated, expensive or technical for a small business to leverage. To start, let’s lay out some of the key areas where you should be putting design and monetary resources towards to get maximum brand impact:
- Logo and color palette. The cornerstone of your brand is a good logo. If you have a strong, versatile logo, you can slap it on to any type of apparel or swag and your biggest fans will start wearing it. A good logo done right the first time will last you years and help you create a brand equity and recognition that can be hard to create without a memorable logo. Your logo should come hand in hand with a color palette that your other supporting brand elements should also use. The strongest brands use color in a way that gets consumers remembering the name of the brand synonymously. SoulCycle? You think yellow. Pure Barre? You think red. FlyWheel? Blue. Starting out, a color palette doesn’t need to consist of more than 1-2 colors.
- Website. It’s almost a guarantee, people will go to your website before coming to your class for the first time. Websites are the virtual front door to your business and give customers the closest idea of what they will experience when they come to your class. People make the cognitive connection of professional website = serious business = good workout. A good website doesn’t have to be complicated: an about section, photography, schedule and class descriptions, contact information and instructor information is a good starting point.
- Photography. Many user studies that we’ve conducted at ClassPass confirm the same thing time and time again: people like looking at a studio’s photography before they go to a class. They want to know what the studio looks like, see shots of a class in action and see what potential equipment they might use in the class. Photography is the best way for your studio to not only exude your brand’s personality, but make your classes look inviting and enticing. Check out our DIY Photography Guide for tips on getting great shots of your studio.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND INSPIRATION OR IDEAS FOR BRANDING AND DESIGN?
Before embarking on these endeavors, have a point of view on what type of brand you are trying to create. Do marketing research and see what your competitors are doing. See what colors, symbols and imagery resonates with you and your brand and what doesn’t. Figure out who your target audience is and look at other brands, in other industries that have targeted that same audience. Design is everywhere and everyone has a point of view on what they like even if they aren’t consciously aware of that point of view. A great tool to find brand and design inspiration is Pinterest. Pinterest has tons of photography, logos and imagery that can help you figure out what feels right for your brand. Create a board (or several!) for your brand and pin images that speak to you. It’s an interesting exercise to see what ends up resonating with you and what doesn’t.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR HOW STUDIOS OR GYMS CAN BRING THEIR BRAND VISION TO LIFE?
After you get more of a handle of your brand’s point of view, you are ready to get moving on a new logo, website and photography. How to start or the cost of it all doesn’t have to be anxiety inducing. If you have the resources, a design agency is a great route to take. While they can be pricey, you’ll get a team of people holistically working on all elements of your brand. Some agencies focus on brand identities, some are Interactive agencies, but there are also agencies that are a one stop shop for all your potential design needs.
There are also many tools that small businesses can and should leverage to build their design and brand efforts that are more cost effective. If you want to have a professional designer create your logo (and I highly recommend you do) a lot of independent or freelance designers who are starting out (and still plenty talented) won’t charge as much as a big agency. You may also be able to find a designer who is willing to trade their services for free classes at your studio. Same with photography—there are many independent photographers who you can hire to come to your studio for a few hours one afternoon and take hi-res photos of your classes and space. For website creation, Squarespace is an excellent source for people who want to make a beautiful, clean looking website—and no coding or design experience is necessary! Once you are off the ground and have more resources to put towards your business, start thinking physical space! Your identity and brand should extend to the physical space of your business—the studio design, front desk area, amenities and apparel.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
Building a good brand through design is a true investment, but will pay off in tenfold if you are able to build brand equity—something that cannot always be financially measured but can be invaluable. If potential consumers see a business putting themselves out into the world with their best foot forward, they will come to your studio knowing that you have put the same effort into hiring your instructors, building your classes and building a top notch experience for your customer.
Rashi Birla is the Creative Director at ClassPass. She’s been with ClassPass since it’s infancy and is in charge of the creative direction of the brand, marketing communication and digital experience. Prior to joining ClassPass, she’s designed for numerous large brands such as Google, Bare Essentials, Disney World, Sony, Dove and Unilever. She’s also helped numerous small creative businesses get their websites and branding off the ground.