8 Marketing Tips for Health & Fitness Brands in “New Year, New Me” Season

The New Year is PRIME season for fitness brands and professionals. StatisticBrain.com reported that over 21% of Americans resolved to get fit or become healthier in 2017, topping the list as the #1 most popular resolution of 2017. Some of the largest campaigns and marketing budgets for the health and wellness brands I have managed have been planned for the first Quarter, most specifically JANUARY when audiences are primed and open to spending more on what they perceive to be supportive of their resolutions. Healthy foods, athletic apparel, supplements, gym memberships and personal training sales see more conversions made from marketing efforts in the first quarter than consecutive quarters. 

However, marketing competition? Is fierce. Every brand is vying for the attention of “resolving” Americans and efforts are high from almost every brand in January. Here’s some things to keep in mind to help make your marketing most effective and set you up for a successful January and 2018.

1.     Understand what your competition is doing. This helps you both establish a competitive marketing strategy – as well as help you differentiate from your competition. If your competition is offering a flat % off that you can’t match, consider offering a lower percentage, but a free gift with purchase. Consider pre-made “packages” and volume discounts. If you are a fitness professional, understand that most other fitness professionals are also pushing online programs, they are also connecting one-on-one with potential clients via Instagram – what can you do to be different? (I’ll include more ideas on this below… keep reading!)

2.     Use the 80/20 rule for providing value vs. pushing a sale. Dive into some psychology for a minute (it’s my favorite part of marketing) and think about what consumers are really looking for in January – they believe that your products are key to helping them achieve their health and fitness goals in the New Year. Unless you are a farmer growing green vegetables, we know that most of the time, what we are selling will not be the reason a consumer achieves their goals (we’ll put healthy food in it’s own category here). It’s part of an entire eco-system and lifestyle. New Nikes will not be the reason someone reaches their health or fitness goal – but they could help provide better comfort to reduce excuses.  Certain supplements will not be the reason someone reaches their health or fitness goal – but I can personally attest that association between supplements and working out can help keep someone motivated, speed up results and help reduce excuses as well. Don’t try to hide the connection and path it may take a consumer to get from your product to their goal – be transparent and honest, and create a better educated consumer and a less “sneaky” brand. Think about how you would feel about a brand like Nike if their New Year’s campaign was less about pushing a sneaker sale as what you “absolutely need” to reach your resolution, and more about providing you with the comfort you need to stick to your lifestyle changes? Which is more powerful? What if you felt like Nike supported your journey - instead of wanting your money? 

Show what that ecosystem and lifestyle looks like. Show how sticking to a resolution is not about what you buy, but provide value and help to those who need it, prove your knowledge, gain the trust of the consumer and then hit them with the sale. If you don’t have additional value to offer besides your product in the New Year, you are missing a valuable opportunity to make a deeper connection with your consumers because…..

3.     It’s still a long-term game. I know a lot of brands who push short-term sales over the long-term game – but some of the more successful brands that I’ve worked with have understood that January is less about peaking sales and more about establishing momentum that will bring you into the remaining months of the year. Let’s say that 1 million Americans resolved to become healthier and fitter in 2018, making them a brand spanking new audience for your product. Let’s say you were (amazingly!) successful at converting 25% of them to make a purchase in January. That’s 250,000 purchases. Let’s say that come February, over 50% of Resolutioners give up on their resolutions. That’s 125,000 purchases that will not be repeated. Leaving you with 125,000 potential repeat purchases. At that point – how many of those fans have you retained? Will they be willing to pay full price for product once it’s not discounted? You, as a brand, actually have a stake in these consumers sticking to their resolutions - why not provide more tools for them to stay there? More useful and valuable content? Your product alone will not always buy a consumer's loyalty - your community will. This is the importance of adding value, of engaging your consumer and of adding value beyond pushing product. Pushing sales in January can help capture a large piece of those who will ultimately give up, but it’s those who won’t give up come January that will bring you momentum in the following months. When you are focused on brand growth and long-term sales potential you position your brand to grow from January, instead of creating peaks and valleys in your sales figures.

4.     Are you really competition? Team up. Some of the most successful New Year’s campaigns we’ve run for health and fitness brands have been from partnering with other healthy lifestyle brands at the start of the New Year. Co-sponsored giveaways can help gain exposure to new audiences and also help increase giveaway value to help increase engagement through channels like Facebook and Instagram. Co-sponsorships also help bring value to your audiences, as it’s likely consumers who are looking at healthier food may also be looking for athletic clothing, likewise those looking gym memberships may also be healthy food options. Find cross-over in the marketing efforts between your brand and similar brands and find ways to team up to further extend your marketing efforts – it exists!

Brand partnerships also create what’s called a “brand halo” effect by creating strong associations and familiarity – don’t be afraid to ride on the popularity of other brands as long as your values and audiences share the same lifestyle. For example, if you are a supplement brand that is a little more “premium” in image, price and vision and specifically catered to women – don’t be afraid of forging a partnership (through giveaways, ambassadors, influencers, or your own content styling) with brands like Lululemon that will help elevate that status of your own brand.

5.     Double down on what works for you. This is an easy tip! If you are trying to figure out what to do for an upcoming peak month like January? It’s likely you’ll find success doubling down on what’s already successful for you. If you are seeing high conversion, low costs for social media ads – double down on your budget. If you are seeing high conversion from DMing potential clients or customers – double down on the number of people you reach this month. What works all year long will work in January, but doubling down your efforts, just for one month, will help you reap the rewards of “resolution mindset”.

6.     Triple down on humanization. This is one of the biggest factors of online success that I have seen between brands who have a strong online brand presence, and those who have a weak online brand presence – how human is your brand? Do you show the faces of your consumer to help people relate or aspire? Do the people you use in your ad photos look approachable by someone who would be starting on a New Year’s Resolution? Are you taking advantage of live video, using ambassadors or influencers to bring a lifestyle and face to your brand? If you are a trainer or gym – do YOU look approachable or do you intimidate? People want to connect with humans. They want to visualize themselves in the same shoes as the people in your content – whether that is YOU, your brand representatives or even your consumers.

7.     Make sure your efforts are genuine and not robotic. It’s January 4. At least 3 new supplement brands and 15 online personal trainers have followed my personal Instagram page. I get it – my page is flooded with workout pics, gym pics and I’m an avid supporter of supplement brands. I’m ripe to sell personal training or workout packages and I’m ripe to consume or be interested in your supplements. But here’s the hard truth – if I ever DO choose a workout package or personal trainer, it will be with someone who I have established a long-term relationship with. It will be with someone like Janelle (https://www.instagram.com/jwhooty/) who, I’ve established a genuine connection with her life, her motivation, her lifestyle. When I choose supplements – I choose them in the same way. I’ve tried and sampled hundreds of supplements. They are all, at times, just as effective – but I often go with those who support the people I want to see succeed. I’ll go with a brand because it supports my closest friend, or I’ll go with a brand because I feel like I can connect to one of their ambassadors from a relationship I’ve established over months, not days. Follow people on Instagram or connect with people on Facebook – but engage them authentically and for more than just January. Don’t leave generic comments or emojis like “COOL, CHECK ME OUT, YOU’D LOVE MY PRODUCT” – take the time to read what they post. When I first started using RSP Nutrition supplements, I could see when the brand came to my page and liked some of my photos – ones that had nothing to do with nutrition. Same for the online trainers I’m likely to hire – they don’t solicit my business, they genuinely connect.

8.     Connect with new consumers differently than you would existing consumers – but don’t forget to cater to both.  Make sure you achieve balance between marketing to your “all the time” consumers and your “Resolutioners”. They are likely within different mindsets – especially true for gyms, trainers, supplement companies and those closer tied to fitness as opposed to overall health. Resolutioners are just getting started on healthier habits, on making it to the gym, of deciding if online training is necessary for them, of deciding whether or not they even to purchase a supplement. Your existing consumers are continuing, or “refreshing” for the new year, they are stocking up on their favorite supplements, they have likely already established healthier habits, but looking for ideas for new goals to set and ways to level up in the new year – the content in which they engage with and the opportunities they are offered should differ.

During previous campaigns with Crispy Green, we used resolution time to focus on easy swaps to help resolutioners “clean up” their diets and get more fruits and vegetables in. We then positioned Crispy Green as the “to-go” option when fruits or vegetables would spoil or weren’t easy to take in a grab and go situation. But – our long-term consumers didn’t necessarily engage with that message. For that set, we focused on more exclusive discounts, rewarding them for their loyalty and giving them the opportunity to stock up. We also focused on campaigns that helped existing consumers “share their love” with new consumers – from a brand engagement perspective, we were able to make new consumers feel welcome into the brand’s community and increased our ability to retain the “January” crowd and grow the brand in a long-term capacity.

What did you find to work for you in January?