When it comes to fitness and wellness, we’re always looking for a chance to revamp our diet and exercise habits. What can we do to keep our workouts challenging and effective? How can we tweak our eating for better results? If you own a fitness studio or gym, you may be thinking about a refresh for your brand, too. You know it’s important but how do you determine when the time is right? And once you figure that out, how do actually do it?  

Before you think about a refresh, it’s important to understand the difference between that and a soup to nuts rebrand. Think of a refresh as a makeover—a revamp that changes up your look, feel and messaging with a fresh treatment and positioning. This may or may not impact the logo but it will likely impact colors, messaging, fonts or other visual consumer facing elements of your brand.

A rebrand is a much more involved process that could be as drastic as a name change, a change in mission or overall marketing strategy. Before you begin the process of a refresh, be strategic about exactly why you’re doing it and set manageable goals so you don’t get overwhelmed along the way. Where do you begin? Start by recognizing why you need a brand refresh in the first place.

Recognize the Signs You Need a Refresh

Has the number of studios in your space grown tremendously since you opened your doors? Are nearby studios offering similar types of workouts? Does it feel like there are too many of the same kinds of studio options nearby? “There are many catalysts for a rebrand, and they are the same for large corporations or small businesses,” says Shannon Riordan, co-founder of Global Brand Works, a boutique branding agency that works with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to personal trainers. For starters, “competition is nipping at your heels and you need to occupy another space in your customers’ minds in order to differentiate.”

When this becomes your reality, it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions. If the following scenarios apply to you, it’s time to take a hard look at your brand, says Rebecca Horan, a brand strategist at Rebecca Horan Consulting. First off, “your market is getting increasingly crowded and you find yourself competing on price – when that was never your intention,” says Horan, adding that if “you and or your employees are not able to quickly and clearly articulate why your brand is the choice for your ideal customer,” you need to take a hard look at a refresh.

A more obvious sign? Your market share or revenue is decreasing, adds Horan. This means your membership is likely dropping in an increasingly crowded landscape. Part of the reason may be because your style of fitness has “jumped the shark” or fallen out of popularity with the masses. When that happens, you know you need to readjust your brand so that it aligns with current trends in the fitness marketplace. “If you’re WestVille Jazzercise, you may realize that while you offer a perfect product that people who know you love, the impression the brand makes is one that is outdated,” says Riordan.

Remember that Authenticity, Differentiation and Relevance Matter

Once you’ve nailed down all the reasons why it’s time for a brand refresh, it’s time to start the process. If you’re tempted to modernize your logo and call it a day, you aren’t thinking about this as holistically as you should. A refresh is your chance to revisit your mission and story to make sure it’s still relevant for the clients you serve. “A successful rebrand must be three things: authentic, differentiating and relevant,” says Riordan. “To go about the process, you need to understand the competition (differentiate), understand what you really do offer (authentic), and understand what the marketplace out there wants (relevant).”

A successful rebrand must be three things: authentic, differentiating and relevant.

Next, you need to clearly identify your target audience, how they benefit from what you offer, what your brand promises and what your positioning looks like. Be sure to involve employees and instructors in this process because it’s crucial that the brand story is clear internally before it can be sold externally.  “Only if every employee knows and understands what the company’s brand stands for, will it truly and intrinsically come to life in the hearts and minds of your customers,” Riordan says.

Do a Competitive Analysis

Why is this so important? Because no brand is created in a vacuum. The goal of a competitive analysis is to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of competing studios so you can make smart decisions about how you uniquely market your studio.

“Understand your competitors, and what makes your business unique. Is there a way you can serve an unmet need in your market? Do you do things differently or better? Has the market changed since you opened your business?” asks Horan. “Determine a positioning that is clear and easy to comprehend – and make sure it’s something that people actually care about.”

Nail Down Your New Brand Narrative

Once you’ve worked out the elements of your tweaked positioning, it’s time to plan out how your studio will translate that refresh in the way it serves its clients. How will that come across to members? For starters, you should clearly communicate it in your messaging via signage, email, special offers, pricing, marketing and promotions. “You’ll want to make sure that your brand’s personality and voice are consistent across all touch-points,” says Horan. In other words, be clear about the changes and tweaks you’ve made and message them across all the ways you communicate with potential and current members.

“Finally, take a look at your logo and brand colors to ensure that they back up every aspect of your brand,” Horan says. “In some cases, you may only need a small adjustment or none at all.” Above all else, remember that a true refresh isn’t just about the visuals but about something far more substantive.

“Today a brand refresh includes a new approach to content marketing whereby the brand tells stories to its consumers,” says Robb Hecht, adjunct professor of marketing at Baruch College in New York City. “We call this a brand narrative. While it’s a narrative run by the brand; it’s a narrative very geared toward customers and stories that affect customers. Stories of adversity, stories of success, stories of hum drum day by day occurrences. The trick of course with this new style of modern day branding is to bring your customers (existing and targeted) close to you. Make them feel like they are a part of your brand story, that they are the hero.”

Once you have the narrative down, it’s time to get tactical with an updated editorial calendar that covers all of your content including email, social media, organic and paid search and any other promotional marketing. Adds Hecht: “In this way, your new logo, brand redesign and content will push into social platforms targeted to your audiences and build you a new voice and eventually if all goes smoothly, an increased and engaged customer base.”

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