Do Branding and Culture Go Hand in Hand?

What’s your favorite brand? The brand you couldn’t live without?

That’s one of the first questions Anytime Fitness asks during their new franchisee training, according to Mark Daly, the national media director for Anytime Fitness. Daly added that often, the answers are: Apple, Home Depot or Costco.

Daly said these trends lead to the idea that brand is what people think of in terms of utility. “I need this. I rely on this company. This brand helps me function,” he explained.

Daly gave examples of questions that may be asked by members to evaluate if your club’s brand is right for them: Is the gym open when I need it to be open? Does it have the programming I need? Is it a reliable gym? If I travel, will I find the same sort of services, programming and friendly staff at another Anytime Fitness gym?

Culture is a different animal when compared to branding. More emotion based, Daly explained culture focuses on knowing who your members are, what their needs, preferences and dreams are — and then helping them in their journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Anytime Fitness strives to create a family-like culture in its clubs, which works for them in a few ways. “We average around 850 members per club, and we coach our franchisees to teach their staff that they need to set a goal of knowing the names of every single member in their gym, along with something about their personal life,” said Daly.

To do so, they teach staff a mnemonic device: “FORD,” which stands for family, occupation, recreation and dreams. “We think that everyone on staff at the gym ought to know a little bit about the family life of each member, their occupation, what they do for fun and why they joined the gym,” said Daly.

You may be asking, “What is my club’s culture? Does my club even have a culture?”

Chez Misko, the COO of the Wisconsin Athletic Club (WAC), said that everyone has developed a culture — whether they’ve realized it or not.

“You’re either developing one by choice, or by the lack of deciding who [or what] you are,” said Misko. “It’s kind of like people — you don’t have to walk around with a personal mission statement on your chest, people kind of just know. And, I think that’s how businesses are too. More are paying attention to that, to make sure they’re being who they want to be. And their actions reflect that. The question is, is it the culture you want it to be?”

Misko looks at the meaning behind “branding” as the image you portray to others, who you say you are; while culture is who you really are, what you actually do. “I think people get confused — they think because they create a mission statement and put some core values on a wall, that that’s their culture,” he said. “But, while corporate culture is part philosophy, it’s mostly the actions — what can you hold yourself accountable for? As a business, you could have the best mission and core values, with a horrible corporate culture. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do that creates that culture.”

Chad Waetzig, the executive vice president of marketing and branding at Crunch, said to create a strong brand and culture, it’s critical for clubs to focus on the experience. “Anyone can open up a box with some weights in it — really strong brands create an experience that motivates people and helps them achieve their goals along with the success that they’re looking for, and that’s what separates the strong brands from the others.”

Take some time and evaluate your club’s brand and culture, to ensure members are getting the experience that you aim to give them. Make sure your mission statement and core values aren’t just words, but words that are implemented daily through your employees’ actions.

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