Ask an Expert: Tom Wingert on New Year Marketing

Tom Wingert

You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Tom Wingert, vice president of marketing at City Fitness, about New Year marketing.

What is City Fitness’ New Year marketing strategy?

TW: Our general marketing strategy is predicated on the assumption that the people who join a gym were likely going to make that decision at that time anyway, and the gym they choose to join is the one closest to where they live — or, less often, to where they work.

Knowing one of the phenomena in American society is that the New Year is associated with starting a new fitness plan, more people join the gyms closest to their homes in January. As a result, an aggressive pricing strategy or “New Year, New You” message doesn’t have much effect on sociologically established behavior.

Instead, for years we’ve focused our efforts on a Q4 price promotion, taking potential customers off the market before January hits, while running a powerful brand awareness campaign in the following January.

From an operations perspective, how does your marketing team prepare for the New Year rush?

TW: The same way we prepare for any month — campaigns require months of careful planning, production, coordination with the rest of the company and execution. In that way there’s nothing special about January from an operation’s perspective — our sales teams just have to work a bit less than they would otherwise because people are flocking to the gym of their own right more than they would be normally.

What time of year do you typically start marketing for the New Year?

TW: It all depends on the campaign. I think about marketing on a continuum — oftentimes, my team does work that won’t have its full impact until months or years later. Like I mentioned before, we take an awareness approach to January, which means we’re still doing photography, design, copywriting and everything else that goes into producing ads, but January is just another month that’s a part of an entire calendar year. We start working on any campaign with as much lead time as that specific campaign calls for.

What role does social media play during this period — is it an important marketing tool?

TW: Any advertiser doubting the value of social media within a marketing plan at any point, especially living in a metropolitan area, should find a new job. Regardless of how strong your brand is and how powerful your message is, social media is a fundamental reality in how people consume information and your brand needs to be involved in that one way or another at all times. The ways in which people consume information are changing constantly — two years ago, influencer marketing was a powerful tool. Now, people roll their eyes at sponsored posts — but there are always ways for your brand to use social media platforms to effectively communicate the campaign message.

All that being said, social media is just part of a broader marketing plan. For any given campaign, I am using some combination of social media, out-of-home — which includes direct mail, television, in-club signage, earned media/PR, activations and guerilla tactics. There is no silver bullet.

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