Yesterday was New Years’ Eve, and wherever you were around the U.S. or the world, you likely saw those giant purple-and-yellow Planet Fitness hats dotted all around New York’s Times Square.
It’s one of the oldest cliches in the book — New Year, New Me ... time to sign up for a gym. And every year, Planet Fitness embraces this opportunity like no other, partnering with ABC to plaster its brand all around the festivities, and all over the Rockin’ Eve show.
This year, the holiday even fell on a Sunday, meaning at the company’s 1,400+ clubs, New Years’ Day is 2018’s first ‘Pizza Monday.’
That’s right — Pizza Monday, at a gym. The internet tells me this tradition started in New Hampshire back in 1998, when staff ordered pizza for members when the club’s hot water heaters broke. Shape.com reports that each club serves about 5,500 slices of pizza per year.
If you miss Pizza Monday today, don’t worry; PF’s New-Year deal runs through Jan. 10, which covers next week’s Bagel Tuesday — yes, free bagels (and usually spread), the second Tuesday of each month.
And of course, the bucket of Tootsie Rolls on the front desk is full 365 days a year.
As a Planet Fitness member, these #treatyoself traditions can be a bit confounding; but as a marketer, they’re absolutely brilliant.
I get the idea of seasonal marketing; having just wrapped up the #FightForGoodTour, a 38-day, 25-state road trip with The Salvation Army that raised over $6,100 for their Red Kettle Campaign, of course it makes sense for PF to capitalize on the world’s good-faith resolutions this week.
But with our increased interconnectivity through social media, Pizza Monday, Bagel Tuesday and daily tootsie rolls become more than just cheat days.
Planet Fitness, as they should, encourages participation in a PF Members Facebook group. At some clubs around the country, large digital screens display examples of people’s success stories, shared to the group.
This week, the group has been ablaze with scores of encouraging photos from gyms around the nation. But throughout the rest of the year, the group discussion often centers on light-hearted memes that lampoon healthy habits.
In the clubs, Planet Fitness takes great pride in being a “Judgement Free Zone,” yet the comments on these images is — as you might expect — often an intersection of diametrically opposing opinions.
The big screens at certain clubs around the country do a great job of reinforcing positivity and resilience of the group’s contributors, and are a great example of one positive change the company could make in 2018 — standardizing these digital visuals at every club.
Without having ever worked at a Planet Fitness, I can tell that standardization is an enormous focus from a corporate perspective. I was shocked to find a couple of clubs that don’t have a city name in bold-faced lettering, glued to the wall; it’s one signature mark of (almost) every location in America. While most people go to just their home clubs, the uniformity from city to city, state to state and even region to region is impressive. And germophobes, rest easy: it’s clear that cleanliness is probably a Page-1 training priority.
Planet Fitness could also benefit from better highlighting positivity through its social media channels. The brand built a fun, simple Instagram Story last night from Times Square — one of just a few stories they created in all of 2017. The biggest strength that Planet Fitness has is its hundreds of thousands of individual success stories, the vast majority of which go untold on their channels. It would be endlessly inspiring, and surely beneficial to the business, to see Planet Fitness commit to identifying and sharing the stories of its people through social video.
On Twitter, @PlanetFitness hasn’t posted a non-reply Tweet since Halloween, not even a single pinned message to wish members a Happy New Year, and/or advertise the ongoing membership deal. I guess this could’ve been related to the price increase for a Black Card Membership — $19.99/month to $21.99/month?
But for me, that $20/month (existing members are Grandfathered in) is well worth it, even without the complementary carbs.
By my count, I visited Planet Fitness more than 200 times in 2017, including 110+ at my home club in Melville, NY, and 24 times to the brand new club on Motor Parkway in Smithtown, NY.
But the most exciting part of my Planet Fitness journey in 2017 was the roadtripping. In January, and into early February, I traveled solo from Louisville, KY (my home club was the 2nd Street location near U of L), to Portland, Ore., and then back to Long Island. It was fascinating to find clubs in Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Reno and more.
I journeyed south from Long Island to Atlanta for a social media conference in May, making good use of my Black Card along I-85.
In March, I thought it’d be fun to create a Planet Fitness Challenge — that is, to run a mile at each of 13 clubs around Long Island, starting in Riverhead, NY. I Snapchatted the experience with my Spectacles, and PF thanked me with a cool gift box that included a couple shirts and a hat.
And finally, the 25-state #FightForGoodTour, which brought me from Houston to New York City, and would not have been possible without the luxury of working out in Wilmington, DE; Minneapolis; Jackson, MS; Jackson, MI (best club WiFi ever, FWIW); and — of course — Jacksonville, to name just a few.
Through the course of all those experiences, I learned a lot about Planet Fitness, and it had nothing to do with Tootsie Rolls.
Mostly, I gathered that any day with a workout was better than one without. Sleeping better, feeling better and looking better all rang true, and I can’t remember a single experience where I felt uncomfortable at a gym, from Oregon to Florida, from Arizona to Pennsylvania. Nor did I ever see anyone be bullied, teased, laughed at; when they say the Judgement Free Zone, they mean it.
And even without pizza on the counters, if you’re looking for that bit of comfort before you leave, the Massage Chairs and Hydromassage Beds — which are always free for Black Card members — have been truly transformational.
But I want to emphasize, again, that this wasn’t just a first-week-of-January thing. Planet Fitness appears to focus almost 100% of its annual media buys in this two-week period, but all of its clubs are open, what, 360+ days a year — including all 12 Pizza Monday’s, and all 12 Bagel Tuesday’s.
With a renewed focus on highlighting its success stories through Instagram Stories and/or Snapchat, and a commitment to invest in increased visual emphasis on those stories in all its clubs around the nation, here’s hoping that Planet Fitness will shift its approach and actively encourage all its paying members to stick around throughout the year — and not just this week.
Chris Strub is a digital storyteller, proud Planet Fitness Black Card Member and author of ‘50 States, 100 Days: The Book.’ Learn more about Chris at www.teamstrub.com.