In the era of Instagram fame and Twitter news references, the term “branding” has never been more important or more confusing. I mean, just this week the “Blurred Lines” video girl declared to the New York Times that she wants to be a “brand.” Raise your hand if that sentence is slightly perplexing to you. Well, luckily for us, Philadelphia’s own fitness entrepreneur, Lauren Boggi, is here to give us a short lesson on what exactly branding is and why it’s so freakin’ important.
Boggi has grown her own fitness lifestyle brand, Lithe Method, based on a unique form of exercise called Cardio-Cheer-Sculpting. With a cult-like following at her three Philadelphia area locations, along with sibling ventures like Lithe Foods and Lithe Wear, it is clear that this former USC cheerleader knows the secret to branding success.
How exactly would you explain the term "branding," and why is it so important?
To us, branding means the overall impression that our customer gets through interacting with the total experience of our company. From identity to studio, from advertising to workout, from food to blog and everything in between: It's the completeness of everything we build.
Why is it important? First, our brand represents our soul as a company. We take great care in managing it, and feel great pride when customers appreciate us as a brand, as opposed to just a workout. It means they are feeling our vision and mission rather than just our products. Secondly, a brand is a guarantee. It promises that everything we do will be "Lithe" and they can trust us. Having a strong brand that people can trust allows us some great business benefits, too: It gives us greater price elasticity, it allows us to try new things and expand our offering in a way that's more credible, and it allows us to make mistakes and still have the support of our community.
How would your describe your brand, Lithe Method?
Our brand is built on our vision of inspiring people to be fit, hip and healthy. Based on our cheerleading roots, it's not surprising that our positioning is about pushing people to be their best. It's about balancing hard work and addictive fun. Everything we do is about community, and at every step we really try to see the world through our customers' eyes: We know they are smart, and we really listen to them. The workout is powerful and it produces results, just like we inspire our clients to do in their own lives.
You've managed to create a totally unique and approachable brand, straying away from the aggressive and macho fitness culture exemplified in brands like CrossFit. What do you think has been the most effective branding strategy when it comes to Lithe?
Listening to my customers. Many fitness brands are based on pulling people (i.e., be stronger, be thinner!). We push people to be their best. Everyone and everything is approachable at Lithe, instructors are relatable and our workouts are tailored to people's needs.
Working out is supposed to be fun. Lithe is based on cheerleading, and you know, everyone needs a cheerleader. We're our clients cheerleaders and they end up cheering together, for each other and for themselves. There's that camaraderie, community and spirit at Lithe. Sure, there's competition between Lithers, but it's not a truly competitive environment. It's much more of a team environment. You can feel it. That's part of my strategy. I need to feel that passion coming out of every pore of the business.
The fitness world is very competitive, both in practice and in business. What would you say is the most challenging branding obstacle you've come across?
Communicating what the workout actually IS is my biggest challenge. Cardio-Cheer-Sculpting is a very solid, well-rounded workout but it is very difficult for people to understand. We have had to dumb it down by saying that it's cheerleading. Our competition is so simple: ride a bike, do a barre class, practice yoga. It's hard to differentiate why Lithe is better. That has and always will be our biggest challenge. We're getting there.
In the age of digital-everything, do you think that it has become easier or more difficult to maintain the image of your brand?
It has become easier because I can really extend the brand communication to many other people. It's not so restricted to the studio. I can use my blog, fithiphealthy, to expand the fitness to the lifestyle. Through Instagram, I enable my customers to become authors of the brand. Facebook allows us to infuse the brand in a personal way a couple times a day onto people's phones. The app and the online scheduling system allow people to book classes and review the breadth of our offering at their convenience.
Lastly, what would be your number one piece of advice to a newbie looking to create their own fitness brand?
Don't do it! No, just kidding. Be passionate about what you're doing, rather than trying to create a brand—you have to earn being a brand. Make sure that you surround yourself with kind, hard-working people that you can trust because your team is everything.
>> Love what Lauren has to say? Get more of her insider tips at ThinkFest on November 9th. Get tickets here.