G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Luke O’Neil wrote a piece at Slate the other day discussing the marketing strategy of Planet Fitness. O’Neil described the gym as a Curves that allows men which, of course, put Amanda Marcotte’s granny panties in a bunch (more on that tommorrow). The gym’s business model involves disencouraging “lunkheads” from acting like lunkheads through various shaming techniques – setting off a “lunk alarm” when people drop heavy weights on the ground, chastising people for grunting, and, if O’Neil’s experience is indicative of the strategy, chiding people for sweating too much. This is an example of Planet Fitness’ marketing ploy:
I thought this was interesting because a.) I can see it working as a business plan and b.) it reminded me of a strategy that Guinness is employing in its beer selling efforts. Guinness marketing director Randy DeLeon had this to say about the company’s strategy:
It was scary. I was at a small back alley pub. The kind where you don’t get a big crowd and can just sit and be. I was enjoying a pint of Guinness at room temperature as it should be, when all of a sudden, these popped collar, American frat boys come wandering in. I thought they were simply lost trying to find the local rave where they could slip roofies to sorority chicks. But they came and sat two stools down from me. And you know what they said? ‘Four Guinness’ please.’ I spit my Guinness all over the bar. When did douchey frat boys start drinking Guinness?
DeLeon saw that fickle frat boys were latching on to Guinness which would then turn off their core customer – the contrarian Middle Life male whose only purpose in life is to complain when Guinness isn’t poured “like its s’posed to be” – which involves the beer being pouring in a multistage process and allowed to age on the bar mat for about 15 minutes before final consumption. Basically, Guinness wants to cater to its core snob customer base and doesn’t want its brand to be roofied and raped by douchey frat boys. Their strategy, like Planet Fitness’, is a negative one in the sense that they build up their brand by telling us what they are not rather than through the traditional method of telling us what they are.
To do this, Guinness even developed a strategy of having the awkward, goofy, beanpoled, redheaded, unhip, uncool former NBA player Bill Walton as their spokeman.
So what we have here is a strategy to marginal “lunkheads” and “douchey frat boys” – basically the core constituency of the dude set. While I can’t say that I’m a dude in these ways or that dudes of this nature don’t sometimes annoy me, but its curious to me that instead of just saying “bye” to their particular customer base, places like Planet Fitness – and Guinness to a lesser degree – have to make a statement of differentiation as they walk out the door. It’s not “I think I should go in a different direction, bye”, it’s “You’re a fucking small-dick piece of shit loser that I’m going to publicly ridicule in order to make money off your back…Peace.” One strategy is more hostile than the other.