We rarely open a new CMO Outlook discussion with statistics but the Orangetheory® Fitness numbers are undeniable.
As the #7 most searched term in the world for 2015 in the Workouts and Exercises category, this is just the start of their impressive results. With 383 locations currently open and 700 by the end of 2016, Orangetheory Fitness is already a global franchise, ranked #415 on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest growing privately held U.S. companies, #255 on Entrepreneurs Franchise 500 and touted by Men’s Journal as one of the best workouts in America.
As Head of Marketing for Orangetheory Fitness, Scott Breault (pronounced “broh”) is on track to meet the ambitious goal of opening 1,000 locations by the end of 2017. How does a South Florida brand with a unique name and an even more unique science-based workout muscle its way into a crowded, competitive industry, get on the expressway to success, find time to innovate and keep growing sustainably?
This is where our conversation starts.
CMOO: It’s no secret that fitness is a highly competitive space, what exactly is the Orangetheory Fitness workout?
SB: “The simple answer is that Orangetheory Fitness is a workout based on physiology which is the science of how living things function. It’s a five-zone, heart rate-based, interval training concept and a form of high-intensity interval training, which I believe we’ve made exceptionally popular with the rapid expansion of the brand. Ours is the first workout concept that incorporates all of the elements of strength, endurance, and power training, along with cardiovascular training, using heart rate monitoring to ensure peak performance in every individual.”
CMOO: How did Orangetheory Fitness get its start?
SB: “I love telling this story. Our founder, Ellen Latham was a popular trainer in the 80s almost a local celebrity known for her infectious personality and unique, motivating workouts that worked. As a single mother she conducted her workout classes out of her home. Many of her clients urged her to open her own studio, so she took a loan and did just that. One of her loyal clients made some introductions to people that wanted to invest and help her franchise the concept and Orangetheory Fitness was born. But the true soul of Orangetheory Fitness, the science-based workouts, and the ultimate success is all from Ellen.”
CMOO: What made her workouts so effective?
SB: “Ellen is an exercise physiologist, so the structure of every workout is based on science. We’re not guessing about what works. One drawback of big box gyms is that most people don’t know what the best workout is for their goals. And even professional trainers may have a general plan, which is not necessarily based on science or based on that person’s unique goals or needs. Very rarely do people work out at regular gyms and get the kind of results they get at Orangetheory Fitness. It’s because our workouts take into account physiological factors that others simply do not.”
CMOO: So what are your keys to your success to ensure the brand continues its staggering growth?
SB: “When I got here the brand was already doing very well and that’s because the workout works for our clients. When you offer a service that works, you’re going to be successful especially in an industry where the “over-promise and under deliver” is the norm. Everyone has a “gym” or “trying to get fit” story and they often don’t end well. People are satisfied with the results they’re getting at Orangetheory Fitness, so they come back, month after month and year after year, to maintain those results. Naturally, they share their excitement with all of their friends. In fact, in our first few years we grew entirely by word of mouth.”
CMOO: Tell us about your journey with the company?
SB: “I came on board right before the big growth spurt that began at the start of 2015. It’s been an amazingly fun ride. A little like being strapped to a rocket ship, but so exciting. We feel like we’ve made significant strides in elevating the brand and taking it places that it’s never been before. Prior to my arrival, referrals were the number one lead source for new memberships. Now, people are beginning to find us through our marketing efforts. It’s been the nitro-boost needed to accelerate the growth of this company.”
CMOO: What kind of franchising experience did you bring to the job?
SB: “Right after college, one of my first jobs was Marketing and PR Director with Lady of America and I most recently served as VP of Marketing and Branding for The Learning Experience, helping to double the number of units and revenue. I wanted to do the same for Orangetheory Fitness. More important than franchising experience, I feel my greatest asset is building and leading an “A” list team. We have A-level players in my department, top to bottom. My marketing manager is my second in command and I could not do this job effectively without key people like her and my agency partners. So I need to have that 10,000 foot strategic view to steer the company in the direction that it needs to go, while still having trust in my team that the equally important day to day tasks are being executed flawlessly. Having powerful project management software is key to managing all those moving parts.”
CMOO: What’s your philosophy for succeeding in marketing?
SB: “I don’t know that I would call it a philosophy but I do study the psychology of human behaviors. Why do people do they things they do and how can we be a part of that decision making process? Based on this understanding, I feel there are two essential pieces to successful marketing. First, we focus on the “why.” Why do you want to get healthy? Is it for you, your family, your spouse? People make changes for THEIR reasons, not OURS. Second, it’s essential to open a two-way conversation with our audience, and work every day to keep that conversation going. People pay attention to our social media pages, email blasts, collateral materials, and in-store messaging when they’re fully engaged in the conversation and not being “talked at.” Our latest campaign, which is highly interactive, has been very successful.”
CMOO: Why do you think it’s been so successful?
SB: “The campaign we created is called ‘Keep Burning’ which focuses on asking our audience one simple question; what do you burn for? By focusing on the why, we’ve started a conversation with our audience and they’ve been speaking back and giving us the answers that we need to continue to develop and grow this brand. We created whatdoyouburnfor.com, which is a branded meme generator encouraging members to think about why they get up at 4:30am to make a 5am class, and continue striving to overcome the next plateau. What they burn for, is the reasons why they are coming to Orangetheory Fitness. In most cases, they’ve never really thought about it until we’ve prompted them to dig deep and figure out what is inspiring them to become the better, healthier version of themselves.
It really resonates because it gets people thinking of the deeper reasons for their commitment. It also evokes a sense of pride and accomplishment. Members upload their photos and share across social media. Our responsibility is to build the brand and to flood the sales funnel with as many leads as possible. We’ve been doing that, but our success as a company is a total team effort. Our entire corporate team, our partners, our franchisees, our trainers and our studio staff is what truly allows us to keep burning down the road of success.”
CMOO: How do the franchisees fit into that model?
SB: “They are the in-store conduits for our engagement model on the ground floor. We’ve coached and trained our entire staff on the “Keep Burning” campaign that inspired the meme project. They all wear t-shirts that say “KEEP BURNING” on the front and “WHAT DO YOU BURN FOR?” on the back. This helps integrate the message into everything they do on a daily basis. Franchisees are also participating in social media, they utilize in-studio signage to the fullest, all locations utilize a glass wall that has a ‘I Burn For…” decal on the top and members are encouraged to write what they burn for on the glass. This really brings our Keep Burning campaign full circle from the home to their mobile devices, online, and social media, and then back into our studios. Everywhere they look, they’re reminded of what they burn for and why they’re a member of Orangetheory Fitness.
CMOO: Do you have a franchise advisory council?
SB: “We do. Everything that we do, such as our new branding campaign, is shared with the council and we received unanimous support, which is amazing and rare. Feedback on the studio level is great as well. I think more importantly everyone of our stakeholders buys into the Orangetheory Fitness vision and want to be a part of driving the brand forward. Successful models breed successful outcomes.”
CMOO: How do you grow as a marketing leader to drive the brand forward?
SB: “That’s one of the big challenges…not getting bogged down in the day-to-day. You really have to set time aside to forecast, take continuing education courses, read the trades, see what competitors are doing, and plan ahead. Everyday is a new opportunity to learn things. What is it that motivates someone to purchase a membership – we use consumer insights, granular knowledge, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups. It’s really easy to get bogged down, but you have to set aside time for self improvement, be sure you’re staying ahead and incorporating what you learn into what you do. I personally am very focused on being a good leader, on motivating my team members, I’ve had a very good track record for employee retention and loyalty. Thank your team members, make sure they feel appreciated, to keep performance high, let everyone move full speed ahead without micromanaging them. They all have my cell phone and I’m available for whatever they need 24/7. When things go well, the team gets the credit, on the rare occasion when things go wrong I fall on the sword. Sometimes I see the whole team here after 6 on a Friday…because they care. No matter what industry it is, successful marketing is about sitting down and figuring out what makes your audience tick. Put yourself in their position. Develop that bond and that trust.”
CMOO: What do our readers need to know about you as a leader?
SB: “Don’t get bogged down in industry jargon, technical terms, or marketing speak. I try to make everything as simple as possible. Successful marketing can be done without acronyms. This creates a level playing field and better synergy and better results. Simply figure out who really needs your product or service, then connect those people to the product. My team operates under this philosophy, which makes cross-functional teamwork stronger. I want to make sure everyone in the company can communicate and contribute. The more we can engage people in what we’re doing, the stronger our cross-functional teamwork becomes.”
CMOO: What does the future look like?
SB: “The future is a very bright orange! It’s just amazing as we grow and our brand gets out there, people proactively reach out to us, wanting to be a part of our brand, from celebrities to tv shows, fitness pros, but it all started with Ellen’s vision and her passion for delivering proven fitness results for a healthier world. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that future?”