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Ed Bourelly is the Vice President of Marketing at Planet Fitness. Ed talks to us about the importance of “obsessing over the consumer experience” and how he and his team constantly work to cater to their members now, a year from now and beyond. Ed believes putting this consumer journey at the forefront will drive business because the biggest marketer out there is the consumer.

Tell us a bit about you, what you do and who you work with.

I’m Ed Bourelly with Planet Fitness and my job is really focused on the DMA-level market, down to the club-level marketing. Planet Fitness is a national brand with huge national campaigns but the majority of our market resources are focused on reaching consumers where our clubs are located.

I have a small team that consists of PR and Community Engagement down to the market level. I also have a team that’s working to ramp up our B2B marketing for companies who are starting to think more about fitness and wellness for their employees, which we see as a big opportunity for Planet Fitness.

What are the big projects you and your team have been focusing most on recently?

Like many industries, fitness saw a huge shift during the pandemic, especially in terms of how people viewed what it meant to be fit. The physical part of fitness has always been an integral part of its foundation, but now people are really starting to focus on how fitness can benefit their mental health too.

The last couple of years put a real spotlight on that shift in perception. People were sitting at home, for long periods of time and started to realize, “movement is medicine,” and getting out and exercising does so much more for you mentally than just sitting at home. Our national brand teams have been really focused on delivering the message.

We are also working to cater to our consumers because we see that gyms are retail spaces and our members have the same expectation for gyms that they would from any retail space, from personalization to customer service to having a seamless experience on the digital and physical side.

Customers have the same expectations from Planet Fitness that they would have from Nike or any other big brand retailer out there.

How are you putting the consumer at the “Center of your Marketing Universe?”

We are always “obsessed over the consumer.”

We are constantly thinking about who we’re talking to, how we’re reaching them, and making sure it’s the right message, at the right time and in the right place. For us, marketing isn’t just about obtaining people as Planet Fitness members but it’s about maintaining them in that membership.

Obtaining and maintaining, it’s the consumer’s journey, or for us it’s the member journey. Our work doesn’t stop when they become a member. There is a continuous engagement to keep them as members — and even after they leave. Former members are a big opportunity for us too. We have to continue to engage as marketers in every step of our consumer’s journey.

How has the marketing industry evolved during your career?

The way we use and approach marketing in many ways dates back to the 90s. It is about having a product or service and then putting it out there to as many consumers as possible as many times as possible. It is all about reach and frequency. And that hasn’t changed and probably never will. That reach and frequency is our constant.

But how people view marketing and brands, and how they interact with them, that has changed drastically. Consumers today are much savvier and they’re impacted by a lot more, which shapes the choices they make with their wallet.

Today consumers want to support brands that embrace their values and empathize with their experience. Consumers are looking to not just spend money with these brands but be advocates for them too, which means our biggest marketing tool becomes our members.

Another change we’ve seen is that people want to be continuously inspired by what they decide to embrace. So, we are always thinking about how we can keep people inspired. How do we keep people thinking about what they’re doing every day — and what they’re doing when they step into a Planet Fitness? Do they feel that they’re bettering themselves as a person? We are continuously thinking and evolving our marketing message to inspire. And I love that.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face?

The reach and the frequency, if your brand has the budget and you have a great agency partner, you can do that part all day. That’s the easy stuff. The hard stuff comes back to messaging, and it’s not just about delivering the right message to the right person in the right place, but it’s also about anticipating the future. Your strategy as marketers has to be more than what you’re doing right now to succeed, you have to focus on the future so you can stay at the forefront.

It’s easy to get caught up on delivering these immediate results as marketers, because we are judged by that on an ongoing basis, but what about the future? We have to stay on top of what we’re doing to really understand the future state of consumers and how marketing should evolve to meet those needs.

And then you have to always measure it, which comes down to accountability for marketers to drive business. For me, measuring is the hardest thing. I constantly get asked, “How did we know something worked?” or “Why did it not work?” and “How should we be measuring that?”

How do you tackle segmentation? Hyperlocal or broad?

You need to know your consumer segments and from there focus on the one that’s going to drive the most business now and also who will drive the most business in the future.

But you can’t focus on everyone.

Planet Fitness is all about inclusion and we think everyone should feel comfortable stepping into our gyms. And you know, in our minds, we’re thinking we should be able to talk to everyone and focus on everyone, but we just don’t have the resources to do that.

So, you have to focus on the segments that are going to drive your business the most now and also, focus and nurture the group that is going to be your future.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received and what is one piece of career advice you’d give?

The best advice I was ever given was to not chase the big jobs, the big titles or the big money, but chase what you love and the money and success will come.

And when it comes to failure, failure is OK. If you’re not failing, you’re not taking risks. You have to fail, while learning.

Like Michael Jordan said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

How do you unplug and reboot?

I’m a big old vinyl guy and love listening to records every night. I inherited this amazing record collection from my aunt who passed away. And every night, I listen to music and read and meditate and just take that time in my quiet place. That’s where I find inspiration, not just in what I did that day but also about the future.

Questions for all to consider:

  1. How does your team work to not only obtain but maintain customers?
  2. What challenges has your team faced in evolving with customer brand priorities?
  3. How do you measure your consumer segments and make decisions about which segments to prioritize?

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