Bulk­ing up

New Zealand Marketing - - TVNZ NZ Marketing Awards -

Les Mills is one of the coun­try’s most suc­cess­ful weight­less ex­porters. Now it’s also a suc­cess­ful weight ex­porter, thanks to the Smart­bar.

The chal­lenge

Ev­ery week 3.6 mil­lion peo­ple take Les Mills classes in more than 15,000 clubs in 80 coun­tries. By 2020, it hopes to grow that num­ber to over 20 mil­lion. But while Les Mills cer­tainly has a strong con­sumer pres­ence, its busi­ness is pre­dom­i­nantly B2B. And it wanted to change that.

In the past, its new mer­chan­dis­ing came in ar­eas such as ex­er­cise pro­gram­ming for young peo­ple, or on­line and di­rect-to-con­sumer DVD prod­ucts. But early in 2010, it set about ex­tend­ing its brand aware­ness in the club in­dus­try and adding rev­enue through prod­uct in­no­va­tion.

Its main goal is to be a well­ness provider to con­sumers and so­lu­tions provider to clubs. A key growth area is de­vel­op­ing ef­fi­cien­cies in work­outs for an in­creas­ingly time-poor pop­u­la­tion and Bodypump is one of only a few pro­grammes that re­quires equip­ment. So, as its most suc­cess­ful pro­gramme, in­no­va­tion in the bar­bell space was both a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion and a gi­ant leap.

The re­sponse

The Smart­bar was the com­pany’s first foray into a phys­i­cal, branded prod­uct. And the three-year devel­op­ment pro­gramme re­quired ex­ten­sive user in­sight and test­ing, start­ing with live class ob­ser­va­tions by in­ter­nal ex­perts and mar­ket re­search of ex­ist­ing prod­ucts. Les Mills worked with Bet­ter By De­sign, part of New Zealand Trade and En­ter­prise, which con­sulted on the de­sign process and then helped foster a part­ner­ship with Christchurch de­sign firm 4orm­func­tion.

All this re­search re­sulted in a stronger mar­ket­ing pitch. There was lit­tle win­dow dress­ing needed be­cause the ma­te­rial fo­cused on the prac­ti­cal and sci­en­tific at­tributes (faster tran­si­tions, bet­ter phys­i­cal re­sults, in­creased safety and stor­age space sav­ings). De­sign-wise, it also stood out amongst its con­tem­po­raries, ap­pear­ing fu­tur­is­tic, mod­ern and stylish. And this point of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion gave it an edge with clubs look­ing to own the ‘cool’ cat­e­gory. That look and per­for­mance came at a cost, how­ever. It was two-and-a-half times more ex­pen­sive than any other bar­bell prod­uct and Les Mills knew that demon­stra­tions and ex­pe­ri­en­tial ac­tiv­ity were needed to get po­ten­tial cus­tomers and ad­vo­cates up close and per­sonal with it.

Once users had wit­nessed the ad­van­tages, it was con­fi­dent it this would trans­late into sales. To do this, it em­pha­sised so­cial, on­line, mo­bile and search; en­gaged with its best ad­vo­cates, es­pe­cially the 90,000 in­struc­tors around the world; and launched the prod­uct at IHRSA 2012, a mas­sive fit­ness con­ven­tion in Los An­ge­les, on the 20th an­niver­sary of Bodypump.

Agents re­ceived cus­tomis­able ma­te­ri­als to sup­port their own sales and mar­ket­ing ef­forts, as well as a pro­gramme of on­line ac­tiv­ity en­abling them to lever­age cen­trally-ex­e­cuted cam­paigns.

The re­sults

For clubs, Smart­bar was a so­lu­tion for space and stor­age is­sues, for par­tic­i­pants it in­creased re­sults, and its avail­abil­ity to home ex­er­cis­ers es­tab­lished Les Mills’ in the in­ter­na­tional con­sumer mar­ket. As per usual, Les Mills had bold busi­ness ob­jec­tives. And those ob­jec­tives were blown out of the wa­ter. 12 months af­ter launch, sales of close to 20,000 Smart­bar sets and an ad­di­tional 13,700 weights sets meant the prod­uct re­turned on its in­vest­ment five times faster than an­tic­i­pated, all with­out can­ni­bal­is­ing sales of its low-end weights brand Don Oliver.

Les Mills has suc­cess­fully tapped into a high-end mar­ket with the of­fer of a su­pe­rior prod­uct (it is cur­rently await­ing a global patent). And, as a trib­ute to the suc­cess of this in­no­va­tion and the rep­u­ta­tion the com­pany has earned for de­vel­op­ing ad­vanced fit­ness equip­ment, the com­pany has cre­ated an um­brella brand for fu­ture tech­nol­ogy called Smart­tech.

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