The title “gym owner” is both a positive and negative element of our natural brand.
Among all the elements that composes our natural brand at X Fitness, none are more important than my own personal title. Since I started X Fitness from scratch as an independent gym, my primary objective in natural-brand building has been how I project my title. It’s imperative that I identify myself as ‘gym owner’ without identifying myself exclusively as ‘gym owner.’
I am tied to our X Fitness brand. I am not just part of the X Fitness brand, I am the X Fitness brand. I tried to separate the two but it didn’t work out. Consequently, we developed our own ideology about what is vital for our X Fitness brand in order for us to survive against Goliath gyms:
1. Our brand must be natural. It has to develop organically. There is no artificial ingredient in our brand.
2. The title ‘gym owner’ is not a 100% positive brand. When X Fitness started in 2001, the title ‘gym owner’ carried some negative elements. It still does.
3. I have made a conscious effort and decision to never brand myself exclusively as a ‘gym owner’ because our best branding strategy at X Fitness is for me to be branded apart from the fitness industry, not a part of it.
4. Although it’s imperative that I am identifiable as ‘gym owner’ to convey that I am the X Fitness brand, I identify myself with my other current and past professions.
5. To communicate my natural brand, I publicly identify myself as “gym owner-football coach-writer.” In addition, my subtitle includes: ex-police officer and ex-college law enforcement professor/program coordinator.
6. Every podcast I produce, every article I write, every book I publish all communicate that ‘gym owner’ is only one part of my natural brand. The reason is that not being fully a part of the fitness industry in our geographic area has been our main identifiable branding characteristic that sets us apart from the growing number of gyms and personal trainers. Additionally, not exclusively branding myself as “gym owner” had been instrumental in recruiting customers form huge customer markets who are attracted to my past professional experience.
Conclusion: In order to survive as an independent startup gym for over 16 years against Goliaths, our natural brand had to set us apart from the fitness industry. The fitness industry has a traditional image in the minds of our customers. What has worked out best for us is communicating difference. Being different is the best way to be positively identifiable in a ultra-competitive industry where one mistake can easily break your business.