By Joeri Nanov, Special AFS Contributor

As we edge closer to the end of the year we can look back with a little bit of perspective (and a big sigh of relief). So much has changed within the world and within the fitness industry. And that means the way your clients and members’ behaviors are shaped and molded has altered too.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, we’ve all been given space to stop, step back, and think about our businesses and the message we want to send out into the world moving forward. As companies in every sector switch to more digital and hybrid online/offline services and offerings, it seems that innovation is king. At Virtuagym, we had to pivot our entire business model in order to adapt to the landscape produced by the recent pandemic.

One lesson we quickly learned was that in order to thrive, we had to speedily adopt a creative mindset. In business and marketing, there’s an assumption that being professional and being creative are two separate things. But in order to think outside the box and prepare your brand for success in the face of crisis, it’s crucial to demonstrate a capacity for both. In this article, I’ll outline three ways you can utilize a creative outlook to build a powerful image for your fitness business, and generate exponential growth.

In sum, using creativity to build on your brand image will help you address cultural shifts within your niche, it will enable you to market your brand as something completely unique and help you create your own, new solutions to the recent challenges that have developed in your niche and location. Finally, it will place you a cut above competitors that are maintaining old school styles of marketing and sales talk.

So, how can you find and embrace creativity? When it comes down to it, creativity is essentially just problem-solving. The first step is to look at your brand image with a critical eye. What are the issues? Where is it failing? A useful way to get some outside perspective on this is to simply ask. Ask your clients, your members, even your family and friends. Thinking creatively means approaching your branding with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

Find the problems and holes within your brand image. Question whether it speaks to the audience you are targeting and in particular whether it speaks to them as new consumers in a post-pandemic world. Thinking creatively means stepping into the shoes of your members and clients, figuring out what they want and delivering it to them in an attractive and well-marketed way. Sit down with colleagues, your team, and even some of your most valued members and have a brainstorming session about where there are holes in your company and your brand. Once you have found your problems, you can get to work on fixing them.


Crucially, you should consider your brand image. Not only the image of your brand itself but also of you and your projection into the world and the digital spaces you occupy. Image matters. If you want to attract high paying members, you have to project the image of yourself as a luxe brand with a high-value proposition. It’s not enough to have the services and offerings that you know your target audience will love, you also have to creatively foster an image that speaks to this. This could mean anything from switching up the uniforms of your staff, giving your gym space an overhaul to transforming your social media and starting from scratch with your new brand image in mind.

It’s important to remember that you won’t be able to please everyone, so you shouldn’t be trying to do this either. Thinking creatively means being confident in your brand vision and visualising where you want to be in the next five to ten years, then building your branding strategy on this.

Another point to consider is that while innovation is important, your brand shouldn’t completely transform overnight. This can have a reverse effect on your member-base and make them turn on their (presumably very muscular) heels and run for the woods. This is especially true if your intended changes are quite radical. Adopting a creative approach doesn’t mean completely overhauling your existing model, but instead tweaking it in a way that will maximize your brand.

In the final step towards adopting a creative approach to brand building, consider the design of your business. When we think of creativity, art and visual design are often the first things we consider. Think critically about the design of your business and where improvements can be made. What resources do you attach to ensuring you maintain an impactful brand image, and more importantly that your brand image is consistent across the board? If you are a luxury brand with a sleek logo and well-designed aesthetics in your studio but you post cat videos and badly thought-out cheap-looking memes to your social media channels, you are sending mixed messages. Conversely, if you are marketed as a budget brand but this is not made clear in your branding, you will fail to bring in the kinds of members that will stay with you long-term.

Ensure that your brand image is creatively approached across the board and that all elements of your design, from the facility itself to your mobile app, execute the design that is emblematic of you and your brand vision. The recent pandemic is a worrying time, but it’s also an opportunity for huge growth. While your competitors fail to innovate or grow, think creatively and your business will thrive.


Joeri Nanov is the Global Director of Marketing for Virtuagym, the Amsterdam-based software solution for fitness professionals. Joeri has twelve years of experience in digital marketing and has lead Virtuagym's marketing efforts for the past six years, crucially enabling the company to pivot and service the needs of the fitness industry in the recent global pandemic.  

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