The most innovative brands in the world, like Apple, know how to create an air of exclusivity while also appealing to the masses.Striking this balance requires genius marketing, and few companies ever achieve this. But Equinox — the New York City-based gym known for its provocative advertisements — is one of them.
The company, which also owns SoulCycle, Pure Yoga and other top-tier fitness chains, recently hired Sarah Robb O’Hagan, president of Gatorade and Global Sports Nutrition at PepsiCo, to guide its big plans for growth. We caught up with O’Hagan briefly over the phone, and she told us about her new gig, and what she’s learned about creating an enduring brand.
What’s the first thing you’re going to tackle?
There’s already so much momentum at Equinox, and there’s an opportunity to move it further into the digital lifestyle space. So I’ll spend time deeply learning and understanding the existing business. I need to get my head around the pace at which we are expanding. We’re first moving into London and Toronto, and then expanding significantly around the world. We’re starting to investigate other markets, with a 5-10 year plan.
How will you develop a global lifestyle brand?
By focusing on the brand’s core belief. If you rewind 10, 20, 30 years, [brands] were so much more focused on what was said. Now we’re focused on what we do, and how the brand behaves to appropriately fit into a consumer’s lifestyle. We’ve got a very diverse member base that’s incredibly loyal, and filled with cultural and thought leaders.
At Virgin Atlantic, where I was the U.S. director of marketing, I learned that you have to create a unique customer experience that creates an air of exclusivity. You want to bring others into the lifestyle, and make it a deep and active experience.
What was it like to work with Virigin Founder Richard Branson?
He’s phenomenal to work with. He’s very focused, knows exactly what his business stands for, and knows how to surround himself with talented people. At Virgin — and Nike and Gatorade — I learned how to manage a brand and deliver and meet the needs of a focused core customer. When you do things just because you can, that’s when brands get into trouble. I’ve always had this philosophy that if you do something spectacular for a few people, instead of something average for many, these people will be so loyal to you that they will influence and spread word among the wider market. You’ve got to sweat the details and get it right for the core consumer.
That perfectly defines what Apple has done.
Yes. We’re offering a premium experience, focusing on urban markets. The macro trends on health and fitness are so strong right now.
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