Brand architecture sense or nonsense? fit.lite by 24 Hour Fitness ~ Brand Mix

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Brand architecture sense or nonsense? fit.lite by 24 Hour Fitness

24 Hour Fitness is experimenting with slimmed-down workout clubs in San Francisco. The smallest format is called fit.lite, not much bigger than the changing rooms at one of the large clubs. These fit.lite clubs are targeted at people who want a 30 minute quick workout so, rather than a full range of amenities, they just have cardio equipment.

They've chosen to brand these new clubs: fit.lite by 24 Hour Fitness. In brand architecture terms, this is an endorsement strategy, a bit of a "cake and eat it" approach and, therefore, fairly common (Ted, part of United, or Linksys a division of Cisco Systems, for example). It's a strategy that often makes better sense conceptually than it works in reality.

What 24 hour Fitness is hoping is that its fit.lite endorsement will give potential members extra confidence about joining without giving them the wrong idea about what to expect. They want these new clubs to have their own identity but still get the benefit of association with the better known brand. To be part of the family but not living at home.

Despite the logic of using parent company endorsements, they often don't work very well in practice. Take a look at the photo - you can see how the 24 Hour fitness logo looks out of place and doesn't fit very well. Even more of a problem is the almost irresistible temptation for companies to overvalue the endorsement and then underinvest in the new brand. These businesses typically either fail or are eventually brought back into the fold.

In this case though, I'll give 24 Hour Fitness the benefit of the doubt. These new clubs are so slimmed down vs. a typical offering that it had to put some distance between them and its core brand. But its endorsement will still carry some weight and can help the fit.lites gain traction in a category where they are way behind the established leader (Curves).

Sense or Nonsense Verdict = Sense (just).

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