Orangetheory is focusing on marketing over brand-building to reinvigorate, grow membership

membership editor

Early on in the pandemic, many fitness brands had to completely retool their offerings, moving classes online and finding ways to keep consumers tuning in. Over the last year or so, many of those same brands have had to completely reverse course and work to get people back into studios.

Orangetheory is among those brands.

Orangetheory reworked its business and marketing efforts to keep pace with the pandemic — offering at-home workouts and rolling out content for its YouTube channel, for example — and the company has had to do so again, this time to get people to return to in-person classes. Prior to the pandemic, the chain was more focused on overall brand-building rather than performance marketing to get people in studios, explained Orangetheory Fitness CMO Kelly Lohr, adding that with the shifts in behavior, Orangetheory is now focusing more on marketing the studios than brand-building. 

“Before the pandemic, we were growing so fast that generating demand was not top of our list,” said Lohr, noting that she recently joined the brand earlier this fall. “We were opening so many studios. We couldn’t open studios fast enough. That’s a great problem to have. Because of the level of referrals, we didn’t have to do a whole lot except for focusing on the brand experience and the member experience in the studio.”

Lohr continued: “Obviously the pandemic changed that. We’re hopeful 2023 is a more normal year. Now we’re more focused, as we’ve been navigating pandemic times, in bringing our members back and gaining new members.”

To do so, the chain has spent the last year and a half focusing more on performance marketing tactics to promote its offerings. It’s unclear how many members Orangetheory currently has, as Lohr declined to disclose that figure. But she added that it’s “close to pre-pandemic membership numbers.” Now the company is aiming to balance its performance marketing as well as more “upper funnel” tactics to grow the brand.

It’s also unclear how the chain is dividing its ad budget to do so as Lohr declined to share budget specifics. Per Pathmatics data, Orangetheory has spent $1.7 million on advertising so far this year, up from $1.3 million last year. 

Aside from getting members back to in-person classes, Orangetheory wants to get back to growing its footprint again, with plans to open roughly 100 studios over the next year. Prior to the pandemic, Orangetheory was aiming to open 2,500 studios by 2024, Digiday previously reported. Currently, the brand runs 1,501 studios in 24 countries. 

Orangetheory isn’t alone in its push to bring customers back in person. Its approach to doing so makes sense to Kristen Groh, a senior partner at brand consultancy Prophet, who noted that finding ways to reach new audiences and enter new markets is a logical one. 

“The fitness category has had to really think about what needs to be done for customers,” said Groh. “Fitness routines were different pre-pandemic than when we were at home. Needed fitness for mental health. Fitness companies have responded in interesting ways, providing value to focus on what participants needed in moments. It’s important that companies stay on top of that rather than back to normal. It’ll never be what it was pre-pandemic.”

Going forward, Orangetheory plans to find ways to make its local and national advertising more in-sync to find efficiencies where they can, noted Lohr. At the same time, the brand is eyeing adding streaming ads to the mix. 

As for the economic downturn, the brand doesn’t have plans to adjust marketing strategies but is planning to on “staying hyper-focused on member experience to make sure people keep going to Orangetheory despite [the downturn],” said Lohr.

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