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The beginning of January is like the Superbowl for fitness and wellness brands.
Year after year consumers set goals to form healthier habits in the new year and 2023 is no exception. According to Statista’s Top New Year's Resolutions Survey, 52% of American adults want to exercise more, 50% hope to eat healthier, and 40% are looking to lose weight this year.
You would think fitness brands would be going all-in to capitalize on this momentum, right? Well, upscale fitness chain Equinox had other plans.
On January 1, Equinox updated the company website and shared controversial social posts claiming the company “Doesn’t Speak January” and isn’t allowing new members to join during the month to prioritize those who are dedicated to fitness year-round.
The statement has been controversial, with some consumers criticizing the brand for shaming those at the beginning of their wellness journey and being exclusionary.
I'm an all access + @AskAmex platinum member, and I don't want to support a gym that shames people for setting fitness goals during ANY month of the year— it can have a large public health impact for a gym to support their members even if 90% drop off after.— Violeta J. Rodriguez, MS² (@vjrodriguez33) January 2, 2023
Reading through the tweet replies left me wondering: do we truly expect a company that charges upwards of $330 per month for membership dues to be the poster child for inclusivity?
New Year’s resolutions, especially those geared towards fitness, have a bad reputation because so few people achieve them. Many believe those who don’t achieve their resolutions fail because they aren’t motivated enough to stick with it when in reality it’s often because people don’t have the tools, resources, and support they need to make lasting changes.
As a consumer, frequent year-round gym-goer, and former fitness professional, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and disagree with Equinox discouraging new members from joining in January.
As a marketer, I could see the messaging from Equinox did exactly what it intended to do — create a viral moment that got people talking (we know the brand is no stranger to controversy).
If the goal of a brand is to help people live healthier lives, forming the habit of exercise should be encouraged year-round especially when people feel motivated and excited to do so. But I would argue that isn’t the primary goal of Equinox.
Instead, the goal is to sell a lifestyle that prioritizes upscale experiences and social status, not accessible wellness solutions.
When exclusivity is part of a brand's ethos, exclusive messaging may be disappointing but is ultimately on-brand.
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