CMO interview: Building the Orangetheory brand

Global chief brand officer of fitness brand shares the purpose, vision and content approach he's adopting to drive growth

When Kevin Keith first received the call asking him to become Orangetheory Fitness’s first chief brand officer at the start of 2017, he thought they were joking.

Keith had built a career in marketing with brands including Coca Cola and UPS, as well as through lengthy stints within agencies. But he had also been a regular attendee at Orangetheory sessions for about two years and had become a passionate advocate for the brand.

“They convinced me to come down to Florida to their global headquarters and have a chat with the CEO,” Keith tells CMO. “I immediately fell in love with the vision for the brand. It’s so much more than a fitness company.”

Today, Orangetheory has more than 850,000 members and over 1000 studios in 22 countries, with 16 studios in Australia and plans to open more in the next financial year. Its guided one-hour workouts use high intensity interval training blending cardiovascular and strength training, tracked using its OTbeat technology that measures heartrate and performance.

“My experience with the brand already as a member had been very transformative personally, and I was excited about that,” Keith says. “The business wanted someone who could help steward the brand and guide the experience and innovate.”

Brand purpose

When Keith joined Orangetheory, the marketing team consisted of just two people. One of his first tasks was to clearly define the brand purpose for which the company existed and ensure this was known through every level of the company.

“People buy into brands before they buy from a brand, so I wanted to really articulate why we existed and pull that through from the inside out,” Keith says. “We had all the right words with the right actions in place, but we didn’t have a really clear sentence as to why we are on the planet.”

That purpose is now defined as giving people a longer, more vibrant life, and he says the entire company is behind it.

From a marketing perspective, Keith says one of his key assets are the company’s members, who says have proven to be a most valuable marketing channel when it comes to attracting new signups.

“We have an NPS [Net Promoter Score] of +82, 83,” Keith says. “I have been in business 25 years, and I have never worked on a brand with a network promoter score so strong that has been maintained for so many years.

“We give our members the voice of the brand, and our job in marketing is really to set the storyline. And the storyline we have given is how what you’re doing in the studio for one hour every few days is going to give you a much more vibrant life.”

Of course it helps one of those members is Michelle Obama, who revealed in April in an interview at London’s O2 arena she can often be found taking sessions.

“She [Michelle] got really into Orangetheory about a year ago,” Keith says. “We have a lot of celebrities, but when they walk through that door, they feel like everybody else. We treat them like regular people, and they love that.”

Orangetheory now has a marketing team of more than 20, with a heavy emphasis on in-house content creation.

“We are constantly evolving and changing, and our members are constantly looking for content from us, and for inspiration and stories for motivation,” Keith says. “That is something we are increasingly taking in-house. But I will always need and cherish agency relationships, because sometimes organisations can so insular and devoid of an outside perspective.”

So far, the team has produced more than 1300 pieces of content on topics such as how to best maintain your base pace, much of which can be accessed via the company’s app.

Consistent credibility

As the company grows, there are two possibilities Keith is very wary of. The first is to avoid Orangetheory becoming a fad, as has happened with many other popular fitness programs over the years.

“Things can come and go in this industry very quickly, so even though it looks on the surface like a very easy job to have, the reality is we have to be on our game very day to make sure we are getting better and better,” Keith says. “If we are not continuing to give our customers results and a better experience, then we could start failing and fading away.

“And we need to know our lane. There are times where there is temptation to try and drag too many changes and enhancements to the brand too fast. So my focus has been to maintain what we do best and make it even better.”

Keith’s goal then is to ensure that as a global brand, Orangetheory is relentless in its commitment to providing consistency to members all around the world.

“My job is to make members never feel like they are walking to a franchise organisation,” he says. “They are walking to a world class brand experience. And as we grow our members, expectations are to have the same experience whether they are in Brisbane or Sydney or Melbourne or Japan.”

Read more about how brands are harnessing purpose and values for success:

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