How to Build a Fitness Brand – Part 3

What’s in a Name?


I’m asked this question all the time.  


It’s an important question.  


And the answer is:  A lot.


Because… whatever you decide for a NAME…. it’s going to be with you for a long time.


Plus, you’ll be spending tons of time, effort and money getting that NAME out into the public consciousness.


Research has shown 77 percent of consumers make purchases based on a brand name. So, a great name can make a big difference.


3 Different Brand Concepts

There are hundreds of different things to think about when naming a company, service or product. 

However, for simplicity, I breakout brand naming into three different paths:

  • Corporate Brand
  • Descriptor Brand
  • Signature Brand


Corporate Brands

Corporate monikers tend to project big monolithic business entities. 


Think of companies like Exxon/Mobil, Nike and PepsiCo.   What comes to your mind?



Do you think of a personality?  The products?  The categories of gasoline, running shoes and soft drinks?


Whatever comes to your mind, it is probably a “faceless” non-personal, non-intimate image. 


This provides an “umbrella effect” where the “mothership brand” can create and develop sub-brands, speak with a central voice over all corporate matters and even go from being privately-held to public;y-held without any noticeable change to the brand. 


Lawyers often refer to it as the “corporate veil” and it has its advantages for large, multi-national companies — especially publicly traded organizations. 


But, it’s hard to “warm-up” to these companies since there’s no real personality to the name or brand.  


In our industry, we have names like Equinox, Orange Theory and Crunch – which, by name alone, remain somewhat faceless, undefined and oblique. 




Nonetheless, all three are excellent marketers and have been successful in creating name awareness albeit could have been easier with more descriptive names.


Descriptor Brands


When I started my weight-management and lifestyle company, it was called MediCorp.  I wanted to project “bigness!”   



But, the name and branding was problematic.  Nobody knew what we did or what we sold.  And, they thought we were a medical company. 


So, in 1999, when we changed our business model and morphed into a fitness products and publishing company, I changed the name to Private Label Fitness because it more accurately describes what we do.  It’s a “descriptor name.”



Descriptor names immediately convey a message.  It instantly reveals the type of business you are in.  And, in some instances, how you operate. 


Tons of fitness businesses employ descriptor names.  Here are just a few of the big box clubs with descriptor names:




Here’s one of my all-time favorite descriptor names: The Training Studio.  It’s owned by my long-time friend, Dale Benedict, with two locations in Louisville, Kentucky. 



Dale even snagged the domain: —  which is worth a small fortune all by itself. 


That’s another reason to think long and hard about a name. Your established BRAND MARK and DOMAIN themselves, could become valuable assets to your business.  That’s important if you decide to sell the business. 


Signature Brands


Finally, there are “Signature Brands.”  


In the fashion world, it’s all about signature branding… or as they label it, “designer brands:

  • Louis Vuitton
  • Gucci
  • Armani
  • Channel
  • Tiffany 
  • Dior


Take a look at professional services.  The most prestigious law firms, accounting firms, medical specialists and even internet marketing gurus — all tend to use their own Signature Brand.



When it comes to services, signature brands are super effective — for many reasons. 


In today’s marketing world of being “transparent” and “authentic” a signature brand immediately addresses those two attributes.  After all, it’s YOU!


Plus, it’s really easy to visualize a signature brand such as:

  • Oprah
  • Tiger Woods
  • Martha Stewart
  • Tony Robbins


That’s a huge marketing advantage in such a noisy media world.


Sometimes, a company’s high profile CEO, founder or spokesperson becomes a more recognizable BRAND than the company, itself!

Here’s a little example. Check out these five company names:


  • Fitness Quest 10
  • Mass Control
  • Wine Library
  • Results Fitness
  • National Fitness Business Alliance


Here are the SIGNATURE NAMES of those same companies in the same order:

  • Todd Durkin
  • Frank Kern
  • Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Alwyn Cosgrove
  • Thomas Plummer


I bet you recognize a few of them!


What Should You Do..?


Among the fitness professionals and health coaches whom I consult, the answer depends on a couple of factors:

  • how big? 
  • how easy?


If you are an independent trainer either online or with a physical location, the signature brand will be the best strategy for you.  However, that only applies if you have an EASY NAME to say and read.  


My last name (Rothafel) is NOT a good candidate for a signature brand.  So, I would need to create a pseudonym.  Something simpler.


Even if you add staff and grow to a few locations, a signature brand will serve you well and cut through the noise and clutter of the market place.  It will also help with social media marketing.


However, the ONE big disadvantage of a signature brand will arise when, and if, you decide to sell your business.  Your signature brand, typically, is of no value to a buyer.   Something to think about.


The other obvious choice for studios and clubs is a descriptor name


For business owners who are well-capitalized and have a defined growth strategy (or thinking about licensing or franchising) — then, this is the way to go.  


What’s most difficult is actually coming up with a name that:

  • hasn’t already been used
  • describes the business
  • is unique


Think it Through…

So, take the time to really think it through


And, even when you come up with a name, be sure to run it past family, friends and people you know.  And, then run it past people you don’t know.  Try to get honest answers.  (We tend to “fall in love” with our own ideas). 


Remember, there’s a lot to a name.  And, once you commit… it’s going to be with you a long time!



If you’d like to discuss your business name, logo or brand design, feel free to call me directly.  LET’S TALK…


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