Les Mills: strengthening its own core

Post by ANNA EGGLETON, Managing Partner and Head of Customer Service

With the growing trend for health and wellness, the fitness industry offers some great opportunities for growth. However the gym market, due to fairly low barriers of entry, can be an area where it is difficult to maintain premium pricing.

Enter Les Mills, who have achieved stunning speed of growth and global coverage via licensing, while maintaining quality levels that enable partners to justify a premium price.

Since starting in start in New Zealand in the 80’s Les Mills has expanded to over 80 countries, with 90,000 (highly trained) instructors and c. 6 million participants a week. To put this in context, Uber (who ww hear about all the time) are in 54 countries and have 500,000 drivers. What makes Les Mills so incredible, especially in comparison to Uber, is that rather driving value out of the market its focus is on premiumisation.

So, how does it achieve this?

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Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 08.27.011. Brand Peer group Benchmarking

How does a top fitness business stay at the top? As we do on brandgym projects, Les Mills has sought inspiration from what we call a ‘Brand Peer Group’, rather than just looking at the direct competition. On a recent trip to America CEO Philip Mills visited Google, IDEO and Joie de Vivre hotels for inspiration. It has since adopted Google’s rapid “lean innovation” approach, improving speed to market and product performance by getting quicker feedback and developing the product as you go. More on lean innovation in our post here.

2. Driving distinctiveness 

Much of a service brand is intangible and delivered through people. “Everything we do is just about invisible,” says Phillip Mills. However, Les Mills makes major efforts make the experience tangible through creating distinctive brand assets housed in “Brand Central”, a central brand platform where partners can access materials to promote their business. This includes training DVDs, wall art, education, music, fashion and ideas for guerrilla marketing activity.

This branding platform also lets Les Mills understand what’s in demand from partners, and what isn’t, to continually refine their offering, working at speed to optimise their brand assets.

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3. Refreshing the core

It looks like Les Mills share our belief in a strong core, and maybe even read our Grow the Core book. Here’s the opening paragraph of the book:

“An increasing number of people in your local gym are trying to improve their ‘core strength’, by working out the muscles deep in the abs and back that help keep the body stable and balanced. In the same way, a strong core is also important for keeping a business healthy and in shape”

And here are excepts from Les Mills’ ‘Black Book’ of branding, showing a strategy is to look for opportunities that fit with their core, rather than getting distracted by initiatives that might dilute the business.

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Les Mills are leveraging technology to transform their core fitness experience. In true Les Mills style they have created an immersive experience called ‘The Trip’; this is a cycle class, but not as we knows it. You might be climbing the side of an impossibly steep glacier, riding through a space age city or sprinting round a digital velodrome, before backing off the pace as the sun sets around you – all accompanied by music and instructions that make the experience feel exciting and real.

‘The Trip’ is a great way of adding value, building barriers of entry and refreshing group classes – which are at the core Les Mills distinctiveness. You can watch a class here if you want to get the full experience.

In conclusion, well done to Les Mills, who I think deserve more public recognition for relentlessly focusing on and refreshing its core to  drive market share and premiumisation.