Boasting more than two decades worth of experience working with some of the biggest brands in the world, including Disney, Coca Cola and Nike, Charlotte Dennis is a marketer who knows brands. Well.
Set to deliver a keynote exploring the strategies fitness brands should employ in order to ‘future-proof’ their propositions, at ukactive’s Sweat on the 26th February — an innovative event bringing together more than 200 forward-thinking brands, startups, influencers and investors to discuss the most exciting trends shaping the booming boutique fitness market — Dennis will reveal what it takes to establish a sustainable fitness brand in an increasingly crowded market.
To give you a taste of what to expect, here we sit down with the marketing expert to discuss the power of partnerships, fostering innovation and how the brands of tomorrow can cut-through market noise to reach a wider audience………..
What has your career in marketing for big brands taught you?
I have been fortunate enough to have worked for some amazing organisations, such as Coca Cola, Walt Disney and Nike, all of which have enabled me to learn my craft when it comes to all things brand and how to build a big business.
My passion for brands was born from my first days working for Coca-Cola and solidified after spending 12 years at Nike. After 19 years working for super brands I started to wonder about the world outside of the corporation, was there an alternative way to build brands and business? Or could the lessons I learnt from American super brands be transferred to other businesses, large and small?
I decided to hit the books and study for an MBA and create my own business. Curious Consultancy is a consultancy firm which specialises in working with SMEs and start-ups, helping them create robust marketing plans, understand their consumer and essentially how to grow their business.
It’s like having access to a Marketing Director with experience of large brands, who works with your business in bite-sized chunks, making it more accessible and affordable to SMEs and start-ups.
What are the major advantages of collaboration with other brands? What should boutique fitness operators do to source quality partnerships?
The power of alliances or partnerships can be very commercially compelling for both parties, but more than that partnerships can offer the consumer an added layer to the product or service, or to the CX (customer experience).
The key to partnerships is that there are synergies and alignment in regards to the brand attributes, values and positioning. Misalignment between two brands can be confusing and ultimately damaging. Additionally, to make the partnership worthwhile it has to be mutually beneficial to both brands. An example of this could be seen in the collaborations Nike have created, i.e. Nike and Liberty or Virgil Abloh. Or more directly via sports marketing partnerships with assets such as Manchester City, Inter Milan etc.
For the boutique fitness industry the same rules apply: Is it adding to the CX? Do both brands complement each other? Share a similar vision and position? Will the partnership be mutually beneficial to both parties?
How can brands ensure they cut-through to consumers, particularly in a crowded market?
Consumers are in a position whereby they are subjected to hundreds of messages on a daily basis, choosing which brands and messages they absorb or interact with. The key to cutting through and communicating to your consumer is simple — it has to start with an understanding of who you are talking to.
Being razor sharp on your segmentation and the reasons why your consumers keep coming back, why they refer new consumers and engage with your content will help you understand which channels you need to use to communicate with them, and the type of content they are going to react to. It’s then down to making sure you express the right narrative, and how you tell your story.
Why are you speaking at Sweat this year? Do you see future growth for boutique fitness?
Having worked in sport for 15 years, there is no other industry like it. For me, Sweat is the perfect platform to speak about my passions: building brands, sport, and evolution.
It never ceases to amaze me how many times fitness can reinvent itself — different iterations, disciplines and approaches. But all with the consumer at the heart of each revolution.
As consumers crave relationships with brands, it’s not surprising that the boutique fitness sector is seeing exponential growth. The community created by boutiques enables a closeness and creates a unique bond. This is something that’s not easily expressed by the large fitness brands occupying the market.
How are you seeing brands beginning to market themselves to the consumers of tomorrow? Specifically Gen Z?
The notion of pull-based marketing forms the basis of the way we need to communicate with Gen Z — serving up interesting, appropriate and shareable content, delivered to targeted channels. Allowing Gen Z to share, comment and join a larger community if they so wish, but on their terms.
Gen Z is easily turned off if a brand expresses a narrative that appears not to be on brand, fails to add purpose to their messaging or demonstrates a one-sided relationship. Gen Z is tough to convert, difficult to establish the notion of loyalty and has high expectations, but when they engage, learn to trust and feel part of the community, a strong bond is created.
Are there any other industries you think the fitness industry can learn from when it comes to innovation in branding and partnerships?
I think the biggest opportunity is how the fitness industry can continue to work closely with the tech industry. How can we leverage AI and VR to further enhance the CX? How can we take wearable tech to the next level to add more depth, data and an elevated experience for the fitness industry? How do we make the experience more immersive and engaging, without it being cliched?
Where do you see the future of branding and partnerships heading?
As the fitness boutique revolution gathers pace, the large brands are going to be circling, keen to leverage the communities, bonds and audiences the boutiques possess.
Ensuring you choose your partnerships wisely, remembering your brand’s position, values, and mission should be referred to and used as a north star — they’re the foundations on which strategy can be built.
Doing the right thing by your brand will always be vital, so choose your partnerships wisely.
Branding is all about resonance – how is your brand going to resonate, be memorable and repeatable? The basis of this lies at the door of your brand’s ‘why’. Why is it you are doing what you’re doing? Why did you start your business? Why do you offer the services you do? And why does your customer keep coming back for more? Once you have sharpness on your brands ‘why’ this is what you should communicate.
You are speaking at Sweat about ‘survival of the fittest’ – what are the keys to evolution for businesses?
Charles Darwin dedicated his professional life to the evolution of species. The conclusion of his life’s work can be summarised as follows: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.
This is one of the most important lessons in business. Organisations that fail to evolve are unlikely to survive. Consumer preferences, behaviours, technologies, trends and competition are just some of the main dimensions that make change inevitable.
So, constantly strive to improve and develop, and don’t be afraid to evolve – standing still is not an option.
To view the full agenda for Sweat, or to buy tickets, visit www.ukactivesweat.com