Beyond the Gym

By Alyssa Kaplan • October 2, 2014

BRAND WE LOVE ANALYSIS

Equinox

What is Equinox?

Equinox is a luxury fitness company with 68 locations across the United States, as well as solo clubs in both Toronto and London.

Why We Love Equinox

To put it simply, Equinox is the Rolls Royce of gyms. Rusty equipment, dull aerobics instructors, and unkept locker rooms have been replaced by state of the art machines, a plethora of unique classes, and facilities more akin to a spa than to a gym. Clubs are equipped with juice bars, sportswear boutiques, steam rooms, WiFi, full-service spas, and a team of personal trainers ready to kick your butt into shape.

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Equinox in a Nutshell

The Errico family opened the first Equinox gym in Manhattan in 1991 before selling to investment firms North Castle Partners and J.W. Child Associates for $100 million in 2000. Equinox Fitness is now owned by Related Companies—known for their development of the Time Warner Center—following a $505 million sale in 2005. Originally started as a line of luxury fitness facilities, Equinox has done a major expansion in recent years, bringing popular Asian brand—Pure Yoga—to the U.S. in 2008, opening their less expensive chain—Blink Fitness—as well as acquiring white-hot spin-chain—Soul Cycle—in 2011, and taking on Sports Club LA and Reebok Sports Club NY just this past summer.

Secret to Success 

Equinox has conquered the luxury fitness market in major cities by proving that a higher price tag is worth the splurge. In offering amenities beyond the gym floor, Equinox has shattered the idea that the gym is just for working out. Why rush home after your run when you can stay for a massage and a smoothie? Why pay less when you can fully engage in the luxury experience, after whittling your waist in one of their gut-busting classes? Their motto really says it all: IT’S NOT FITNESS, IT’S LIFE

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Equinox has also managed to establish an exclusive vibe, all while remaining accessible to anyone willing to shell out a couple hundred a month. Go to any Equinox and you’ll find beautiful people in neon leggings getting their sweat on, illustrating that anyone can be a part of this “exclusive” club for the price of a membership. “The most innovative brands in the world, like Apple, know how to create an air of exclusivity while also appealing to the masses” (Business Insider)—a concept that Equinox has truly mastered.

Current Digital Presence 

In the past few years Equinox has gone through a major digital reboot thanks to new company President Sarah Robb O’Hagan. In a 2012 interview, O’Hagan—who previously worked for Gatorade, Nike, and Virgin—noted that “you want to bring others into the lifestyle, and make it a deep and active experience,” so she set to work establishing that philosophy within Equinox’s digital assets:

+ The sleek, graphic style, and “in your face” photography on Equinox’s main site immediately signal that this isn’t your average YMCA. The site breaks down their common features, and personalizes each club with its own page that offers an enticing description of the individual vibe, with a spotlight on their most popular classes and amenities.

+ Equinox recently launched “Q,” an editorial website that covers fitness, sleep, health, nutrition, beauty, style, and travel. “Created to change the conversation on fitness and wellness by presenting it in an elevated way…it [uses] equal parts inspiration and information to get you to commit” (Q homepage). Q’s philosophy fits right in with Equinox’s mission to make exercise part of a larger lifestyle, rather than something you grudgingly schedule into your day. The site isn’t meant to be an online-trainer, but rather a representation of the full lifestyle experience that Equinox offers its members.

+ Just this summer Equinox rebooted their iOS app, giving members a fully immersed digital gym experience. Users can register for classes, book a specific bike in the spin studio, check into the gym, get workout tips, share their progress, and even get class recommendations based on their mood. EQX even collaborates with fitness trackers like FitBit, Jawbone Up, and FuelBand, using the information to better enhance their members’ Equinox experiences.

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Areas for Improvement

Equinox is doing an amazing job pushing their company from the gym floor to the digital arena, but as always, we’ve come up with some more ideas to make the brand even better:

+ Several of the individual club pages make note of their eco-friendly design elements, and use of green-technology, but there’s no mention of this on the main website. Equinox should highlight these innovative designs on the homepage so they can broadcast their environmental consciousness to potential members.

+ These days, popular fitness instructors tend to have cult followings. With membership renewal so often encouraged by instructor-loyalty, the best teachers should be highlighted far beyond the brief bios currently out there. Users could vote online for their favorite instructors, whom would then be featured as “teacher of the month” on the individual club pages. This allows new and potential members to get excited about Equinox’s class-culture, as well as adding an interactive element to the local pages. In the spirit of Q, the teachers could share their favorite healthy snacks, power songs, vacation spots, etc.

+ Equinox locations are abundant in New York and Southern California, yet they’re still sparse in many states. Since Q allows people all over the world to digitally engage with Equinox, why not turn that conversation into a chat with potential members? Let Q readers who want an Equinox in their city be heard. The site could gather email addresses through their votes, giving Equinox a database of interested gym-goers for when a club inevitably opens in that location.

+ With class-only fitness studios popping up all over, gyms have to work harder than ever to convince members that their classes are just as cool as those as the aerial yoga studio across the street. Equinox prides itself on offering everything from pilates and martial arts to spin and sports conditioning, yet potential members have to jump through hoops to read about the different options. Simply adding in a description of each class within categories already on the Equinox site would add a ton of incentive for the class-obsessed to ditch those individual studios for an Equinox membership. You could even add in testimonials from members highlighting what they love about each specific class.

In Closing

For years Equinox has offered the very best in luxury fitness while whooping their members into tip-top shape. With their recent digital developments, they’re integrating healthy living across the board, and redefining what it means to be a chain of workout facilities. With all that healthy inspiration, the Verbal+Visual team will definitely be hitting the gym in our best neon spandex!

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Alyssa Kaplan

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