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Marketing Mix Podcast with Vimla Black Gupta

Vimla Black Gupta tells the story of Equinox’s evolution beyond a fitness brand

February 5, 2019

Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast with Jeff Ragovin is Vimla Black Gupta, CMO at Equinox who tells the story of Equinox’s evolution beyond a fitness brand, plans for opening an Equinox hotel and the creative process behind the brand’s new short film “Life”. In discussing the importance of a personalized customer experience, Vimla describes how incubation, experimentation and curation are the best ways to grow and expand a brand.

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Jeff Ragovin: Talk to us about the positioning and narrative behind your tagline.

Vimla Black Gupta: Our tagline, “It’s not fitness, it’s life,”  is a part of the DNA of our brand. It’s what we launched with and the consumer insight we got led us to the creation of this brand. It’s really about this idea about how fitness is not necessarily just what you do before work, after work or on the weekends- it’s actually a part of your life, and a part of everything. As a brand in 2019, we are doubling down on lifestyle. We were a lifestyle brand before that was even a coined term, and this year we are really extending that promise to our members and  to our future consumers. This was the year to bring it back and double down to support all the things we will be doing.

Jeff Ragovin: What was the process that you guys went through to get from a fitness club to a lifestyle brand?

Vimla Black Gupta: It first started with that consumer insight. Everything we’ve done has been against that promise. It’s really a part of the building blocks of being there for our consumers 24/7.  It doesn’t stop at the gym, it’s about what you do after or before work, on the weekends; it’s where your headspace is digitally. For us, it’s been about building on what we know that the consumer wants.

Jeff Ragovin: Everything about the gym feels luxurious. Is this the feeling you’re trying to convey across all clubs?

Vimla Black Gupta: A 100 percent, yes. We say that we’re a high performance brand, and that extends into everything we do. Aesthetics for us are everything, and that is truly a part of this luxury and high performance lifestyle. If you’re on your back, doing a sit-up, we want you to be looking up at the most beautiful ceiling you possibly can! For so many of our members, our clubs are the nicest second home that they will ever have- whether it’s the luxuriousness of our clubs, the eucalyptus towels or the immaculate locker rooms. That’s at the DNA of our brand.  

Jeff Ragovin: In your recently released the short film, “Life” it was interesting to see how there was no gym featured in the entire video. Talk to us about that.

Vimla Black Gupta: For us, this promise and this lifestyle isn’t confined to the walls of our club. It’s how you move through the forces that nature puts on life every day, and that’s what this campaign is really depicting. From the talent that we picked to the movements that they were making- whether it was dance that we got through Ciara, to Maria Borges on her motorcycle, to the talent kissing in the water, it’s really just about how you’re moving through life.  

Jeff Ragovin: Tell us about Precision Running. Is this a new type of gym that you’re going to be opening up?

Vimla Black Gupta: Precision Running was started as a class in our clubs. We have a standalone studio in Chestnut Hill, and a studio attached to our gym in Santa Monica but we felt that it was time for New York City to have its own. This is something that was so organic- it came from the co-creation of David Siik, who is one of our most revered instructors, who developed his own method of running. By completely redefining the category of indoor running, he made it something that is something supremely enjoyable and results oriented- and quite addictive. If you don’t like indoor running, this will change your perspective on it. It’s the hardest thing you do that is so effortless. It’s about guiding you through achieving and surpassing your own personal record in a definitive method that is all about achieving results. The environment is all about self-empowerment, going further, faster, and deeper, in this electrifying space.

Jeff Ragovin: Do you see designing an offshoot of your popular classes as a future trend?

Vimla Black Gupta:There’s a lot of precedence for this. We’re always incubating our ideas, whether in our clubs  or at our actual incubator, which is Project Equinox. This is a place specifically designed for us to bring in new instructors and new formats with no rules, allowing us  to experiment with new talent and new movement. We incubate that to see what’s hot, and then bring it into our clubs. A great example of that is the work that we’ve done with Megan Roup at Sculpt Society that started right at Project Equinox.

Jeff Ragovin: Technology is rooted in everything that you do. How are you keeping up with the latest trends?

Vimla Black Gupta: We think about technology relentlessly and we want to be a 100 steps ahead of the industry. We’re a brand that’s based a hundred percent on MNR: movement, nutrition, and regeneration. That’s the lens through which we see everything, whether it’s architecture, fashion and especially technology. We definitely embrace anything that will enhance either of those three aspects. It’s making sure that our high performance members can achieve their results even better, whether it’s in our equipment or in our app. Our app has been a big part of our experience and we’re continuing to build on that, and really using technology for personalizing more experiences for our member to increase value. At the end of the day, we’re able to understand what you like to do, how you achieve results and why you achieve them. We want to be able to use technology to really personalize experiences for you to be achieving those 24/7.

Jeff Ragovin: Tell us about your plans to open up a new hotel at Hudson Yards.

Vimla Black Gupta: This is a natural extension of a promise of a life well lived. It is not confined to the four walls of a gym or the city you live in. Wherever they travel to, we know that our high performance members want to continue that lifestyle. Given everything that Hudson Yards is going to represent for New York City, this was absolutely the perfect place. It will be opening in the summer of 2019, with 212 rooms.

Jeff Ragovin: Beyond hotels, what else are you planning?

Vimla Black Gupta:We just launched our retreat travel business, taking the Equinox lifestyle on the road- whether it’s a day trip or a trip to anywhere in the world. With a high performance spin- in terms of the locations we’re choosing, the things that you’re doing and really, about the experiences you will have. What the future is about for us is the idea of being there for our consumers 24/7. This insight of “It’s not fitness, it’s life,” applies to every minute of the day, and is not confined to the walls of a gym. We have the insight that for our members, the best parts of their day are spent with Equinox. We want them to spend even more hours with us enjoying this lifestyle.

Jeff Ragovin: Any advice for a brand who is making the shift towards a lifestyle?

Vimla Black Gupta: Don’t force anything, because that will become transparent. Think about what is authentically your brand and where you should go with that. and where your consumer wants you to be. I feel very lucky in that we were a brand that was created with lifestyle at the core of what we do- but one of the challenges that we have going forward is that we always want to be a 100 steps ahead of our member, and over-delivering for them on all aspects on that. Just because we started that way it doesn’t make it any easier- we are lucky that it is part of our DNA, but  we are constantly curating. My advice is that it’s all about curation based on what our brand is authentically about.

Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.

Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes