Bowflex Energizes Its Targeting To Reach New Audiences Hungry For Home Fitness

Becky Alseth, VP of marketing and direct at Nautilus

When gyms closed during the lockdowns, demand for at-home exercise equipment increased.

Nautilus, which owns a portfolio of home gym brands, including Bowflex and Schwinn Fitness, experienced a nearly 94% increase in net sales in Q2.

“It was one of our best quarters ever,” said Becky Alseth, VP of marketing and direct at Nautilus.

In August, the company launched a new bike called the Bowflex VeloCore which includes a leaning mode option that simulates the feeling of cycling outside. Built into the experience is a membership-only workout app called JRNY that creates personalized workouts based on a cyclist’s preferences, fitness level and even mood.

“We’ve started to pivot from a physical equipment company only into a hardware and software company,” Alseth said.

The launch campaign to promote the VeloCore featured ad spots shot in New Jersey with instructions shared remotely live over Zoom by Bowflex’s creative director from his home office in Vancouver, Washington.

AdExchanger spoke with Alseth, whose exercise routine includes a three-mile walk at 6 am around her neighborhood in Montana.

AdExchanger: What’s your targeting strategy for Bowflex?

BECKY ALSETH: Bowflex has been in home fitness for more than 30 years, and for the past 10 or so we’ve been very focused on people who are just starting out on their fitness journey, whether that’s to deal with a health problem, for example, or because they simply haven’t been very active in the past.

Although we’re going to stick with our current customers, we also recently did a segmentation study to learn about a new type of customer, which is people who already love working out.

What did you learn during the study?

The segmentation that we’ve done is attitudinal as opposed to demographic. People usually want to go to the gym or take fitness classes away from home for multiple reasons. Maybe they don’t have the space, they don’t have the motivation or they want to exercise with friends and be with a community.

We’re finding that people of all ages and demographics go to the gym, but when COVID happened, more and more people began seeking out home fitness as an alternative.

What are the main ingredients in your marketing mix?

Historically, we spent a lot of money on direct response TV. Over the past couple of years, though, we’ve been shifting to a more balanced mix. We still do TV for brand awareness, but now we also do a lot of search, social and digital, including video and pre-roll, and we especially focus on PR and product reviews.

Home fitness is a fairly complicated category to shop and people often don’t know what a good piece of equipment should cost or what they’re getting for their money. That’s why we’re really getting into reviews, because we want to stay in the consumer’s consideration set as they make their decision. It could be a 60-day cycle between when someone decides to buy home fitness equipment and when they actually make the purchase.

How do you approach measurement and attribution?

Traditionally, we look at it on an ROI basis, because most of our media spend is in direct channels. We spend a dollar and we want to get $4 or $6 in return. But we’re starting to build new attribution models with our media agency, Koeppel Direct. We didn’t spend big on media over the summer, but with the launch of the new bikes and as we go into Q4 and then Q1, we’ll be on more solid footing in terms of our attribution.

There’s been a coronavirus-induced increase in demand for workout equipment, but what can you do as a marketer to keep people from getting discouraged? Speaking from my own experience, exercise goals can be very aspirational (and often fail to materialize in reality).

As you can imagine, with gyms and in-person fitness classes shutting down, there was a great deal of interest in at-home alternatives, and we’ve seen a healthy uptick in sales.

One way we’re keeping people motivated is by pivoting into software. In addition to personalized coaching, which we charge a monthly membership fee for, JRNY offers a range of entertainment options. You can bring your own subscriptions to one of the new VeloCore bikes, such as Netflix, or you can connect to a third-party app, for example, Peloton.

Are you producing more of your own content now?

We’re constantly producing all sorts of content, because we’re lucky enough to have our own in-house creative department. We’ve sold more than 600,000 new machines, and we’ve found that people want to be constantly refreshed with new content, so that is definitely something we’re doing.

We’re just getting started with membership, though. There’s some free content, but if you want to really get deep into the library, you do have to subscribe. But it’s more about coaching than about content. We believe our algorithm and the ability to track workouts is what will help keep people motivated, and content is just a piece of that.

Helping people meet their goals means that their equipment won’t turn into a clothes rack.

How do you compete with Peloton?

Bowflex strives to be inclusive, a brand for everyone with a range of products, from dumbbells to kettlebells to bikes and interval training machines, while Peloton focuses mainly on cycling. We’re broader in what we offer and we strive to have something at every price point for anyone who wants to have a healthy lifestyle.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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