The Business of Joy

by Holland-Mark | April 2, 2013

I recently attended a client convention out in Las Vegas. IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, has been one of our clients for many years. Every spring, thousands of club owners and operators, fitness professionals, consultants, developers, and investors flock to the IHRSA Convention & Trade Show to learn about the newest trends in the industry and share knowledge with one another.

This was my second time attending the convention, and I was blown away by the amount of positive energy in the fitness industry. I spent several hours wandering around the trade show floor and couldn’t help being drawn to the Zumba booth. They were blasting fun latin music, and three dancers were leading a group of convention attendees through a sample Zumba class. That evening, I went to a fundraiser to support ALS research called the Zumbathon. The annual event drew approximately 1,200 devoted Zumba fans, most of them clad in branded Zumba gear. I stood there in awe as all of the attendees enthusiastically moved to the beat of the music with smiles on their faces. Throughout the event, random cheers would begin and echo across the massive room.

We’ve all heard about Harley Davidson and Apple and Starbucks creating brand advocates, but I think Zumba deserves a place on that short list. Every time I’ve heard anyone mention Zumba, it’s always followed by the same phrase as if it’s a script: “it’s so FUN!” In fact, that’s no accident. Rather than focusing on fitness and weight loss, Zumba is about joy and freedom. They’re selling emotion, not a six pack. As a result, people of all ages and sizes have been inspired by their tagline: “Ditch the workout. Join the party.”

Success is about more than a great idea; it’s about great execution. Zumba Fitness has done incredibly well— named them company of the year in 2012, and the company has grown 750% in the last three years. Their business model inherently lends itself to brand advocacy. The New York Times estimated that there were 100,000 licensed Zumba instructors around the world in March 2012. Only 65 percent are employed by fitness facilities; the rest rent spaces or open their own studios. These passionate entrepreneurs are responsible for spreading the word about Zumba in their communities throughout the world.

So, what can we learn from Zumba? Here at H-M, we often ask our clients what business they’re in. It’s not usually an easy question to answer. But Starbucks knows it’s not just in the coffee business, and Apple knows it’s not just in the computer business, and Zumba knows it’s not just in the fitness business. They’re more than the products they sell, and that’s why they’re positioned to succeed in today’s competitive market. And we (as consumers) know what business they’re in. As we always say, if you don’t give yourself a “One Simple Thing,” the market will assign one for you.

So, what business are you in?