Gold's Smart to Make Move Toward More Balanced Image

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Gold's Gym is getting rid of the muscleman? Say it ain't so!

It ain't so. In fact, what the more-than-40-year-old fitness giant is doing is getting rid of its muscleman image -- while maintaining its iconic logo and valuable brand equity. It's a carefully planned, insightful move: The high-profile workout club is doing exactly what it needs to do to evolve and stay relevant in an extremely competitive category.

Who wouldn't want a bigger piece of a $16 billion pie? It's a no-brainer to want to appeal to a wider market, including, as Gold's senior VP-chief marketing officer says, soccer moms and boomers. If Gold's can be faulted, it's for not making the move sooner. After all, even Arnold Schwarzenegger is more closely associated these days -- and has been for years -- with the political podium, not "Pumping Iron."

The marketer is rightly throwing a $30 million effort into its transformation, leveraging multiple media and featuring new creative, evidently for maximum effect. But what's really smart about the move is the seeming care with which the marketer is making the shift. While it would be easy to scrap the bodybuilder image altogether in an attempt to start fresh and refashion the brand to appear more like competitors Bally's Total Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness, the risk would be that it sinks into obscurity, with nothing to differentiate it from the rest.

Gold's recognizes the history and tradition its name -- and the chiseled bodybuilder with a sagging barbell -- carries. In fact, its website proudly tells the story of its humble beginnings as a gym in Venice, Calif., in 1965. And while it wants to evolve into something with a wider appeal, it realizes that a complete overhaul would do more harm than good. It did its homework, identified the problem -- that anyone with less than tanned, oil-slicked, rock-hard pecs is intimidated by the place -- and came up with a solution that, it would seem, strikes a balance between old and new. And following efforts to unify franchisees' brand messages, as well as associate the brand with causes appropriate for attracting the over-55 crowd, this marketer is methodically, holistically tackling this initiative.

These days, it's common for marketers to want to shift gears and reinvent themselves when sales slump. In some cases, that's warranted. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. Time will tell, but Gold's seems like it's on the right track.
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