Take a few minutes to ponder this question & take a stab at putting together an answer in your Brandwork doc prior to moving on:
What change are we instigating?
OK, ready? Hit that play button to listen to today’s session.
3 Big Ideas
Before you head back to your Brandwork doc, review some of the big concepts in this section:
Marketing is the act of making promises about the changes you want to instigate.
→ Products, people, & services who make promises of change & who keep those promises are the brands that win. When Apple first came onto the world’s stage back in the 80’s, they were up against the behemoth IBM. Few thought they stood much of a chance. That was because they didn’t realize Apple was making a fundamentally different promise than IBM. Apple wanted to put a computer on every person’s desk because they sought to inspire personal productivity & creativity. At the time, people used computers for serious work only. Most didn’t need one, until Apple convinced them otherwise.
CrossFit’s original promise of change might not be the right one for your gym.
→ The promise Greg made that worked on us was about physical superiority, about outsmarting everybody else, & about pushing beyond the status quo. Is that the same change you’re promising?
Many of the 2018 changes at CrossFit HQ are about the changes they now hope to instigate.
→ Greg has announced fundamental changes to the CrossFit Games, introduced CrossFit Health, & stated he wants the trajectory of the affiliate community to continue to soar toward 150,000 affiliates all over the world. In other words, he’s starting to make some new promises & he’s starting to figure out the right ways to keep them.
All the Words
I’ve said a few times now that marketing is the act of making promises, while branding is the act of either keeping or breaking those promises. There’s one thing I’ve left out of that equation, though. That is that marketing is the act of making promises about the changes you seek to instigate.
Products, people, & services who make promises of change & who keep those promises are the brands that win. When Apple first came onto the world’s stage back in the 80’s, they were up against the behemoth IBM. Few thought they stood much of a chance. That was because they didn’t realize Apple was making a fundamentally different promise than IBM. Apple wanted to put a computer on every person’s desk because they sought to inspire personal productivity & creativity. At the time, people used computers for serious work only. Most didn’t need one, until Apple convinced them otherwise.
Apple promised that purchasing a Macintosh would free you from the shackles of today & catapult you into the world of tomorrow. Steve Jobs promised to give you the tools you needed & he made you feel superior for having them. (If that sounds like what CrossFit accomplished, that’s because it is.) For many, many years, that’s worked for Apple.
When I spend time in coffee-shops, I look around & see a lot of people on MacBooks who likely don’t need one. MacBooks are powerful, expensive machines. They're built for people who process video, edit photographs, create graphic design, or build apps. Most people don’t do those things. Most people surf the Internet, write in Google Docs or Word, create PowerPoint presentations, & use GMail. Most people don’t need anything more powerful - or more expensive - then some of the new Chromebooks on the market.
I don’t mean to imply that buying a MacBook means you’re getting duped, or that Apple is lying to you, or that people are fools. Because here’s the thing: Apple isn’t breaking a promise. When you turn on a new MacBook for the first time, you feel powerful, special, & full of potential. Because of the cost, you also feel elite & it doesn’t matter that everybody else also has one. Apple isn’t lying to you. You are perhaps lying to yourself a little - about your creative potential, about your self-worth, about where you sit in the socioeconomic hierarchy. None of that is bad or wrong. It’s the way we’re wired as human beings. We're always telling ourselves these kinds of stories to make sense of ourselves & our place in the world.
In the last session, I laid out what I think of as the original promise CrossFit was making. I said that by following this training & diet protocol, they argued you’d get fitter than you’ve ever been before. They promised you’d perform better, look better, & stop wasting so much time in the gym.
On its own, that’s not particularly revolutionary. People have been arguing that they have the secret to fitness forever. But very few have created something like what CrossFit has become & what you are continuing to help grow.
CrossFit was promising not just that you would get fitter, as I’ve argued, but that those who bought in would feel intense pride for working so hard at something so contrarian. Greg was trying to instigate a change in the fundamental way people thought about fitness. He knew the status quo was ineffective & knew he could fix it. The way he went about doing that was by appealing to certain people’s very real need to feel more than - smarter than everybody else, harder working than everybody else, more forward-thinking than everybody else. Whether he did it on purpose or not, he was giving people a point of pride.
The first time somebody came up to me at the Gold’s Gym in Boston & told me I was doing pull-ups wrong because I was kipping, I felt that pride. Because I knew something he didn’t know. Because CrossFit had given me a secret. Because it had changed the way I thought not only about fitness, but about myself. I worked harder than other people. I worked differently, more efficiently, more effectively than everybody else at that Gold’s Gym.
Greg had made a promise about a change he was seeking to instigate years earlier & on the opposite end of the country. But time & distance didn’t matter. It showed up in my life & it worked, much like it did to you wherever & whenever it did.
It would be easy - & I would argue, lazy - to simply believe that Greg’s early promise of change is your current promise of change. That the job of the affiliates is to take that original promise & run with it.
I don’t doubt for a second that some small part of Greg’s ambition wasn’t to change the world way back in the early 2000’s. I don’t think you change the world without an intention to change the world. I don’t think it’s something you do accidentally. But as a CrossFit affiliate, your job isn’t to change the world. It’s to change the lives of a small number of people within a certain radius of your facility.
It’s perhaps less sexy, but it is no less important & no less noble. It’s different - more narrow, more focused, & far deeper. It’s also unique to you, to your values & your personality. It’s unique to your geography, whether you’re in the heart of a city or in the woods many miles from any metropolitan center.
It’s different because the promise, the change, the message, & the means of expressing that message that worked so well on you & me might not be the right ones for those whose lives you’re aiming to change every day in your gym. The promise Greg made that worked on us was about physical superiority, about outsmarting everybody else, & about pushing beyond the status quo. Is that the same change you’re promising?
It might be, or it might not be. As I write this, we’re in the middle of the biggest shift in the brand of CrossFit since I first starting kipping my pull-ups at that Gold's Gym next to Fenway Park. Greg has announced fundamental changes to the CrossFit Games, introduced CrossFit Health, & stated he wants the trajectory of the affiliate community to continue to soar toward 150,000 affiliates all over the world.
In other words, he’s starting to make some new promises & he’s starting to figure out the right ways to keep them. It’s a bumpy road, to shift your brand like this, to shift its values, its personality, & the many ways it will try to keep these new promises.
I’m excited to see it unfold, but I encourage you not to wait to ask yourself the kinds of questions I'm putting to you. I encourage you to examine where you are borrowing promises. I hope you will do the hard work of defining your own brand & your own promises of change. Then I hope you’ll do everything in your power to keep those promises.
Our Pretend Gyms
[ Full Example Gym Brandwork Docs here: Community | Corporate | Competitive ]
Answers to today’s question:
We want to make our friends & our community healthy, active, & engaged with each other. We want to help families thrive & not just survive. Too many people in our community sit still for too many hours a day, lack the proper education on what to eat, & don't take advantage of the outdoors enough. We want to inspire them to move, to get outside, & to have fun doing it.
Too many modern workers spend all day sitting & staring at computers. They don't eat well, they don't move, & they don't have the energy they need to be productive. We're building a gym that takes their busy schedule into account. We want to see the people in our city more productive, more active, & more successful.
CrossFit has the potential to revolutionize how athletes train for their specific sports, & we want to be on the cutting-edge of that revolution. We want to make our athletes fitter, faster, & more resilient & we want to transform our teams into champions.
Time to Do Work
Open up your Brandwork Doc & spend some more time articulating the changes you’re seeking to make.
Here are some questions & guidelines to check your revised answer against:
Have you kept it to less than five sentences? If not, head back in & revise. Conciseness equals clarity.
Are your values represented in your answer to this question? Study our example gyms to see how each one works to incorporate the two into each other.
Now that you’ve completed the full section, take a look at the full Brandwork page. How do each of your answers fit next to each other? Are they telling the same story or are there pieces here & there that feel unrelated? If there are, be brutal about editing them out.
We’re moving onto Section Two next! It’s all about creating a very clear picture for yourself about the kind of person who is “right” for your affiliate. As a reminder, here’s a quote from Greg worth tattooing on your bicep:
"We’re going to do the right things, for the right people, for the right reasons. It turns out that’s handsomely profitable.”