Branding Mechanics Email Digest

I recognize that folks are going to move through the Branding Mechanics Course at different speeds, & that the email series that accompanies it may or not work best for you.

To give you some flexibility, here are all 10 emails:

#1: 3 Big Ideas from the Design Section . . .

Over the next 45 days, I'm going to check in a handful of times with what I hope will be some useful additional info as you tackle the Branding Mechanics course.

Today, I wanted to give you what I think are the 3 Big Ideas from the Design Our Brand section of the program. I'll do this again on day 15 for the Define Our Tribe section, & once more on day 30 for the Display Our Message section.

Do your best to keep these 30,000' ideas in mind as you drill down into the specifics of your Brandwork document. (Speaking of, if you haven't already, click here to create your own blank doc to keep track of your progress.)


Brand with Empathy

Communicating simply is communicating well. Banish jargon from your life & the life of your gym. Find ways to articulate what you do in such a way that the people you are seeking to serve will understand it. CrossFit is intimidating enough - chase down every opportunity you can to demystify & clarify.

Brand with Specificity

With more choices than ever - CrossFit & otherwise - your potential members are free to make decisions based on the stories they believe. They are stories about health, stories about price, stories about where they belong. The better you know the story you are telling - & the more consistent you are in telling it - the higher likelihood that the right people will walk through your door.

Brand with Intention

Letting your emotions, your impatience, & your boredom dictate your decisions is the recipe for a meal nobody will talk about having eaten. Start with creating a crystal clear vision of the values that are at the heart of your gym. Then filter every future decision through those values to make sure you are acting on purpose & not on a whim.

#2: The Brandwork Doc for Functional Branding . . .

When I first started to think about what would eventually become Functional Branding, I really didn't know what I was trying to do.

I actually spent a full weekend late last summer writing letters & finding mailing addresses to all the affiliates in Maine (where I live). I sent each of them a note letting them know that I would love to work with them in some capacity - on their branding, on their media, on their website...

The letter was ineffective.

After a week of crickets, I had to face the fact that I didn't know what the heck I was doing or what I hoped the recipients of the letter would do. I had to face the fact that if I couldn't articulate what I was doing in a clear, simple, evocative way, then I had no chance to instigate the kind of change I'm aiming for.

Brandwork was born in that mess of not knowing.

It started in a notebook, with a bunch of scribbles & scrawls. A bunch of questions, some crossed out, some surrounded by a dozen excited circles. Eventually, it relocated to the computer. Then to a messy Google doc. Then, slowly, to what you've been working on these last few weeks.

It was in the process of answering these questions that I started figuring out what I wanted Functional Branding to become. It's not that most of it wasn't in my head already. It's just that it had no form. It was all what-ifs & could be's.

It was probably the same for you when you started your gym. So much potential you could drown in it.

For me, it wasn't until I created a process to cut through all the noise that I was able to see the forest for the proverbial trees. It wasn't until I started to edit, condense, narrow my ideas that I was able to push beyond wondering & into acting.

It wasn't until I created the process for myself that I saw a process you could use.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you're not alone here. I've been through it, too. I've stared at the blank page trying to figure out how to get what was in my head out in a way that made some kind of sense.

Forge ahead. Your gym will be better for it.

PS: If you're curious, here's what the messy notebook eventually became.

#3: 3 Big Ideas from the Community Gym Website . . .

There are two primary goals of the Branding Mechanics course. The first is to help you build a solid foundation atop which you'll continue developing your brand over the long term. The second goal is more practical. It's to be able to guide you toward communicating effectively on your website.

Your site is the most important, non-human marketing asset you have. You need to treat it as such.

As you've noticed, we'll be building & developing three imaginary gyms throughout the program. Part of that process naturally extends to what their websites might look like, based on the answers to their Brandwork questions.

Today I wanted to give you a little insight into the three big ideas of the Community Gym site, which you can view here. (We'll do the same for the other example gyms' websites as this 45-day email series continues.)

As you read through these, it might also be helpful to have their Brandwork doc open in another tab. You can access that here.


Right Tone

Looking at this gym's Brandwork, we see right away that they aspire to be approachable, fun, & unintimidating. The first sentence of their answer to Question 4 is, "Our gym is different because we take our work seriously without taking ourselves too seriously." Given that, it makes sense that the tone on their website strives to be upbeat, light, & friendly.

Here are a few of the ways they express those ideas:

· The exclamation point at the end of the call-to-action buttons
· Calling CrossFit an "adult gym class" right at the top of the page
· The "(Yes, This Thursday)" at the top of the sign-up page
· On the same page, the line that reads: "All you need to bring is your sneakers, some comfy clothes you can sweat in, & a smile."
· #PinkySwear

Right Language

One of the stated aims of this gym is to be a welcome place for members of the whole family, from kids to grandparents. It's important they use the right words to be able to speak to such a diverse audience.

That's why you won't find the word "athlete" anywhere on the page. Your mother & grandmother don't think of themselves as athletes, & if they read that word they'll assume this isn't the right place for them.

That's also why the word "fitness" only appears once on the site. Everywhere else, they use the word "health" or talk about losing weight & staying active. "Fitness" brings along quite a bit of baggage across such a diverse generational audience. Some folks will think of their dreaded gym class. Some will think of Richard Simmons or Suzanne Somers. Still others will think of bicep curls & leg extensions.

"Health," though, is broad enough to encompass all that while steering clear of some of the (potentially unhelpful) baggage.

Right Imagery

There are four images on the homepage of the site. That gives us four opportunities to represent the values, personality, & membership of the gym. We can't waste any of those opportunities with an image that tells a different story than the one we're revealing with our tone & language.

Let's look at each image, starting from the top & moving down the page.

→ Image 1

No barbells, no shirtless men with tattoos, no abs. For some gyms, that's precisely the right kind of hero image. For this gym & its pursuit of family health, though, it makes more sense to open with smiles, fist bumps, & a forty-ish aged woman.

It offers the perfect visual complement when placed beneath the text, "Welcoming, encouraging, & supporting the whole family through fitness."

→ Image 2

A young, smiling, attractive woman. It doesn't say, but the implication is that she's a coach here, which makes the fact that she's looking right into the camera feel like she's inviting us in. (The text does the rest of that job for us.)

On a practical note, with lots of space beside her, we can add a good chunk of text without the worry that the background is going to be so busy nobody can read it.

→ Image 3

An older gentleman doing something that looks rehabilitative (or preventative). Still no barbells, no abs. This image provides a nice balance to the three women we've seen so far. It also broadens out our represented age groups to feature somebody's grandparent.

→ Image 4

Actual fitness happening! While it's important this gym be mindful of their aim to be inclusive & approachable, it would also be silly & misleading to ignore the fact that they're a CrossFit gym.

This image allows the gym to show a diverse population but skews younger. (Ideally, it would feature a broader set of athletes.) It demonstrates that this gym is class-based & run by a coach. The fact that the boxes are all lined up & everybody seems to be moving in sync gives off a feeling of order, which is calming. ("I just have to do what everybody else is doing," is a reassuring thought to somebody new & nervous.)

#4: 3 Big Ideas from the Define Section . . .

We're 15 days in, so I wanted to send along what I think are the 3 Big Ideas from the Define Our Brand section of the program. As with the last section, try to keep these 30,000' ideas in mind as you work through each new question.


Brand with Specificity

Your gym is not the right place for most people, but it is the right place for some people. Until you create a clear picture of who falls into which category, your marketing, messaging, & branding will be scattershot. As soon as you can articulate who's in & who's out, you can dive deep. Depth (like intensity) is where all the good stuff happens.

Brand with Empathy

You are in the business of solving problems. Not just the obvious problems, but the quiet ones - the ones only time & trust will bring to the surface. The more you understand what those problems are, the better you will be able to communicate in such a way as to signal that your gym is the place a person can go to solve them.

Brand with Intention

When you know what you are building, & for whom you are building it, you can begin to make structural changes in pursuit of clarity & consistency. Your operations can start to look toward your marketing to give it shape & to narrow its focus. You can start to tell the same story across every element of your business.

#5: 3 Big Ideas from the Corporate Gym Website . . .

Last week, we did a little deep dive on the site for the Community Gym we've been working through. Today, let's do the same for the Corporate Gym.

You can view the site here.

If it's helpful, you can also pull up the gym's Brandwork document here.



Right Tone

While our Community Gym worked hard to seem fun & inclusive, our Corporate Gym is going after a different kind of clientele. A look at the personality traits they hope to exhibit shows us the contrast. This city-based business aims to project exclusivity, professionalism, & an upscale vibe.

Their tone, then, needs to match. (Humor probably won't work well here, for example.) I've tried to accomplish this connection by being empathetic to the ambitious nature of the professional class ("We’re here to help you regain the kind of balance that will truly move you in the direction of your ambition").

Two of the three questions I chose off the Brandwork doc speak to a relentless wanting for more: "Will a better toolkit help you build a better life?" & "What could you accomplish with more energy?"

Neither specifically mentions fitness or CrossFit. Instead, the tone of the questions goes beyond them, making the argument that this gym is the place to go for success in every facet of life.

I say it's empathetic because it recognizes that health & fitness are only valuable to their prospective members in as much as they can benefit the rest of their lives - personally & professionally. The tone is respectful of that reality.

Right Language

Words & phrases like "toolkit," "operating systems," "smarter not harder," "productivity," "burned out," "ambition," "investment," & "compound" are all-too-familiar for the types of clientele this gym is working to attract. Much like the tone, using them is how this gym expresses empathy for the struggles & dreams of the city-based, corporate-ladder-climbing individual. (They reinforce it with the first sentence of their About Us section: "Started after years in the finance industry left us burned out & unhealthy, our gym exists to provide the experience we didn't know we needed until it was almost too late.")

When the right person reads them, they'll recognize themselves. They'll know that this is a place they belong.

Right Imagery

Whereas I intentionally chose images on our Community Gym's site that didn't feature fitness too prominently, I wasn't shy about including them here.

I don't think this gym needs to hide the hard work inherent in CrossFit. In fact, it's probably very much part of what will attract the right people to walk through their doors. After all, the story they're likely telling themselves is that they've always worked hard - in school, at work, at play. Why should it be any different at the gym?

That said, I didn't want to avoid using non-fitness imagery entirely. I thought they could also give a nod toward being upscale, exclusive, & complementary to life outside the gym. That's why I included imagery of the facilities (the locker room image), the available services (the massage, one-on-one meeting, & nutrition images), & the "be better" series (work, play, move, & live).

#6: Check In . . .

You’re almost a month into the Branding Mechanics program. If you’re like me, this is about the time when all the shiny objects start getting brighter.

Just wanted to check-in & see how you're doing.

One tip: If you find yourself losing a bit of steam, now is a great time to share the work you've done with someone you trust. Could be a coach, a longtime member, a best buddy. Just get yourself talking about it with somebody who will share in your enthusiasm for building a better gym & impacting more people.

I'm here to help if you need me.

#7: 3 Big Ideas from the Display Section . . .

I’m back today with what I think of as the 3 Big Ideas from the third & final section of the Branding Mechanics course. This section is all about synthesizing the work you’ve been doing up until now.

No worries if you’re not quite ready to dive into the Display Section. I know life in small business land can pull us in a million different directions. Just save this email for whenever you’re ready to start.


Brand with Intention

Your website is the most critical non-human marketing asset you have. You should treat it as such - giving it as much attention as you do your facility maintenance, your daily programming, & your next coaching hire. It should be simple, clear, & built out of all the Brandwork you’ve been creating.

Brand with Empathy

Selfish marketing is terrible marketing. Your experience, your authority, & your accolades matter only as much as they relate to the journey your prospective members are on. Filter everything through the realization that they are the hero of this story & that you are merely a helpful guide on their journey.

Brand with Specificity

The job of your website isn’t to give all the answers to every single question, nor is it meant to appeal to every single person. The job of your website is to send the right signals to the right people, & to make it abundantly clear what you want them to do once they’re interested.

#8: 3 Big Ideas from the Competitive Gym Website . . .

I'm back today with a closer look at the third & final website of our example gyms. This time, we're going to dive deep on the Competitive Gym site, which you can view here.

If it's helpful, you can also pull up the gym's full Brandwork doc here.

Of all three sites, this one is my favorite. The layout is different, the colors are bright, & the imagery is bold. I'm not sure this style would have worked with the other brands, but it fits nicely with the flavor of our Competitive Gym.

Ready to jump in?


Right Tone

As always, setting the tone is done by thinking hard about the kinds of people we want to inspire to take action. With our Competitive Gym, we've narrowed in on athletes.

But remember, being an athlete is as much a state of mind as anything else. It's a way of walking through the world.

Part of that mindset is a certain seriousness & a certain attitude. I've tried to convey those ideas with a site that's aspirational, lofty, & bold.

Right Language

Much like there were on our Corporate Gym site, there are certain trigger words we can use with athletes to let them know that we are empathetic to their worldview & that we speak their language.

In their brand one-liner, we've got words like "champion" & "athlete." Further down the page, words & phrases like: "goals," "confidence," "optimize," "true potential," & "untapped capacity." Even in the "About Us" section, they've emphasized this kind of empathy by highlighting that their athletes or teams go on to win state championships.

Remember that most of your site visitors aren't going to read every word. They're going to skim & search. These kinds of trigger words will tell them that this is the right place for them - that they belong here.

Right Imagery

Right at the top of the site, this image is bold & captures your attention. It says a lot:

· A fit young woman in a sports bra shows not only who this gym is for, but also quickly tells the "wrong" people that this place isn't for them.
· The rings indicate challenge & hard work. If you know anything about traditional training, you know that young women don't touch rings. That she's about to jump up signifies that this gym is different.
· The lighting is like something Nike would produce - it says this gym is professional & that it's not a place where people go to mess around.

Down the rest of the page, I've focused exclusively on young athletes doing work - running with medballs, using dumbbells, flipping tires. Again, these all are signals that this is not the place to go if you're looking for bicep curls & leg extension machines. They say: This is a place where we do real work. If that's what you're interested in, we're here for you.

Always remember that the imagery you choose (same with language) is doing two jobs: First, it's signaling to the right people that they belong. Second, it's signaling to everybody else that they should keep moving.

Doing so is how you make an impact. When someone feels like she gets to celebrate who she is (in this case, a serious athlete) through the decision to engage with your business, she'll be more bought in because it is reinforcing the story she's telling herself about her place in the world.

#9: One-on-One Consultation . . .

I wish I could sit down with every single gym working their way through this program to offer advice, ask more personalized questions, & take a crack at wordsmithing some of your Brandwork answers.

I know you know what that feels like; I'm sure you wish you could give more personal feedback & coaching to every single one of your clients.

But just because I can't collaborate with every gym doesn't mean we can't do it with at all.

If you’re interested in a second pair of eyes on all the work you’ve been doing, I’d be happy to help & offer my advice. Signing up for a one-on-one consultation is a great step to take before you dive into the process of actually revising your website - especially if you are paying somebody else by the hour to do so.

Once you sign-up, our collaboration will look like this:

· You’ll share your Brandwork Doc with me so I can take a look at the work you’ve been doing.
· With it, plus your current website & social channels, I’ll send you a detailed report on what I see working & not working, places you could revise, & suggested alterations.
· We’ll schedule one or two video chats or phone calls to discuss my notes & go over whatever questions you may have.

You can register here if you're ready to rock.

#10: Thank You! . . .

This will be my last check-in for the Branding Mechanics program (sad emoji).

No matter if you’re still working your way through the material or if you’ve already refreshed your website & are on to bigger, better things, I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you.

I know what it takes to put the brakes on tackling all the daily, urgent, & in-your-face things that pop up long enough to pursue further education. I know how hard it is to get yourself up to 30,000' when all the action seems to be happening down here in the dirt.

I hope you've found the time you spent during the course valuable. I'd love to hear about your experience however you'd like to share it - email, DM, or smoke signal.

If you're so inclined, you can take this survey, which will help me put together some material designed to encourage humble, hungry affiliate owners like you to work toward building a better brand.

Here's to the impact you're having!