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Barry’s Bootcamp is the same no matter where you go. Here’s how they do it.

4 min read
Sean Blanda  •  Apr 4, 2019
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It doesn’t matter which of the 50-plus Barry’s Bootcamp locations you visit for a workout. At each one, you’ll have a similar experience.

You’ll first use a stripped-down website or app to book a fitness class. It will be confirmed with branded emails. After that you walk into a spartan fitness studio right by the collection of branded clothing, buy branded water, go stand on a branded treadmill, lift branded weights, while a nice instructor shouts commands at you wearing branded apparel in a highly-structured workout. Afterward, you can visit the branded juice bar and take a shower using branded towels.

Plain and simple

“I don’t see online and offline as two separate things,” says Barry’s creative director Rob Gonzalez of the company’s maniacal focus on consistency.

Founded in 1998, Barry’s Bootcamp is boutique workout studio in with locations in 25+ cities and nine countries (and growing). It’s a 60-minute whirlwind where an energetic instructor will command you to run, jog, and lift weights in a small room soaked in red light and lined with treadmills.

And it’s one of the primary players in a fitness space entirely disrupted by digital products and social media.

Big box gyms are fading and smaller brands are taking their placef. Think SoulCycle, Orange Theory, Flywheel, Flybar, SLT, Peloton, and many, many others.

A workout isn’t just a workout; it’s an extension of one’s identity, and the successful brands reinforce that at every turn. Standing out means absolutely nailing the brand and customer experience, and picking a very specific kind of person.

It’s 2019. If you’re just a place to work out, you’re going to get lapped.   

“Crossfit was the beginning of that clubby feel,” says Gonzalez. “Fitness is evolving that it’s not a place to just work out its a place to network—and even do business.”

So we asked Gonzalez for his advice for maintaining a consistent brand experience across web, mobile, retail, and beyond.

Barry’s Creative Director Rob Gonzalez

1. Keep the team small

For Gonzalez and his team of six, that means being clear about the north star of the brand and keeping the feedback loops tight without a ton of approvals. When you’re representing the brand across multiple mediums, after all, it’s easy to lose something in the translation.

“I try not to look at what other people are doing [in the fitness space]. There’s a reason why I was hired,” he says. “I get inspired by weird things. It’s whatever I feel is cool. If I want to use neons, I’ll use neons.” And he says support from leadership is what makes it possible. “They always tell me ‘I trust you guys will do the right thing.’”

Rosè, right this way.

“When you’re representing the brand across multiple mediums, after all, it’s easy to lose something in the translation.”

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2. Protect the north star

Gonzalez says he thinks of the Barry’s brand across all platforms referencing a yearbook of a very specific kind of high school.

“It all starts with photography and language,” he says. We like to keep everything a little gritty and a little sassy.”

He continues. “The brand is the photography and the people in it. What are they doing? Are they laughing are they having fun? What are they doing with our product?”

Are we having fun or what?

“I just ask, does it feel fun? Does it look fun? If not, we’re not going to do it.”

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3. Walk through every step as the customer

When your customer experience is part-digital, part-retail, part-gym, part-spa, there are lots of potential touch points.

“It’s the little things. I sit behind the reception desk and I see that clients get excited that you know their name,” he says. “So then in the digital space, we create emails that say their name first.”

Gonzalez says that most clients are going to Barry’s as a small part of their active life, so they try to design all parts of the experience for that, making it easy to shower, work out, shop, and move on.

A small example is that the smoothie bar is branded as “fuel” at every opportunity and clients can order their drink before their workout via an app, so it’s ready to grab and go as soon as the workout is over.

Smoothies await for clients to grab after a workout

Another example: Gonzalez notes that his team started to notice that clients were bringing their business meetings to Barry’s. “We often have buyouts where teams buy out the entire space. They meet, they work out, and then head to a restaurant across the street. That’s why we have tables and wifi. And we’ll never ask you to leave, you can hang there all day.”

4. Maintain the brand for future platforms

When pressed, Gonzalez says he optimizes the Barry’s brand for community. But recognizes that the future of fitness may be in streaming and take home devices.

“People have Netflix, Hulu, and now Peloton. That’s the next move for us: streaming.”  

He continues, “What is Instagram but a giant digital community? Why cant streaming be the same? What if I see my friend joining the 6 a.m. streaming class? I can do the same. There’s always a way to keep the essence.”

Barry’s in London

That also means not falling prey to trends or “best practices” if they don’t make sense. For example: Barry’s never runs retargeting ads online. They want to make it easy to sign up for people who are interested, but they’re not in the business of convincing anyone.

And as the brand grows, Gonzalez finds himself thinking more like a fashion creative director as the brand partners with brands like Nike.

Where the futures of fitness and fashion meet

“What you see at, say, H&M, is what’s happening to fitness. For them, it’s about leveraging other people’s customers. For us, it’s about people using our brand. We’re cool. People want to work with us. You’ll see us working with apparel brands soon,” he says adding that being selective and choose the right partner is important.

“I just ask, does it feel fun? Does it look fun? If not, we’re not going to do it.”

5. Remember which platform endears you to customers

Whether it’s streaming or elsewhere, Gonzalez remarks that if they don’t absolutely nail the workout experience, not much else will matter.

The “red room,” where the workouts happen.

“There’s always going to be those people that are going to want to get out of their house and go to the safe space where they can disconnect from any distraction,” he says. “People tell me ‘Barry’s gave me support, a family that I can rely on.’ You know, there’s a lot of people that meet their significant others here. It’s insane.”

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