consumer touch points

Zumba sells branded merchandise

I first wrote about Zumba, a funky Latin workout, almost a year ago.  In that post, I talked about the challenges that any services organization can encounter in its attempt to build a funky brand. The main challenge for Zumba, I said, was to ensure that its main customer touch points (places and ways in which people experience the brand) remain consistent. Which seems like a big task given millions of Zumba-like, or Zumba-inspired, courses currently offered around the world by external fitness instructors. Since then, I've taken several Zumba classes myself -- and not only out of my desire to do non-stop funky brand research! :)  I also wanted to ditch the workout, and join the party. ((Zumba's brand slogan)). My personal observation is that many of these classes had very little Latin about them, featuring non-Latin music, and non-Latin dance moves.

In other words, my own Zumba experiences have been patchy, and differed from one place and instructor to another.

Perhaps Zumba management (to learn more about the company, see an article about Zumba's founder Alberto Perlman published by Sprouter)  decided that keeping the brand consistent throughout its customer touch points was a difficult task to carry out.  Perhaps they thought that it would be a good idea to build the brand by selling Zumba merchandise not only online, but also in real life.

IMAG0462In any case, I am not familiar with Zumba's selected strategy, but here are a couple of observations.

I came across Zumba-branded merchandise on the shelves of Di a couple of days ago.  Di is a Belgian chain of shops that sell inexpensive cosmetics and home cleaning products. Di has also been expanding its health and wellness section by adding vitamins, food supplements, and slimming shape-wear.  This section is where I spotted sizable Zumba-branded boxes, sold at retail price of Euro 69.95 per piece (pictured above). They were placed on a shelf underneath a TV screen that featured a demonstration of a Zumba workout, with the message "as seen on TEK TV " ((a Belgian TV store)) running across the screen.

Each box contained 4 Zumba workout DVDs, as well as a set of small weights.  The packaging displayed a TEK TV logo.

What are the implications of this on Zumba's brand?

First of all, the importance of selecting appropriate distribution channels is crucial for building a strong brand.  Even though the idea of selling Zumba-branded merchandise seems  attractive  ((at least on the local market, it could be a way of tapping into existing awareness about the brand name that has been created through workout courses, whether "real" or not))  per se, where it is sold, is of even major importance!

What strikes me as quite inconsistent with what could be a very funky brand, is the association of Zumba with a TV shop.  I don't personally know very many funky brands that have been built through this not-so-funky distribution channel (but if you know, please submit a comment!)

I would question whether TV shops can reach the kinds of customers Zumba needs to be reaching.   I saw lots of professional women "ditching the workout, and joining the party" after office hours. Which means that they probably don't have the time to watch TV shop sales sessions during the day.  I suspect that an additional endorsement of a product by a TV shop means little to them.

Selling Zumba merchandise at a rather unexciting Di (think of it as an equivalent of the UK Boots, but with a somewhat duller product selection) would not be my top choice either.

To conclude, Zumba would be much better off building a funky brand through better selected and more exciting distribution channels.

NOTES

Zumba fitness

Zumba Image source: http://www.zumba.com

I've recently caught a glimpse of Zumba on TV, and the funky Latin workout caught my attention. And not only because I myself like to move to the steamy Latin tunes. I've heard about Zumba from some friends here and there, so I was curious to dig a bit more into the concept, and analyze the brand.

So, what's Zumba really?  Is it something you do to get fit, lose weight, or just have fun? To get a better idea what it looks like, have a look at this video I found on YouTube:

It's a bit of a mix of various Latin dance styles – there's some salsa, merengue, samba and something else I can't quite determine. It also looks like fun. But is Zumba just a kind of fitness program you can follow at your local gym, or is it also a profitable business? Importantly, does its business model support the brand and its values? Here are some branding clues SCHMOOZY FOX is happy to share with you.

What exactly is the product?

The core “product” of Zumba is its fitness workout. It is actually a “service” rather than something tangible you buy at a shop. You go to your local gym, move around, dance and sweat for an hour to funky Latin tunes. What you get as a customer is an experience, fun and positive emotions. Most probably, you'll burn some calories along the way. In terms of tangible products, there is some Zumba-branded merchandise available on the site, such as DVDs, music, umbrellas, T-shirts etc. Not too exciting, but not too bad either.

What's the business model?

Well, that's a good question. I did some googling around to find out more, but all I can do is simply assume that Zumba sells licences to designated fitness instructors around the world. Or maybe, cash flows come simply from the fees instructors pay to Zumba for the obligatory qualification courses. Whatever the current business model, SCHMOOZY FOX could come up with at least several more ways of how to create and capture more value for Zumba!

As far as instructor training, it's not clear from the site if an instructor has to follow all of the offered 8 levels or only one. For instance, in Belgium, there are several basic level workshops available for the price of 325$ per two days, and no previous Zumba experience is needed. I wonder if you actually have to be a dance or fitness teacher to start with, or can I also take that 2-day course and start teaching Zumba next week? I suggest that Zumba.com sheds some more light on this point, in order to make things more clear for potential instructors.

Who are Zumba's customers?

There are two main kinds of customers in this case: those who will take classes, and those who'll teach them. As regards course participants, I wouldn't be dwelling only on such criteria commonly used in marketing as age and gender, and where they live. SCHMOOZY FOX would also focus on the deep emotions that trigger potential customers' decision to sign up for a Zum'ba course. Is it a desire to lose some weight? Become more sexy? Meet a potential date? Have fun? Build self-confidence? These are some of the questions Zumba should keep in mind to get a better idea about its customers. For now, its targeting seems a bit more fuzzy rather than funky.

In order to reach instructors, Zumba should be doing a different kind of analysis. After all, instructors' reasons for teaching Zumba are totally different. Here, emotions play a certain role, but incentives and rewards are equally important. Zumba should build a community around the instructors, and preferably give them access to some perks: use your imagination here, there are plenty of great opportunities available!

Importantly, customer touch points (I explained what they are in my article about Abercrombie and Fitch) should be thought through in relation to both groups of customers. The funky web site alone (actually, it's only the home pages that looks good, whereas national sites are pretty weak) will not do the job of maintaining the brand, and the biggest challenge for Zumba is to ensure that the quality of courses, instructors and spaces where courses are held, is consistent.

Orchestrating so many elements around the world (Zumba courses are offered on a global level) certainly requires a lot of dedication and consistency, but if this huge effort pays off, a true funky brand is born! Consistency of services is by the way one of the biggest challenges for any service brands, and only few get it right, on very rare occasions!

How is Zumba being promoted?

The most obvious channels that drive the buzz around the Zumba brand are its  web site, and coverage in the world's leading health, beauty and fitness magazines. I would imagine that a lot of the marketing is also word-of-mouth driven.  In addition to these channels, Zumba has partnered with The Kellogg Company to participate in a joint health and fitness initiative targeted to the US Hispanic market at some point, but this was an initiative undertaken only in the US. The name of this initiative was Zumbando con Kellogg's.

Something that Zumba could consider to build a brand would be celebrity endorsement by a Latin star – a dancer, fitness instructor, actress – plenty of opportunities here. Remember how strongly aerobics is associated with Jane Fonda? That's definitely something to consider in the Zumba case.

Apart from that, just like any respectable service brand (I am being a bit sarcastic here, as there aren't that many of those around!), Zumba should keep in mind that “point of sale promotions” (the actual fitness rooms where classes take place) as well as  instructors themselves shouldlive the brand, breathe the brand, and promote it. Just look at a very large selection of amateur Zumba videos on YouTube: each of them has a totally different look and feel with the only common factor being Latin music! More consistency is required!

From would-be-funky to truly funky

Building brands for services companies is surely one of the most challenging activities to engage in, as this requires so many elements to be in harmony at all times.  But if you manage to get it right, you can reach unbelievably good results. If Zumba wants to move from being would-be-funky to a truly funky brand, there are so many things it should still work on! In addition to the suggestions above, it should also know its competitors, position itself very differently from them, and get those brand core values sorted out in a more of a … Zumba way.

To learn about further developments of the brand, please read Zumba sells branded merchandise.