Fitness and Health Business Marketing in the age of the Coronavirus.
In 2020, if you think that your fitness and health business is about go back to the way it was in 2019, think again! As a marketer of fitness and health brands, you are in the midst of a sea-change taking place in the world of fitness and health business marketing.
Sea-changes like the coronavirus don’t just redefine what and how we market our fitness and health businesses, they can also change forever what products are best for your logo as a business giveaway or promotional incentive during these uncertain times.
The History Of Promotional Product Marketing in the Fitness and Health Industry.
In 1904, the owners of 12 USA-based promotional product manufacturers formed an industry trade association. The purpose was to address issues like pricing, new ideas, and operating procedures. The new organization’s name was the Advertising Manufacturers Association, and it’s now better known as Promotional Products Association International (PPAI).
The other major player in the promotional product industry, the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), was founded in 1950. Originally created as a central resource for finding promotional products and promotional product suppliers who made them, ASI is now the largest media and marketing organization serving the advertising specialty industry.
Both of these trade associations and their distributor members have long dealt with America’s fitness and health businesses.
The problem with doing business this old-fashioned way!
However, the problem that has arisen with this paradigm, is that most distributors in the promotional products field are “out of touch” with the current trends in the fitness marketplace!.
Until the advent of the internet age, the stock-in-trade of the promotional products industry and their approach to the fitness and health business was, simply put, “to put a businesses logo on any product that they could give away to their customers, prospective customers and their employees to promote their brand.”
There was no specific acknowledgement and understanding of the uniqueness of the fitness and health industry.
These promotional products, also know as SWAG (Stuff We All Get), were sold to the business community through an arcane sales process that still exists to this day. Prior to the emergence of the world wide web, there was a strict code in play that aligned all parties in the sales process.
This “sales code” relied on all parties to agree to a code of silence or an “Omerta” that kept the final purchasers of promotional products in the dark as to the cost and source of their goods. The overall process is outlined below.
How does the traditional Promotional Product reseller process work?
A factory produced the “promotional product” and sold it to a supplier, who then warehoused and decorated the product.
The supplier then sold the “promotional product” to a distributor, who in turn sold the “promotional product” to you the fitness and health business.
Needless to say, each step along the way additional costs were added to the original “promotional product”.
How the promo business sees the fitness and health business.
The “promotional product” was marketed to the fitness businesses through printed catalogs. These catalogs were printed using a series of “coded prices.” The “coded prices” were originally based on the letters M through Z with each letter denoting a different percentage of cost mark-up that the distributor and supplier should make.
As the fitness and health business marketers started to figure out these exorbinant costing codes, the fitness and health business, understandably, hit the roof. The net effect of this arcane business model is that a product that cost $1 from the factory often sold for as much as $4 to fitness and health business.
The First Massive Change. The Internet.
With the emergence of a workable internet in the early 2000s promotional product suppliers and distributors for the most part simply put a digital version of their paper catalogs online as well as continuing to print paper catalogs.
In the 2010s, as web search matured, the end user, you the business marketer, became much more web-savvy at finding “non-traditional” promotional products that they wanted. Many of these newly-found products were not in the mainstream purview of the promotional products industry.
This new way of sourcing products caused riffles in the traditional promotional products industry as it opened the door for non-aligned suppliers of logo’d branded products to, for the first time, sell their factory-direct products to the end user, bypassing the traditional factory-supplier-distributor sales channel. This was the first sea-change in the promotional products business paradigm.
The Second Massive Change. Demographics.
The second sea-change came about as a result of a report put out by ASI. In it, they revealed for the first time the generational disconnect between the sellers of promotional products and their buyers, the end-users. The average age of an ASI supplier is 57 and their clients age 34!
ASI revealed that the “average age of a promotional products distributor in the USA is 57, while the average buyer’s age is 35, a generational gap of 22 years.”ASICentral.org
This generational gap, ASI went on to explain, “was originally seen as the customer attrition that was thought to be only attributed to the emergence of online sales,” was further revealed to be “now seen as a possible product, communication and generational disconnect between the ASI promotional product seller and their customers.”
The second sea-change revealed that the average seller of swag was “out of touch” with their much younger customers.
Out of touch both with the products those customers craved but also in terms of the ways they needed to be reached, connected with, and communicated to.
The Third Massive Change. Covid-19, The Coronavirus.
As with all significant changes to consumer habits, there are not the only minor changes that undermine the underpinnings of previous habits. The real change often comes in the form of a black swan event. In 2020, this black swan event is the world wide emergence of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
In early January 2020, COVID-19 was barely a blip on the American horizon. However, as a direct, from- the-factory importer of promotional products, we had a small but nagging inkling that this was going to be a worldwide game-changer. Here is how it all unfolded.
Our factories in China were just entering into a three-week holiday (Chinese New Year 2020). Just as they were just getting started on the holiday, we started to get wechats and emails from them saying they had been ordered by the government of China to remain in place as there was a virus loose. The central government in China went further, saying to all of our Chinese partners that, “they would not only have to stay in place but that citizen volunteers would be coming door-to-door in every city and town in China to take their temperature and to test for signs of the virus.”
The Chinese government also informed all of our partners that the holiday would be extended past the back to work date of February 7th and would not be lifted until the virus had been contained and the now all-too-familiar phrase, “flattening of the curve” had been achieved.
In our daily conversations with our factory partners we became aware of a couple of very distinct possibilities with respect to the virus and what it meant to the promotional products business.
First, it was very apparent that the virus would know no bounds. It was not only going to affect the Chinese people in China, but would travel around the world. As an avid reader of history, I had read a number of books on the flu pandemic of 1918, a.k.a. “The Spanish Flu,” and knew that this or any virus was already on its way here, even if we did not know it.
Key marketing drivers in the fitness and health business severely affected during Covid-19.
We also knew that a key driver in our business was going to be affected; one of the key drivers in our business is supplying creative and unique promotional products for trade shows, concerts and events. It was quite obvious to us in late January 2020 that those event-driven sales were going to be gone, at least for the foreseeable future. Our overseas partners knew this was going to happen as well!
Secondly, we saw the resourcefulness of our partner factories in our source countries (Pakistan, India, Viet Nam, Taiwan, Czech Republic, Bangladesh and China) as the all “turned on a dime” to meet the demands by American and European businesses for the supply of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
Our factories are modern and modular, and are far from the “sweatshops” envisioned by some. The “modular factory” means that they have the innate ability to change what they are making from one day to the next. This allowed our offshore factory partners to pivot to meet the changes.
Examples abound. For example, our sublimated T-shirt factory was able to shift production into making custom logo’d masks in 1 day.
Our plastic injection factory turned their lines into face shield production and our cosmetics company, which went into manufacturing hyperdrive to supply the demand for high alcohol hand sanitizer that has increased by over 500%!
The Fourth Massive Change. The Supply Chain Disrupted!
Just as the corona virus was emerging in the USA and Europe, the supply chain from source countries into the USA was undergoing tectonic shifts. Unbeknownst to most people, passenger jet travel provides as much as 75% of all cargo space for commercial goods. With the shutdown of air travel from many countries there was an almost instantaneous crash of cargo capacity. What once took 2-3 days to transship now took as long as 3-4 weeks and what once cost $1 for shipping was now $3!
Meeting the needs and the changes head on!
As a factory rep company we sit in a unique position in the marketplace. Firstly, we rarely inventory products here in the USA. Instead, we let our factory partners to either take on that burden or do a quick ship direct from the factory floor to our client’s door.
This simple fact allows us to not be “determined by our inventory” as to how we meet our clients needs. What does this mean? Not being “determined by our inventory” means a few very important things to our clients and to our business model. In its most basic explanation it means that we respond to the demands of our clients’ needs instead of offering them only what we have to sell.
In short, we work to meet your immediate needs, not to sell what we need to get rid of!
A better business model is needed and here!
This business model was critical in meeting the challenges of a COVID-19 promotional products marketplace. Instead of trying to continue to push an inventoried product that our fitness and health clients who no longer, or at least for the time being, did not need or want, we instead, were very quickly able to meet the massive demand for masks, hand sanitizer, face shields.
The Fifth Massive Change. The Fitness and Health Industry still needs to market, they just need to market themselves differently now!
The first reaction of most of America’s business, fitness and health communities to the COVID-19 crisis was to simply stop marketing. But, as Henry Ford once said,
“Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time!”Henry Ford
The mad scramble for PPE.
The next reaction by business marketers was to scramble for PPE (personal protective equipment).
At the same time, many of our factory partners took the initiative to bring in large volumes of PPE , warehousing them here in the USA, specifically for our customers. These are now in warehouses in the USA.
We are in a unique position to both see what our clients’ needs are and to have the factory connections to provide them. We are uniquely positioned to provide and determine the PPE you need.
After 3 months of the 2020 Covid-19 Corona virus crisis we now have a very exacting handle on what fitness and health businesses need for PPE.
Here are the top 5 most requested fitness and health promotional products in the age of COVID-19.
5. Large Volume Hand Sanitizer. At the beginning of the pandemic there was an enormous demand for large sizes of high-alcohol (75% alcohol, gel formula) hand sanitizer. Very difficult to source at first as domestic supply was obliterated.
The largest demand for these was for institutional users such as hospitals and prisons. Now, as of June 1st, 2020 we have two domestic made in the USA manufacturers for these. Prices are dropping from their highs of March and we can now source in under two weeks. Link.
4. Face Shields. Face shields are in high demand, especially for businesses that deal with the public such as, gyms, coffee shops, high-traffic stores.
A face shield will protect the user from coughs and sneezes directed at the shield. To be truly effective the shield should be worn in conjunction with a face mask. We currently have these in Chicago. Link.
3. Nitrile Glove. Nitrile gloves are up in demand from pre-COVID-19 to now by a factor of 1000%. They are also one of the hardest products to keep on the shelf. Nitrile gloves should be used in concert with a mask as the virus can easily be transferred from the gloves’ surface to an unprotected face. Nitrile gloves cannot be logo’d. We currently have these in Chicago. Link.
2. KN95 and 3 Ply Masks. In the earliest part of the pandemic, the world went “apeshit crazy” for the KN95 mask. The KN95 mask was the most requested PPE on Amazon for almost four weeks. We currently have these in the USA. Link.
1. Logo-Ready Small MOQ Hand Sanitizer. During the height of the first wave of the pandemic it was all but impossible to get small order sizes (100-250 pieces) of hand sanitizer. These two-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer are now available. We currently have these in the USA. Link.
Top 5 most non-PPE requested fitness and health promotional products in the age of COVID-19.
During the covid crisis, not only does the fitness and health industry need to market their businesses with PPE they also need to reignite their brand identity as we start to return to work.
The key with improving brand identity during covid and going into the new post covid world is to be effective with your marketing ideas and at the same time economically prudent. Currently with the disruption in most businesses many business revenues are down. Couple this reduction in revenue with the double barrel of additional costs for PPE and the need to reassert your brand into your customers mind and you see dollars going out the window.
With that in mind, here are the Top 5 non-PPE promotional products for the fitness and health industry during the covid crisis.
5. Full Zip Hoody. The method is the message especially when it comes to fitness and health marketing.
Using the Hoody as a canvas for your branding method is genius. The large message space on a full zip hoody allows your fitness or health business to market your message effectively.
Let them know you are back in business and fighting the virus at the same time. The other advatage is that these gorgeous 80/20 full zip hoodies are available in small order quantities and are about 60% of the cost of traditional locally purchased swag. Link.
4. Dye Sublimated Socks. Let’s be honest, everyone wears socks, except for those “guys with stinky shoes”! Custom dye sublimated socks are at an all time bargain price and at a minimun order the price is less than $3 per pair! Link.
3. Folding reusable water bottle. These folding take anywhere water bottles are LOVED by everyone and will go to many places not just the gym. It’s take anywhere style means that it and your logo will be seen time and time again. Link.
2. Performance Wicking Tees. The venerable performance tee is better and cheaper than ever. Price is down, quality and performance are up. Plus you have a massive canvas for your logo and branding message. Link.
1. POP PHONE SOCKET. The popsocket has redefined the wase of brand identity. Everyone has a smartphone and everyone wants a pop phone socket. Now that the pop phone socket is patent safe, the price is way, way down. Pay way under $2 bucks for smaller quantities and as low as 88 cents on volume orders. Link.
Where do we go from this point forward?
In the post-covid world, aside from the PPE products listed above, American fitness and health busineses will need to set themselves apart from their competition as they kickstart their businesses back into gear.
It is important as a fitness and health industry marketer to understand that not everyone of your competitors will survive. It is also important to remember that as a fitness and health industry marketer, your own survival as a brand and a business depends on continuing to market.
The key to success in marketing in these challenging times is to spend wisely, act creatively and have a great guide and marketing strategist partner alongside. That partner would be us, www.FitnessPromotionalProducts.com