Candlelight, loud music, and the chance for a potential celebrity sighting – it sounds a bit like a nightclub, or at the very least a trendy bar. While all of the above are nightlife commonalities, they are also a key factor in the success of SoulCycle – an intense, full-body workout done on a stationary bike. The brand has turned “spin class” into one of the most successful fitness trends around, generating a cult-like following among its devotees, which include Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Charlize Theron just to name a few. In addition, celebs such as Lena Dunham and Oprah have even held SoulCycle birthday parties.
SoulCycle has set itself apart from other fitness trends in a few, key ways. The brand creates a hard-to-get product. Most gyms and fitness programs sell its clients monthly or yearly subscriptions. SoulCycle sells individual classes (which can also be purchased in bulk) and markets them like concert tickets. Registration opens up at noon every Monday, and most classes quickly sell out due to coveted instructors and music-themed classes.
SoulCycle has also partnered with up-scale brands to position itself in the minds of its consumers. The candles that light the studios are from high-end home furnishings brand Jonathan Adler; luxury Manhattan nail salon TenOverTen makes a nail polish in the same yellow as SoulCycle’s bikes; and Lululemon even created custom SoulCycle leggings for riders to purchase. In addition to the chic “Soul” branded workout apparel, the brand sells accessories such as iPhone cases and towels.
With no signs of slowing down, today there are thirty locations nationwide. The company plans to open fifty to sixty studios worldwide by 2015. In addition, SoulCycle is also heavily into worthy-cause marketing. Its charity rides are on track to raise $2 million.
The Way I See It
- I see that SoulCycle has built itself an extraordinarily loyal fan base through the need-to-be-there vibe of a great party with the discipline of a fitness boot camp, and expanded the following by offering branded gear and clothing. By pairing the cult favorite fitness class with “Soul” apparel, the brand continues to engage its community.
- Experience-driven exercise regimens like SoulCycle and CrossFit have tapped into the twin desires of wanting to stay (or get) fit and wanting to be part of a community. The result is that its product – the workout experience – is more lasting and effective, and its customers become fiercely loyal brand ambassadors.
The Way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Gabby Etrog Cohen, SoulCycle’s Vice President, Public Relations and Brand Strategy to talk about its branding and marketing efforts.
SoulCycle started out as a storefront with a yellow painted rickshaw out front and is now one of the hottest fitness brands in the country. Some of that’s obviously the experience, but some of that is marketing. What’s SoulCycle’s approach to advertising and marketing? How do you get the word out?
It is a mix of word of mouth, digital marketing, and relationships. We do not advertise.
How has that approach changed as you’ve expanded out of the New York market into places like Washington, D.C. or California?
Certainly we have had to try different tactics but our product is SO experiential, once riders try a class, they become our greatest brand ambassadors.
Pack. Tribe. Crew. Posse. Cult. Gang. Community. These are all words that discuss the brand’s mantra that SoulCycle is more than a class, it’s a community. How have you leveraged this mentality to attract and retain your clientele?
Truly, it is a community of riders who support each other on and off the bike. It is so much more than just an exercise class.
How do video content and social media engagement on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook play into your marketing efforts?
They are a natural extension of our rider community.
Though David Beckham, Tom Cruise, and Jake Gyllenhaal have all been known to hop on a SoulCycle bike, your clientele is mostly female. What are you doing to attract more men to SoulCycle?
We have a ton of male riders at SoulCycle, but it is certainly a growing market for us. This November we launched a program in support of the Movember Foundation – the leading global organization committed to changing the face of men’s health by raising awareness for men’s health issue – specifically prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental illness. To support Movember, SoulCycle launched an aptly named #NoMoExcuses initiative. As part of the campaign, SoulCycle offered all first time male riders a complimentary class at any SoulCycle studio across the country during the entire month of November. Through a social media campaign, SoulCycle also posted a photo lineup of bros along with typical excuses to skip exercising. The SOUL community was called to action to tag their male friends and colleagues on the image of the bro with the same excuse they’ve heard them use to get out of working out. Once tagged, a challenge was initiated for the tagged bro to take a SoulCycle class, and get moving! As an incentive and to support the challenge, SoulCycle invited all male riders to take their first class free at all 32 studios across the country. The SoulCycle community was also able to challenge a bro to ride by entering their email address on the www.SoulCycle/NoMoExcuses.com landing page. Once submitted, the bro received an email from SoulCycle saying that they have been challenged to take their first SoulCycle class by another rider (whose name will also appear in the email). SoulCycle then invited the bro to take a SoulCycle class for free.
What is the coolest object in your office?
It is a tie between the paper mache face of my dog from my amazing mother-in-law, or my publicist Barbie from my friend Amy.