The application of lateral thinking to Marketing is one of the most relevant and important applications in the business world. Edward deBono encourages lateral thinking in this area through the challenging of ‘fixed concepts’ and traditionally accepted ways of ‘how things are done.’ This is the biggest obstacle to the lateral thinking mindset.
Admittedly lateral thinking takes some courage and guts. After the event, you are either hailed as a hero or downgraded to zero. In my future blogs on ‘lateral marketing’ I hope to give tribute to the people behind some of the world’s greatest examples of lateral marketing, and we will examine the thinking that led to what with hindsight seemed to be an ‘obvious’ logical step.
Gymnasiums and fitness centres have been around for 60 years, but it was not until 1992, that Gary and Diane Heavin came up with a ‘new’ concept from within the large expanding fitness industry, which at the time was even considered to be an oversaturated market.
The U.S. health and fitness industry was awash with traditional health clubs that catered to both men and women, offering a full range of exercise and sporting options usually in upscale locations, and equipped with a full range and strength training machines, a juice bar, instructors, a juice bar, locker rooms, showers and sauna. At the other end of the scale is a group of people who prefer to go for home exercise programs, videos, books and online subscriptions.
So where is the market ‘within these two extremes.’ ??
Gary and Diane Heavin observed the habits of these two strategic groups and came up with a new concept – Curves !!
First, the majority of women do not trade up to health clubs for the machines, the juice bars, the locker rooms or the sauna and the pool, and the chance to meet men. In fact, the average female nonathlete does not even want to run into men when she is working out, more so if she is trying lose weight and tone up. She is not inspired to line up behind machines in which she needs to change weights and adjust incline angles. Also, time has become an increasingly scarce commodity for the average woman, which means that health clubs having city centre locations also presented traffic challenges that discourage going to the gym.
Second, training from home is also not always desirable as it’s too easy to find an excuse for not working out. It’s hard to be disciplined within the confines of one’s home – and working out collectively, instead of alone, is more motivating and inspiring.
The key to creating a ‘new market’ within the ‘existing market’ was to break out of this ‘tunnel’ vision and understanding the underlying factors that determine how customers take decisions.
This was the thinking behind Curves – the Texas-based women’s fitness company.
Curves was founded by Gary Heavin and his wife, Diane. They opened their first Curves in Harlingen, Texas, in 1992. This new concept of 30-minute fitness, strength training, weight-loss guidance, and an environment designed for women was immediately successful. They began to develop plans for franchising the concept, with the first opening in 1999. Curves once claimed to be the world’s largest fitness franchise and was recognized as one of the 10 largest franchise companies in the world in 2005.
The experience in a Curves club is entirely different from that in a typical health club. The member enters the exercise room where the machines are arranged, not in rows facing a television as in a health club, but in a circle to facilitate interchange among members, making the experience fun. The circuit training system uses hydraulic exercise machines which need no adjusting, are safe, simple to use, and nonthreatening. Specifically designed for women, these machines reduce impact stress and build strength and muscle. While exercising, members can talk and support one another, and the social, non judgemental atmosphere is totally different from that of a typical health club. There are few if any mirrors on the wall, and there are no men staring at you.
Curves facilities are now everywhere in most towns and cities in the U.S. and many other countries.
Curves is not competing directly with other health and exercise concepts.
It has created it’s own market from within the industry.