Orangetheory, FabFitFun's unique models amass brand loyalty

Orangetheory Fitness and FabFitFun discussed brand loyalty at NRF's BIG Show. (NRF)

NEW YORK—Consumers have the power to make brand recognition and loyalty shoot up almost overnight. Just ask Ellen Lathem, co-founder and partner at Orangetheory Fitness, and David Oh, chief product officer and head of growth at FabFitFun. 

Lathem and Oh spoke to a packed room of attendees also looking for similar retail success at this week's NRF BIG Show. Both brands are certainly success stories centered around fanatical consumers. 

Lathem was an exercise physiologist on a mission just eight years ago when she developed the science-tracked fitness center Orangetheory. She wanted to make fitness simple and personalized to each individual.

FabFitFun was an online magazine before the launch of its quarterly subscription box for wellness, beauty and lifestyle products. The completely personalized boxes have 160 onboarding questions, followed by questions after each delivery, so each product can be truly personalized. 

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Oh says a big success comes from the feeling of community surrounding the brand.

"Our community gets a post a minute and I'm on it 24/7," he said. "I talk to our customers, I private message them. They're a real community and I treat them like real people. Our employees are on the community as well. Everyone is a person." 

Orangetheory has grown to 850 studios and plans to reach 1,600 locations by the end of next year. Lathem says the spread of the brand was very grassroots, as fitness is a hard category to market. 

"When creating each studio, there is relationship building that takes place. This includes hiring the right individuals," she said. "Each studio has about 17 employees, so we take the time to train and cultivate those individuals."

And both businesses are very focused on personalization. Oh says his company does this through data science and clustering segmentation. 

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"We are not ordering in large quantities so our predicting abilities, our modeling trees, need to be right," he said.

Lathem says that Orangetheory prides itself on being ahead on technology. The company has created a unique Heart Beat Monitoring system that measures a user's response to a workout. 

"You can't improve what you do not measure," she said. 

Finally, both leaders spoke about how meeting an unmet need in the market has helped to increase brand loyalty.

Oh says that FabFitFun boxes provide individuals with "Christmas four times a year." It also is for people who don't have time to browse online or go to a mall, yet for $50 a box, the shopper can reward themselves with a surprise. 

And Lathem says that her studios are definitely offering a unique approach to fitness that is even being recognized internationally.

"Other countries want fitness in a box, so we're developing an entire department at corporate dedicated to that," she said. 

How do these businesses measure success?

Oh says he takes pride in the fact that with very little funding, FabFitFun is making well north of 100 million in revenue. Plus, the real success is in the community loyalty, as 25% of subscribers are from four years ago.

"They come back! That retention curve is going up," he said. 

For Lathem, she sees success in the hype that surrounds her studios before they even open. When the company began, they would be happy if they got 200 members signed up before a studio opened. Now, many studios have 700 people signed up before the studio ever opens its doors.