Our Stance: April Edition
Welcome to your first April installment of Our Stance, an irregular - but hopefully welcome - insight into the views of the Strategy and Insight Team. Do give us a shout if there’s anything you’re keen to hear more about. Or if we’ve said something you disagree with. We love a wee fight.
Female only gyms: the future of exercise or a step back in time? by Moira Garden and Maddy Sim
Yesterday, The Stylist Group (e.g. Stylist magazine) announced that they were to launch a female only fitness studio in London’s Mayfair. This is to be called ‘Stylist Strong’. With tailored workout programmes by Nike’s global trainer, Stylist Strong has been born out of recognition that strength training, specifically weight training, is a growing interest for women.
The health and fitness industry has grown and evolved a lot in the last decade. From athletic wear to protein powders, sales have been booming. The prevalence of social media in our everyday lives has allowed start up fitness brands, such as Gymshark, to be one of the most successful sport clothing brand of the last few years. Harnessing the power of Instagram influencers, Gymshark has acquired an army of toned, beautiful, gym-going “models”, who document their gym workout and share exercise tips whilst wearing the latest Gymshark clothing. Across the Gymshark Instagram accounts, they have over 6 million followers and this does not include those who follow the individuals themselves.
Alongside the growing fitness industry, there has been a clear shift in the stigma that surrounds women and sport. Nike’s ‘Dream Crazier’ advert, narrated by Serena Williams, clearly represents a growing desire for female equality but also across race, religion and disability. In the one month since launching, it has received just under 9 million views on YouTube.
Having recently started to weight train myself, something that I have subsequently fallen in love with, I know first-hand how intimidating it can be. The ‘weights section’ has historically had a reputation for being a male-dominated arena and there’s a general worry about embarrassing yourself. But my argument is that this applies to everyone, not just women. And, let’s be honest, people are more engrossed in their phones (or staring at themselves in the mirror), than to care about what’s happening next to them.
In the press release for Stylist Strong, the Chief Executive discussed body diversity and how all shapes and sizes should be reflected through brand communication.
Whilst I, more than anyone, agree with this statement and appreciate what Stylist Strong are trying to achieve, I worry that it’s ignoring the root of the problem. In excluding men from a public gym, are we not stepping back to the 1960s when marathons were single gendered? It’s 2019. I think that we should be ripping out the root, rather than providing an alternative stem.
Stylist magazine (and their now discontinued and more male focused counterpart, Shortlist magazine) have long interested me. A free magazine, that seems to invest heavily both in volume and quality of content. A quick glance at freelance rates suggests they don’t completely stiff their writers, and they’ve had the likes of Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston and Hilary Clinton on their cover. It may be free, but it doesn’t come across cheap.
Recently I’ve felt like you can’t move for Stylist partnerships. Brand partnerships (Levi’s, House of Fraser, Timberlands, Volvo) and many hashtagged days and clubs and stunts (The Stylist Book Group, the Remarkable Women Awards, the #VisibileWomen campaign). That’s not a criticism. A free magazine must make money somehow, and Stylish feels like a publishing brand that understands their audience – none of the partnerships feel outlandishly mercenary.
But I do wonder if last year’s discontinuation of Shortlist will see them kick it up a gear. What will entry to Stylist Strong cost? Is it another attempt to make the freemium model work – diversifying into gyms, a market showing continued value growth?
Free content on the internet has changed consumer expectations. Why pay for journalism when there are so many free-to-read articles already cluttering our social feeds? The price will be seeing trusted publishing brands entering areas that feel…grasping. Mind you, if that distracts them from writing about the apparent need for crystals in our beauty routines I’m fine with that.
April Fools day came around again – and with it a slew of branded gags. by Maddy Sim
Those rascally brands and their April Fools.
What used to be a one(ish)-off is now de rigueur. Are you even a brand if you aren’t cheekily inventing a product spin off (with hilarious consequences), going live with a leftfield marketing campaign (with hilarious consequences) or putting out social posts that sound like they were concocted under the influence (…think you get it now).
Social media has a lot to answer for, but my chief complaint is that it’s given brands carte blanche to pretend they are people. Usually irreverent people, but also occasionally sympathetic people who want to share in any emotional outpouring they see fit. Hence these kinds of heartfelt messages;
I understand the desire. When it works, it works – and even better, PR and sharing means that it works for free. But it’s also a good reminder to at least try to lead the pack. Branded April Fools don’t work like they used to, because we know they’re coming. ‘Human brands’ don’t work like they used to because so many brands are up to it, so we expect something else from a brand if it is to differentiate itself. Be brave and try something new.
But hey, at least not every brand-driven prank is a complete cringe. Every now and again there’s an April Fool which hits the spot…