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Working Out Your Corporate Culture

September 21, 2018

“Our gym is filled with people who are constantly taking selfies.”

I thought to myself, “that sounds horrible,” as my new acquaintance described her gym. I would never join a gym like that.

And then it hit me like a ton of dumb-bells:  A gym is a perfect metaphor for corporate culture.

Most people would rather juggle chain-saws than look for a new job. Tougher still is finding a company where you can fit in and feel like you belong and make a difference.

And joining a gym can also be a panic-inducing experience for many people. If you’re uncomfortable with your body and don’t know a free-weight from an elliptical machine, it’s enough to make you decide to simply stay on the couch.

One gym franchise decided this wasn’t right. They believed in a gym that could be comfortable for anyone, regardless of fitness or experience.


Planet Fitness is one of the largest fitness club franchises in the world. They boast over ten million members of 1,500 clubs across the United States. They believe in “a unique environment in which anyone – and we mean anyone – can be comfortable. A diverse, Judgement Free Zone® where a lasting, active lifestyle can be built.”

The founders of Planet Fitness saw a gap in the marketplace. They understood that a huge segment of the population is intimidated by going to a gym. Their ideal customer is someone who may have never been to a gym before. Even if they have, they don’t want to be judged. They simply want to get started working out, to move, to be active, and to make some progress toward their fitness goal at their own pace.

It’s also important to understand what that ideal Planet Fitness customer does not want. We all know the muscle-bound man who is no stranger to working out with heavyweight, grunting and preening in front of a mirror, drinking exotic elixirs designed to help them get bigger and stronger. When Planet Fitness says “anyone” can be comfortable in their environment, they don’t mean the “I lift things up and put them down” guy.

It’s not that he’s a bad guy (we hope), it’s just that he would intimidate their target customer. So Planet Fitness crafts their marketing to communicate who is AND is not an ideal customer.

Planet Fitness makes it easy both financially and emotionally to get started. They’re telling their prospect what they believe a gym should be…and if numbers are any indication, at least ten million people believe what Planet Fitness believes. People are buying into “The Judgement Free Zone®.”

A clear purpose transforms your marketing message from an empty slogan or manipulative strategy into a cause and a rallying cry for customers and employees.


For my money, few organizations nail their belief – their purpose – better than Southwest Airlines: “Connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”

Anyone who has traveled with Southwest knows they’re getting that done. While the rest of the airline industry is struggling to make a profit, Southwest is delivering “Transfarency.” It’s straightforward to understand what flying Southwest from A to B will cost you. There is zero trickery in their fee structure. And your bags always fly free, right? Want to fly first class? It doesn’t exist at Southwest Airlines; you’ll have to find a different airline.

Planet Fitness and Southwest didn’t decide to take the path less traveled because it was easy or obvious. Planting your flag in the ground and saying “this is who we are and we’re going to exclude the majority of the population” is a risk few are willing to take.

But you know what? That risk, that clear communication of belief, attracts the right customers. It attracts the right employees! It’s refreshing to do business with an organization that believes what you believe. It’s fulfilling to go to work when you believe what your company believes.

Furthermore, a clear purpose – the stated reason your company exists – transforms your marketing message from an empty slogan or manipulative strategy into a cause and a rallying cry for customers and employees.


One of my favorite examples of a winning culture is the Nashville Predators. For years, the Predators struggled to put butts in seats. They’re now viewed as one of the top franchises in sports. And their culture isn’t just something you find in their marketing message. It echoes throughout Bridgestone Arena every time the puck hits the ice. It’s about family-friendly entertainment that everyone can enjoy, regardless of your hockey IQ.

Last summer, my brother-in-law and his wife lost their home to a fire. They escaped with the shirts on their backs, but lost absolutely everything else. My twin nephews play hockey in their hometown of Victor, Idaho and are Predators fans. Their grandfather and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We knew the boys lost their beloved Predators gear, so my wife made a stop at the Predators Team Store at Bridgestone Arena to buy some replacement gear. My wife casually mentioned that she was shopping for them and needed some advice on sizing. When the staff found out why she was shopping, they refused to let her pay. They gave her new Predators gear at no cost.

For the last five years, I’ve been a Predators season ticket holder and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I tell stories about the Stanley Cup run of 2017…but the story I tell more than any other is that of my wife’s experience in the team store that day. Predators CEO Sean Henry tells everyone who will listen about the strong culture within the Predators organization. When your retail employees buy into who you are and what you’re about, you’re doing something right.


Take a step back. Look at your company from the perspective of an outsider who knows nothing about your company. Here are five questions to ask:

  1. What specific messages about your purpose do you communicate via your marketing?
  2. Is your organization’s marketing consistent with your culture?
  3. What do you say about the kind of product and service you offer and how it’s delivered?
  4. Does your messaging attract the right customer and repel the wrong prospects?
  5. What impact does your culture have internally? Does it influence your team’s behavior toward their work and your customers?

At Element 47, we believe when your corporate culture is clearly defined your marketing instantly becomes easier and more effective. Don’t miss the opportunity to work out your corporate culture it before it’s too late.