Faulty judgment by Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness' "Judgment Free Zone" slogan is nothing new.

Planet Fitness' “Judgment Free Zone” slogan is nothing new, nor is its price-based appeal to the average person. Its differentiation from other gyms is that it doesn't take itself too seriously and it welcomes all in a judgment-free environment.

What is new, though, is its ever-expanding multi-platform campaign against people who seriously sculpt their bodies or make noise during an intense workout. Planet Fitness has a word for them: lunks.

The company launched a free “Lunkinator” app for users to superimpose someone's face onto a sculpted body. In addition, a series of videos were uploaded to Planet Fitness' YouTube channel illustrating the behavior of “lunks,” such as a spot where a massive bodybuilder, complete with his Ah-nold accent, answers questions by a gym employee the exact same way, “I pick things up and put them down.” In the end, the employee escorts the “lunk” out the door. The company also offers T-shirts on its website with the phrase “I pick things up and put them down.”

In the grand scheme of things, it's Planet Fitness who puts itself down, and hardcore gym enthusiasts are letting it know. A recent online protest emerged whereby disgruntled “lunks” flagged the YouTube videos as inappropriate so many times the gym had to shutter its account and open under a new username. Now some rival gyms are posting YouTube commercials in which they escort nerdy-looking characters out for disapproving of the noise level. One video even takes on Planet Fitness' slogan “Not his planet: yours,” by asking the nerdy guy, “What planet are you on?”

There's a difference between carving out a niche market with digs at “the other crowd” and a full-frontal assault on active stakeholders. For example, Miller High Life pokes fun of snobbery by “taking back the high life” because it knows the chic crowd doesn't drink its beer. Planet Fitness gyms might occasionally draw a person who wants to work out, grunt, and flex in the mirror.

The brand should think about what its slogan “judgment free” really means.

PR Play rating:
1. Clueless
2. Ill-advised
3. On the right track
4. Savvy
5. Ingenious

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