My usual disclaimer when starting a controversial post. This article is a real rant about the last few communications that I have received from Planet Fitness. I want to illustrate how business operations can greatly affect your marketing campaign and leave you with little control over the backlash is to follow.
Around 2 weeks ago, I received an email from Discovery letting me know what my monthly rates for Planet Fitness would be for 2011. That’s where my first inkling of annoyance started. I am on Discovery as a medical aid primarily because of the fact that Vitality allows me to – for a minimal monthly fee – be a member of the fine fitness institution that is Planet Fitness. There was no talk, when I joined up, about additional monthly fees.
To further my love for Planet Fitness, I then received a further sms, from Planet Fitness themselves this time, letting me know that my bank account would be double debited on the first of December for my membership fees.
(Cue the boiling blood…)
Now a few questions sprang to mind at this point :
- What on Earth is going on with Planet Fitness and Discovery’s relationship!?
- How dare Discovery pass my banking details across to Planet Fitness?!
- Where can I find a new gym?
Luckily I went to gym that afternoon and joined the picketing masses at the front desk demanding to know what on Earth was going on. We were curtly told that, “these messages were not meant for you, delete them and move on.”
Which I did. Ready to put this whole tirade behind me. But then….
The plot thickened…
This morning I received the following sms from Planet Fitness :
“Due to SA power demands, Planet Fitness will reduce our operating hours from 1 Jan 2011. We will nolonger be open 24 hours. Contact your club for details.”
The thing that really irks me is that Planet Fitness must think that I am stupid. Don’t lie to me and pretend that you are closing early to reduce the load on the Eskom power supply within the country. You are closing early because you are not making money between 02:00 and 04:30!
Let’s look at the damage.
From the beginning Discovery and Planet Fitness have been guilty of database mismanagement. They should have segmented their database enough to realise who on their database was a Vitality member and then NOT send the fees messages to them. Both of these messages have left bad tastes in their members mouths. Couple to this the fact that the Planet Fitness level of service delivery has dropped significantly (my opinion) over the last few months and you have a lot of members not loving Planet Fitness.
On another level, with Planet Fitness choosing to cut their operating times, they are losing what I deem as being one of their biggest differentiators. Now their offering does not differ significantly to Virgin Active.
In my opinion, Planet Fitness now have a huge mountain to climb to re-elevate their brand. They would need to start managing their online reputation. Second to that they need to evaluate what it is that they are bringing to their target market that makes it different from their competitors.
Let’s hope they don’t choose a wannabe comedian to be their spokesperson though…