Recently, I was helping my grandmother clean out her attic and storage spaces, preparing her to move. We stumbled across some unique items. One of which was her old vibrating belt machine. She explained to me that in the 1960s and 70s, these belt machines were believed to help people lose weight. One simply had to place a vibrating belt around your stomach for a certain amount of time each day, and the weight would essentially melt away. All I could think was why anyone would believe that!
However, at the time, it made sense. As consumers, we want the simplest and easiest way to lose weight that requires the least amount of work from us. Essentially, we want something else to do the work for us.
That’s exactly what fitness technologies have created for us: systems that count our calories, steps, exercise, and track what we should and shouldn’t do to achieve a healthy and fit lifestyle. Fitness has now become more important to a lot of consumers than nutrition, and companies are innovating. They strive to be the most effective without being complicated. We’ll go over three products in the fitness technology market and explore how messages are communicated about the products.
In 2007, the Fitbit was born. The Fitbit is a 21st century pedometer that uses sensors and wireless technology to track how many steps the user has taken and how many calories the user has burned. It can also monitor sleep quality and certain models dually function as a watch. The Fitbit can also be connected to smartphone devices, such as iPhone and Android, to track other exercise (lifting weights, yoga, etc.) and food intake. In terms of popularity, Fitbit is up there. In only the first three months of this year, 7 million fitness bands were purchased, and Fitbits were the number one choice by consumers. So what about their communications strategy makes them so popular?
Fitbit tapped into the ease of community support. Fitbit had a product that was accessible to the masses, it was affordable, and the only exercise it actually required was walking. Wearers are rewarded for extra exercise, and consumers could use it with their peers. Exercise has grown as a social activity, and Fitbit allows people to do this without a workout schedule. Users can compare their walking and fitness levels for the day with their friends and family, setting goals together but also competing. Fitbit also made itself trendy. They recently teamed up with popular fashion designer, Tory Burch, to create a line of designer pedometer watches.
According to Shake Weight inventor, Johann Verheem, the concept for this product was actually developed in the 1990s but wasn’t launched until July 2009 after Verheem read an article about Michelle Obama’s arms. By 2010, the Shake Weight had sold 2 million units of its $19.95 product, reaching approximately $40 million in revenue. Despite reviews that the Shake Weight has little to no results, consumers continue to purchase it. Shake Weight has even released a new design that they claim can work the entire body, the Shake Weight Roll. So what makes this product so intriguing to consumers? Shake Weight’s website answers that question. In bold letters on the page it states “Why Are Women in Love with Shake Weight Roll?” Some of the reasons listed include that this exercise requires only 12 minutes of time, it eliminates discomfort and straining, and its compact design allows users to workout virtually anywhere. Shake Weight’s marketing promises what consumers want with exercise equipment – little effort by them with maximum results.
The Flex Belt
The original vibrating belt machine may have lost traction in the fitness technology and equipment market, but the concept certainly has not. Electronic muscle stimulators meant to help consumers lose weight still exist on the market. Now on the market is The Flex Belt, which essentially claims that it does the crunches for you. Users simply place the belt around their waist and it works out the abdominal muscles. This belt is directly marketed as doing the work for the consumer. On The Flex Belt’s website, they include a side-by-side comparison of The Flex Belt to another leading electronic muscle stimulator. To both the questions of “Do you need exercise while using it?” and “Does it require hard work or motivation?” the website states “NO” in all capital letters. It also states that it can be used virtually anywhere at any time.
These products, though varying in their effectiveness and benefit to consumer’s health, all promise one thing: ease. They make weight-loss and fitness easier and more accessible to the consumer. While some products encourage health and others merely improved physical appearance, they all guarantee consumers an easier way to achieve this. These products help to fit fitness into busy lives by reducing the effort of the consumer. They are a simpler way for consumers to achieve their weight-loss and fitness goals, some without ever having to leave the couch.