When it comes to fitness apparel and accessories, Gymshark has quickly made a name for itself as one of the most successful and recognizable brands in the industry. With its innovative designs, high-quality products, and unparalleled marketing, the brand has become the benchmark of look-good, feel-good businesses the world over. But what exactly is the secret behind the company's fin-omenal branding success, and why it is nothing short of genius?
One of the key elements of Gymshark's branding strategy is its focus on building a strong community. There’s nothing new there; lots of fitness related businesses try to do this, but - much like Steven Spielberg’s 1975 epic creature-feature, Jaws - Gymshark's approach is pretty revolutionary.
They were one of the first brands to rely heavily on marketing through influencers and their ready-made school of eager followers. It’s genius! Influencers have persuadable audiences, itching to snap up the latest offering, who are far more likely to go and buy something because it's coming from someone they regard as trustworthy, rather than a company they are unfamiliar with. This mastery of social media marketing, and partnering with top fitness influencers to promote their products has created a mouth-watering sense of authenticity and reliability around the brand.
By aligning itself with popular and trusted voices in the fitness community (mostly), Gymshark has effectively leveraged simple trends, like YouTube hauls, to maximise its reach across a wider audience. Again, genius. One starts and the rest follow. Let’s face it, nothing screams credibility like a random teenager sitting in their bedroom trying to flog you something they've only worn once. But hey, it works.
This approach has built an online community that is dedicated to fitness and wellness, creating a sense of belonging and connection among its customers that jaws you in like tourists to a crowded beach. Gymshark's community is not just about the clothes and accessories; it is about the lifestyle, the fitness journey, and the support for each other. There is no sense that the brand is centred around the ego of one person, but rather the collective coming together of like-minded people – Mayor Vaughn would be proud. Even the company’s first physical store on London’s Regent Street is far more than just a ‘shop’. Every aspect has been tailored specifically to work for their clientele, and give them an “experience” rather than just another omnipresent outlet.
This has provided a platform for Gymshark to engage with its customers and gain feedback on its products. Taking full advantage, they were one of the first athleticwear brands to truly put the needs of the consumer first. As radical as this sounds, actually listening to what men and women wanted to wear when relaxing or working out in the gym actually works, and pretty much changed the style of gym wear, especially for women, overnight.
Pre 2012, wearing a pair of leggings to the gym was like skinny dipping at the beach close to a gnawing great-white (probably) – it may feel liberating, but will almost certainly end in disaster, and result in more on show than is socially acceptable. Speaking from personal experience, blokes had to make do with ill-fitting tracksuits and some bad hats, Harry. But much like Chief Brody, Gymshark were not prepared to simply bury the problem in the sand - they listened, and acted upon the feedback, whether it was the thickness of materials, or a more flattering design and cut. What once seemed shallow and tedious, is a now staple approach amongst other athleticwear brands.
And they aren't afraid to plaster their name all over their products. Again, as simple as it sounds, name another brand that has gone this OTT with its liveryy. Genius. It is the most basic form of branding - stick your name on something (and turn your customers into walking billboards). Head into any gym, and I guarantee you’ll find at least 3 Gymshark garmented gains getters providing the company with some free advertising. Genius.
Which nicely leads us to another crucial aspect of Gymshark's branding - its strong visual identity. The company's bold logo, eye-catching packaging and visually striking photography all create an instantly recognizable brand image that still set it apart from its sea of competitors. The deceptively simple visuals reinforce the idea of a quality product without it being hammerheaded home. Their product colours are noticeable without being nauseating, and most impressively, if you were to remove their name from their products, you can still identify it as a Gymshark commodity. Genius.
They are not only consistent across all platforms, but have adapted to the latest trends and technologies, without it feeling forced. From launching new product lines and collaborations, to experimenting with new marketing campaigns, the company have always attempted stay ahead of the wave, and rock the establishment's metaphorical boat. “We’re going to need a…”, no, maybe not.
Innovation continues to be at the heart of the Gymshark brand. You never feel they are following the model of buying in cheap garments and selling them on for a big profit with their name on it. No more do hoodies, tops and leggings look like the assembled afterthoughts of a tug of war with the gnawing gnashers of a salivating Selachimorpha. You feel that someone actually cares about what they are selling you.
And, much like chucking a scuba tank into the mouth of a passing poisson, they haven’t been afraid to try things that on first viewing seem daft, but actually turn out to be quite effective. Their newly opened “Gymshark Inherently Questioning” Centre shows their dedication to on-going idea creation. Initiatives like the “Gymshark Lifters Club” and their continued development of seamless technology show they aren’t prepared to just go with the flow. They are not afraid to take risks and try new things, allowing them to keep the brand fresh and relevant, while staying true to their values and mission.
Gymshark's branding has authenticity at its core. From the company's humble beginnings in a garage to a now £1 billion brand, they have always been transparent about their journey and steadfast to their values: “Be human”, “Give a shit”, “Do the right thing”, “Find the Gymshark way”, and “Put family first”. The brand's message is simple, relatable, and genuine; and coupling that with the effectiveness of the way it is conveyed, it is genius.
They are also not afraid to share their challenges, struggles and lessons learned, which has helped build trust and loyalty among their customers, and take their audience with them into new ventures. For example, the brand has drawn some criticism over the years for their reliance on the overly-toned (and slightly unrealistic) physiques of some of their affiliates, but their most recent marketing effort has addressed this, shifting the emphasis to a more everyday look, as well as a greater diversity of shapes, looks, colours, classes and creeds their customers can relate to. It demonstrates once again their willingness to listen to their audience and move with the tides.
Gymshark's branding success is a testament to the importance of building a strong community, creating a visually striking image, innovating, adapting, and being authentic & transparent. And everything they have done is fairly simple, and attainable for other brands. They have been able to navigate the sometimes hazardous waters of brand building like a perfect piece of machinery, whilst staying true to their principles and continuing to push themselves. Gymshark has managed to establish itself as the Quint-issential leader in the fitness industry, giving a masterclass in branding that others have tried - and failed - to emulate, proving that a strong brand makes all the difference.
My only hope is that one day, they might make something that actually fits me.