1) Planet Fitness looks to Toys R Us and Sears’ real estate leftovers to expand its gym network.

WHAT HAPPENED: To open its planned 225 new gyms, Planet Fitness will occupy some of the vacant spaces left by now-bankrupt Toys R Us and Sears.

Why it matters

  • Planet Fitness’ footprint grew 60% between 2016 and 2019, to 1,800-plus gyms in the U.S.; the company has also seen 12 consecutive years of sales growth. As it rides the growing wellness economy—U.S. gym memberships shot up 37% between 2008 and 2018)—it still sees room to capitalize on the 80% of Americans who don’t yet belong to one. Though it seeks to open 225 new locations in 2019, it may grow its total footprint to 4,000 gyms in the future.
  • To ensure that this square footage will thrive, Planet Fitness is making a few strategic decisions. For one, inhabiting real estate made vacant by the Toys R Us and Sears bankruptcies will save the company the cost of building out its own infrastructure from scratch, though it will still have to spend on remodeling. But perhaps more importantly, Planet Fitness is partnering with retailers. After performing an internal survey, the fitness brand found that 76% of Planet Fitness members shop before or after their workout. In March 2019, it announced a partnership with Kohl’s, which will lease space to Planet Fitness next to ten of its stores—Burlington Coat Factory and Planet Fitness launched a similar collaboration. Not only are these retailers aligned with the price point of Planet Fitness’ audience (membership costs $10 a month), but putting these stores and gyms side by side also means that consumers are more likely to see them as a joint destination. In turn, this can drive sales and memberships at both companies, as well as increase foot traffic, as more consumers plan their workouts and errands together. The gyms could also help reinvigorate some of Kohl’s sluggish properties, which couples nicely with the retailer’s decision to allow Amazon customers to make returns at its stores.

2) Consumer brands including Adidas and Mountain Dew see to new promise in the gaming industry.

WHAT HAPPENED: The activewear and food and beverage industries are dressing and feeding professional players and live streamers and in the growing esports industry.

Why it matters

  • Companies in the athleisure and activewear industry such as Adidas, Nike and Champion are looking to gaming culture to market their products. Similarly, 40% of Mountain Dew’s 2019 marketing budget will be spent on putting ads in front of gamers, largely through sponsoring esports leagues. As these brands do so, they’re shifting their attention from action sports, where many already spend a large amount of ad dollars, to gaming—much different experiences athletically, though both rely on the thrill of a live game.
  • Like other industries, gaming has created new influencers out of professional players, some of whom have 1 million Instagram followers and many of whom spend hours live streaming each week, which makes them ideal billboards to advertise products. Meanwhile, platforms like the streaming app Twitch are receive 15 million daily visitors. Mimicking the strategy brands and retailers have taken on Instagram with influencer marketing, companies like Adidas and Mountain Dew are hoping that putting their products on professional gamers or circulating them on the apps and sites where the players live stream will bring an authenticity or at least expose their massive audiences to the brand, inciting them to buy. As one gamer put it, “as soon as the players started elevating their wardrobe, that’s when all the fans started doing it too.” The main challenge is distribution: How brands will resonate across a somewhat decentralized network of gaming sites and related apps is questionable, though finding the right partners (players with the largest followings) is arguably the most important step for success.

3) The Wing, known for its all-women’s coworking spaces, is branching out into the design business.

WHAT HAPPENED: The Wing is taking its women-led coworking concept to offer interior design services.

Why it matters

  • The Wing, founded in 2016, will operate 11 locations by 2020 across Boston, Chicago, D.C., LA, London, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto. Since entering the coworking industry, it’s built a brand based in creating experiences for women, by women. Recently, the company has begun to exercise its brand outside of its own real estate. For example, Two Trees, a commercial and residential development company based in Brooklyn, hired The Wing in fall 2018 to create six lactation rooms in three of its commercial properties in Dumbo.
  • The Wing has internal expertise to rely on to bring its design business to market. According to the company, 80% of the custom furniture at The Wing’s most recent coworking spaces in Chicago and LA were designed by an in-house team (and produced by a foreign manufacturer). But aside from the financial and creative benefits of this internal team, The Wing’s brand will likely provide a lot of power to carry its design services forward, whether or not it launches into a bonafide company (as of this writing, The Wing only says it has more projects like that with Two Trees in the works). Notably, the lactation rooms at Two Trees aren’t just about providing functional spaces for mothers—they also include The Wing’s branding, thereby serving as a marketing opportunity for the company. Though The Wing’ design ambitions can’t be purely about customer acquisition since The Wing would be designing spaces within other companies and offices, it could fuel other products and services that may arise down the road while helping to spread its brand to new audiences.

4) Billboards on the road to Coachella became top marketing opportunities this year—just the latest indicator of the importance of outdoor advertising and on-the-go retail.

WHAT HAPPENED: In the four weeks leading up to the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in late March and early April, billboard prices on Interstate 10 rose 31%, according to AdQuick, an self-service outdoor advertising platform.

Why it matters

  • A single billboard on the road to Coachella clocked in at $8,000-$20,000 for a four-week period. Price aside, companies who seized the opportunity were able to put their brand in front of a few hundred thousand sets of eyes, particularly among the younger demographics who attended the festival. According to AdQuick, music agents and startup apps comprised a large portion of the billboard advertisers, as did brands hosting events at or near Coachella, including American Express and Calvin Klein.
  • Coachella has become a massive opportunity for companies to interact directly with consumers. This year, Amazon brought its lockers to the festival, letting attendees order packages for last-minute items such as sunblock and portable phone chargers, while Google Pixel collaborated with Childish Gambino to promote its new smartphone model. The interest in billboards is another instance of brands meeting consumers where they already are—even if it’s only relevant for less than a month. If Amazon Lockers, Uniqlo vending machines and concert merch are examples of on-the-go retail, as you read in the Points of Departure Report, billboards are on-the-go marketing. They also give digitally-native or digital-only companies a way to interact with customers in real life, off of Facebook and Instagram, where costs continue to rise and competition runs high.