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Hip fitness club chain Equinox is unashamedly brash in its approach to marketing, as evidenced by its latest campaign built around the hashtag #preapologize. We came across this ‘official pre-apology’ (sans hyphen) on the Equinox Twitter feed, which apologises for the boisterous confidence-fuelled behaviour expected from its members after a winter of toning.
The hashtag also ties in with an Instagram campaign featuring images overlaid with further pre-apologies, and a quick glance at the Equinox website makes it clear that the brand is targeting those who consider themselves to be eccentric and unconventional. But it’s the letter we’re focusing on, as it has received a largely negative response with “crap” and “misogynistic” the verdict of two tweeters.
“I preapologize for the woman at the beach going “European””, was highlighted for particular objection, while it was made clear by a commenter that no woman should pre-apologise for “Saturdaying a Tuesday night”. There’s no explicit mention of male behaviour, however.
It seems Equinox has used a colloquial tone of voice and provocative content to attract a certain customer, arguably those with a single-minded mentality, and a willingness to throw dumbbells around at 6am perhaps. There is of course nothing wrong with this approach, but the response suggests they may have gone too far and begun to alienate even their own customers. Many businesses have experienced a backlash on Twitter after posting insensitive or offensive messages, and there’s a fine line between being bold and being arrogant on the platform.
When developing a brand and tone of voice that appeal to a tightly defined audience – and particularly when the aim is to stand out – the messages need to be precise for maximum impact. This leaves little margin for error, and greater risk of pushing away the target group if you miss the mark.
Although some firms have courted controversy to raise their profile, it isn’t without risk. Judging by Equinox’s latest campaign, it is one they’re happy to take.