Equinox’s forced trial, virtual meetings best practices: Tuesday’s daily brief

Good morning, Marketers, and is every company a content company?

Was it the year before last (or a century ago) that all kinds of companies were announcing, “We’re really a software company”? Based just on my memory, I think I’ve heard that from Amazon to AirBnB, from Uber to WeWork. As we emerge blinking into the spring of 2021, I seem to be seeing content companies everywhere.

The Equinox Group is a prime example of a business that was heavily invested in the close proximity of heavy-breathing bodies. When that turned out to be non-viable, they pivoted to their Equinox Media digital content operation and raised their online and app-based training game.

I think there are many examples of this out there: the question is whether it’s a permanent change. Josh Rappaport of Equinox Media probably has it right. Engagement in the future will be hybrid (see story below).

Kim Davis

Editorial Director

How Equinox pivoted from clubs to content  

For the Equinox Group, 2020 was the year the fitness clubs were replaced by fitness content. The Equinox Group itself, and the brands it owns — including SoulCycle and Blink Fitness — had built a business around in-person training, something that was simply not viable under lockdown. 

“To take a step back,” said Josh Rappaport, Director, Post-Production and Publishing at Equinox Media, “it’s important to note that, although there was a lot of preparation and work that went into our products in 2019, it was not until March 2020 that we debuted Equinox+, a first-of-its-kind platform powering two products: the Equinox+ mobile app and the SoulCycle at-home bike.”

The Equinox+ app was always intended eventually to be available to non-members, but the pandemic drastically accelerated the timeline. Equinox Media had already been using Airtable, the low code collaboration service, but the pandemic forced a halt in production, with the business, like so many others, compelled to re-assess its direction and priorities. This had the benefit of allowing the content team to step back, rethink workflows, and re-tool onboarding for collaborators.

But Equinox is not just patching together a customer experience for a temporary situation. “We believe the future of fitness is a hybrid of digital and physical experiences,” said Rappaport. “The pandemic has created a forced trial of digital fitness and expedited a shift in consumer behavior. Yet, we know that our consumers still crave in-real-life experiences, so our membership is grounded in the understanding that members want the flexibility to pursue fitness on their own terms.”

Airtable serves business teams across the board, but today announced a solution specifically designed for marketers, allowing orchestration of campaigns and launches, and measurement of outcomes, as well as the management of workflow and approvals for creative deliverables.

Read more here.

Streaming is soaring. Will data collaborations rise to the occasion?

Streaming video is continuing to grow audiences, and tech companies are developing new ways to reach them. Expanded services and award-winning content provide all kinds of options that attract viewers. The resulting fragmentation, however, creates challenges that call for increasingly innovative tech solutions to serve relevant, actionable ads to consumers.

Marketers at all stages of the supply chain are aware of the prize that awaits if they can deliver more personalized messages at the scale of streaming audiences. As traditional linear TV retains a good chunk of its audience and ad revenue, there have been some changes, especially over the last year, that signal a more substantial and complicated transition underway.

This month, global information company TransUnion entered a partnership with a data and insights platform, Blockgraph, which is owned and operated by Comcast NBCUniversal, Charter Communications, Inc. and ViacomCBS, Inc. The TV publishers (aka broadcasters) gain the use of privacy-focused identity, data modeling and audience creation through TransUnion’s Tru Optik, an OTT and streaming data ecosystem that TransUnion acquired last year. 

Because Blockgraph is an open-platform identity infrastructure that is privacy-focused, it provides aggregated and anonymized insights, as well as measurement and addressability. An advertiser who enters into this ecosystem will now have an expanded reach among various linear and streaming properties while maintaining the privacy for consumers that is expected.

These kinds of collaborations see no signs of letting up. Marketing specialist firm Winterberry Group flagged both data collaborations in linear and connected TV as areas of growth in their 2021 outlook. 

“Data collaboration is going to be as important in the CTV/linear ad markets since we expect more private gardens to exist by cable providers, broadcast/streaming networks and device manufacturers,” said senior managing partner Bruce Biegel. “Brands and their agencies want to collaborate to enable insights, activation with reach and frequency capping and, as importantly, measurement.”

Read more here.

Virtual meetings best practices   

If the rapid changes in the business world over the last year could be summed up in a title, it might be from this new book, Suddenly Virtual: Making Remote Meetings Work. It is co-authored by Karin M. Reed (a former Emmy Award-winning news anchor and C-Suite executive coach) and Joseph A. Allen (Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah), and it’s available from Wiley & Sons Publishing.

The book offers some helpful tips and principles for marketers to consider before clicking on the next meeting in their calendar:

– Take care of your “Personal Production Value.” How you look and sound on your equipment isn’t just about looking good, but about showing respect to the others on your virtual meeting.

– Offline traps for tedious meetings make virtual meetings even worse. Maybe in the old days you could get away with cutting some corners in preparation for a presentation or meeting. Not so for virtual meetings. You need to have an agenda, and any misstep is amplified. The authors point out that we are quicker on our feet in person. In the digital realm, we need every step of a meeting mapped out for the benefit of our colleagues.

– The camera is your conduit. Focus not just your eyes but your energy through the lens to build a connection with the people in your meeting.

– Don’t rely too heavily on virtual meetings. “Zoom fatigue” is a thing. Not every touchpoint needs a video interaction to move forward the next action.

– Stop back-to-back meetings. Everybody needs a breather, especially virtually when people have fewer in-person social interactions to calm themselves down and maintain balance. A study in this book found that people need 5 minutes of recovery time from a good meeting and 17 minutes for a bad one.

– Put more humanity into the meetings. Begin meetings with basic greetings and show concern. Ask, “How are you?” These kinds of social lubrication were available in real offices at the water cooler or in passing from desk to desk. Wise meeting presenters will reintroduce these necessary parts of office culture into their virtual meetups.

Why we care. As marketers, some of these principles might have occurred to us during the drastic transformations of the last year. But it’s always helpful to give voice to them in the context of serious research and analysis. And with a book like this handy, it’s easier to promote the behavior in an intentional way throughout your organization, even if some of the principles are no-brainers. 

Quote of the day

“We believe the future of fitness is a hybrid of digital and physical experiences.” Josh Rappaport, Director, Post-Production and Publishing, Equinox Media

About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech Today. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.