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Planet Fitness' judgement-free zone vows to be more than just a gym


By Laurie Fullerton | Freelance Writer

January 31, 2017 | 4 min read

Planet Fitness launched "The World Judges, We Don't – At Planet Fitness, Be Free" campaign on Jan. 1 heralding the first collaborative work between the company and Boston, MA based ad agency Hill Holliday. The campaign, which was recently showcased in The Drum, is comical and involves people being judged by other people, animals, and even babies ending with the words: "The world judges, we don't. Be free. Planet Fitness."

Planet Fitness has stated that it hopes to become a top brand in the gym category and one of their strengths is that they cater to the 80% of the market who aren't really comfortable with the gym experience. While promoting the product itself, the company's 'judgment free zone' has begun to resonate well beyond the walls of the gym.

Jessica Correa, senior vice president of marketing for Planet Fitness, addressed the Ad Club of Boston, MA recently on how the success of the Planet Fitness "judgment free" zone has resonated both within the company and to the public and led to a larger focus and message of outreach.

Jessica Correa, senior vice president, Planet Fitness

What is the promise that Planet Fitness is making?

Planet Fitness promises a "judgment free zone." What we created at Planet Fitness was a way to reach the 80% of people that finds gyms intimidating. In our case, we delivered the experience that we promised.

Promises are the cornerstone of a successful company and as brands have evolved over the years, to me the decade of the 80s was about promise making. The 90s were about promise keeping and more recently we have returned to the idea of brands making promises that consumers will be happy with. Today, a brand has to make a promise and keep a promise. Basically it has to talk the talk and walk the walk.

How did you go about marketing the "judgment free zone?"

Creating a lofty, judgment free environment is a big promise but marketing it is far more effective when it is culturally relevant. In this current political climate, with 70% of people reportedly having lost or ended a friendship during the presidential election, and 40% saying the presidential race caused tension with others, we are more divided, more judgmental than we ever have been. In this climate, Planet Fitness being judgment free could never be more relevant.

How did the "judgment free" gym experience evolve into a larger company purpose?

We did take the position as a leader but we also needed to move the perception of Planet Fitness from a basic and inexpensive gym to value-filled and purposeful. With that, Planet Fitness started a judgment free brand that has evolved into a pro-kindness, anti-bullying movement.

We have now raised $1.5m to support the boys and girls club and much of our movement has resonated with customers. We brought Hill Holiday on more recently and they took the judgment free idea and helped us create a far reaching campaign for 2017 which is "anti- judgement." Our campaign is about being in a place where you are comfortable being yourself.

How did you decide on the iconic "thumbs up" emoji as a part of the ongoing Planet Fitness message?

The thumbs up emoji had always been a part of our logo and it was one of these things that was simply hidden in plain sight. The thumbs-up emoji is now meant to say that "the world judges, we don't. Be thumbs up."

Has the new branding effort worked?

With our brand essence video and anthem spot and ongoing outreach we feel like a bigger brand. Its been a really strong January and we are getting recognized by a lot of peers. We are fiercely protective of our brand and what it stands for and we really benefited from Hill Holiday's collaboration and their culture and we have gotten a high level of PR and interest in the campaign within this first month.

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