A grassroots marketing idea for Concept2

I love Concept2. It’s a privately owned company in Morrisville, Vermont that was founded in a dairy barn by the Dreissigacker brothers in the 1970s to make carbon fiber oars and rowing machines. The brothers, both veterans of the USA national team and elite athletes, needed a way to maintain their fitness during the frozen Vermont winter so they cannibalized an old bicycle, nailed it to the floor, and figured out how to make a rowing machine.

That machine has morphed over the last 30 years into a simple, well-engineered, accurate and affordable piece of equipment known as a Concept2 Model D/E ergometer. It is the standard for most high school, collegiate and national rowing programs, and is the centerpiece of the growing sport of indoor rowing. Users can race each other over the internet by networking their ergs, and the exercise is acclaimed by everyone from firefighters to astronauts to radical programs such as CrossFit as the ultimate, full-body workout.

When I travel I try to pick hotels on the basis of whether or not they have a Concept2 ergometer. Very few do, tending to instead buy whatever the corporate headquarters purchasing agent has negotiated as part of a bulk buy for treadmills and stair-steppers, etc.. There are some rowing machines on the market which are complete and utter disasters. The worst of them is the Bally Life Rower, followed, almost below disdain, with any number of cheap rolling-seat-piston based contraptions sold at K-Mart. A WaterRower is an acceptable stand-in, and the other alternatives are almost never seen outside of an elite training facility.

What drives me nuts is the condition of the Concept2s in any given commercial gym. These machines are relatively cheap, but because they are so simple in terms of moving parts they tend to get parked in a corner and ignored until they completely fail. There is a relatively constant, but slow paced upgrade cycle on the machines, with new display monitors, handles, and small tweaks introduced every two years or so. Most gyms never upgrade and because Concept2 operated as a direct web/telesales operation, I doubt there is a large sales force physically calling on the big chains of gyms or hotels to push upgrades.

So Concept2 — here’s a simple idea. Print up adhesive-backed labels with your 800 number, your logo, and a short checklist. The headline should be: “Fix Me!” Put a picture of your latest erg on the sticker with your logo. Under the headline write: “One of your customers thinks you should … then add a checklist:

  • Replace this machine with a new Concept2 Model D
  • Upgrade this machine with a new Performance Monitor
  • Replace the worn foot straps
  • Oil the chain
  • Replace the seat bearings
  • Upgrade the handle
  • etc.

Make the labels available on your site and let people like me stuff a few into our gym bags.  I’ve gone up to trainers and sundry attendants and asked them to fix the equipment, but a big sticker stuck on the frame would get their attention, spare me and them the confrontation of arguing over a machine, and give Concept2 a little branding.

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