14 Jun 2018
What my gym taught me about effective copywriting

What My Gym Taught Me About Effective Copywriting

Once I had kids I never seemed to have enough time or energy to do anything about getting in shape, so at the start of the year, I decided once and for all to commit to exercising regularly (and eating well). This was one new year’s resolution I was determined to keep, so I had to make sure that I joined a gym that was right for me.

After shopping around, I finally joined Virgin Active, and one of the first things I noticed was the quality of their microcopy, which was crafted in a way that really resonated with me.

From membership forms, on-boarding documents to club rules, wading through pages of complex verbiage before even setting foot on a treadmill is often par for the course when joining a new gym. Clever copy can inspire and mobilize people into taking action, but when it comes to gyms, badly written copy has the added potential to discourage an already nervous beginner from taking that first step (literally), towards a healthy lifestyle.

An increased awareness of the importance of health among consumers in Asia has seen a rise in fitness facilities in the region, but the sudden closure of California Fitness in 2016 versus Virgin Active’s rapid expansion in recent years illustrates the highly competitive nature of the fitness industry in Singapore. Against this backdrop, those that succeed understand that well-written copy makes a huge difference between a great customer experience and a lousy one.

Here are some examples of how Virgin Active used great copywriting to put me at ease and get their brand’s personality across to create meaningful interactions along every stage of my fitness journey:

They used humour to discourage undesirable behaviour

Any business owner knows that getting customers to do less-than-pleasant things for the collective good of other patrons is always difficult. Anyone who trains with weights will know that setting up a bar is often a workout, so when a sign like this is able to persuade me to put away 50kg worth of metal into their own placeholders after a self-inflicted death-by-deadlift, you know it’s effective communications at work.

They aren’t afraid to be cheeky

In the age of Instagram, a cheeky, eye-catching sign has the potential to be shared on social media, reaching an audience far beyond your current circle. It is worth noting, however, that across different markets there is a fine line between being cheeky and offensive, so it might be worth taking your copy out for a cultural road-test before committing to anything more permanent.

They keep it short and sweet

Things don’t always work perfectly in a gym. But there’s nothing worse than rocking up to a piece of equipment only to discover that it’s not working as it should.  Instead of leaving customers hanging, saying something simple like this demonstrates empathy and sends a level of assurance that management is on the case.

They’re approachable

I remember being incredibly self-conscious and intimidated when I first started working out. I didn’t even know how to use the water dispenser, so I did the next best thing – I asked. Signs like this help to remind beginners that staff will always have your back – no matter how silly or insignificant your problem might seem.


Companies don’t always need to have quirky signs plastered all over their walls to connect with their audiences, but knowing when to use the right words to communicate your brands’ personality will go a long way in winning customers over. Having said that, I can’t wait for the day self-returning weights become a reality.