Episode 3: YouTube works for Les Mills International
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Episode 3: YouTube works for Les Mills InternationalMay 2023
Les Mills International: How YouTube supported Les Mills International to complement their existing short term acquisition strategies with long term brand building activity
With more than 50 years in operation, New Zealand owned and operated Les Mills International has its sights set on becoming a top global fitness brand. Though it boasts a strong, loyal member base, Les Mills International wanted to build meaning for new audiences not yet familiar with the brand.
With an existing short term acquisition strategy already driving success on YouTube, Les Mills International had good reason to focus its long term strategy there too.
Marketing guru Mark Ritson takes you along on their brand building journey in this episode of ‘The Long and The Short of It’ – joined by Les Mills International Chief Customer Officer Luke Waldren and Marketing Director Ebony de Thierry.
Serving creative with a side of swagger, Les Mills International boldly introduced themselves in the multi-format ‘Who Is Les Mills?’ campaign. See how they leveraged YouTube’s advanced experimentation and measurement solutions to optimise their campaign in time for peak fitness season – ensuring they were driving maximum return on investment for the brand in the long run.
Mark Ritson: The long, and the short. Performance, and brand. Top of funnel, bottom of funnel. My name is Mark Ritson and this is YouTube Works, ‘The Long and Short of It’.
In this series, we'll look at how three great brands Tourism Australia, CommBank Australia, and Les Mills have followed the audience as the audience moves to YouTube.
Les Mills is all about performance - and I'm not just talking about what happens in a gym. For several years now, Les Mills has been a phenomenal short, low funnel operator, doing brilliant work and using YouTube to great success. But more recently, they've discovered also the brand building potential of YouTube.
Before we go into that and learn why they've made that strategic change, let's get a little bit of context from Luke Waldren, their Chief Customer Officer.
Luke Waldren: Thanks, Mark. I think the first thing to know is our big global brand ambition. That is to be a top fitness brand. We're 50 years old. We have 130,000 instructors who are presenting the Les Mills brand in 21,000 clubs, and that is in conjunction with a digital streaming service called Les Mills+. And we have near on 450,000 subscribers. The point of those facts is that we're well-established amongst a really loyal fan base.
To reach this ambitious goal, we know we need to start to expand our audiences and go beyond our loyal member base. The experiences to date we've had with YouTube are really helping us forge that new territory.
We're here to lead the world into the next chapter of fitness.
Mark Ritson: I'm joined by Ebony, their Marketing Director, who's going to tell me a little bit more. Ebony, thanks for joining us. Who is Les Mills?
Ebony de Theirry: Do you mean the Olympian and ex-mayor of Auckland or the global leader in group fitness?
Mark Ritson: I think it's the latter, and I'm particularly interested in how that global leader in group fitness has been so adept at performance marketing in the past. It's safe to say you're adept at the short of it - bottom of the funnel, performance - and you've built quite a reputation for doing it extraordinarily well. Tell me a little bit about how YouTube has played a role in that execution.
Ebony de Theirry: So historically, we have been very short term focused, capturing demand and capitalising on our short term acquisition goals. And so we have really leveraged the Google ecosystem. So using YouTube as a way to drive consumer search, to capitalise on our short term acquisition goals.
Mark Ritson: But it's very much from the middle to the bottom of the funnel.
Ebony de Theirry: Yes, very much so. So looking at people who are already in-market for fitness, capturing them at the point of, essentially, purchase. But now we need to look at things a little bit differently, and we need to expand our audiences and start moving further up the funnel.
Mark Ritson: I've seen your creative. It's a, I have to say, remarkably adept brand building campaign. Did you find it easy to move from performance to branding that quickly? Because the campaign looks like you've been masters of brand building for years, but it's obviously a relatively new challenge. How did you find that process?
Ebony de Theirry: So the campaign that we created was capitalising on this idea that, as we're starting to broaden out and reach a new group of people who likely don't know who we are, or perhaps even know how to pronounce the name Les Mills, we wanted to directly challenge them with the question, who is Les Mills?
We have always had experimentation at our core. So, we essentially went into it with this idea that we are going to leverage a lot of YouTube's own creative best practices as a starting point. So utilising the ABCD’s.
Mark Ritson: And when you say the ABCD’s, what do you mean by that?
Ebony de Theirry: So attention, branding, connection, and direction. So we led this campaign with an attention grabbing creative hook in the first 3 to 5 seconds.
Mark Ritson: With the question.
Ebony de Theirry: With the question, ‘who is Les Mills?. So this helped to capture attention, but it also drove brand recognition straight out the gate. We then continued to ask the question, who is Les Mills?
Mark Ritson: Building the brand throughout the ad.
Ebony de Theirry: Yep, throughout the course of the campaign building the brand, but also creating a bit more intrigue and connection.
Mark Ritson: So from a storytelling point of view, you had great creative. What were the media formats you used with YouTube to tell this incredible story?
Ebony de Theirry: So we started with a longer form, 75 second ad, and then also a series of shorter, sharper 15 second ads as well to support that.
Mark Ritson: It all sounds so great Ebony, but as a performance marketer you know this, we need more than that. We need results. How has the campaign actually performed? And what's the data telling you about the long of it using YouTube and how effective it's been?
Ebony de Theirry: So going into this campaign, we had three key objectives. Increase brand awareness, increase the number of people searching for Les Mills, and drive future demand and ultimately conversions for Les Mills+, which is our digital fitness streaming platform. And overall, the results completely exceeded our expectations.
We saw that users who are exposed to the brand ad were 11 times more likely to search for Les Mills. We also saw an absolute awareness lift of 8.85%. The brand campaign delivered a search lift of an amazing 880%, signalling a really strong sign of intent, and helping to support our short term acquisition goals.
Mark Ritson: And you're kind of a prototype of what I think will be more and more marketers who've seen what YouTube can do in the short and are now starting to utilise it in the long. What would you pass on to other marketers who perhaps are very adept at performance, who now are beginning to recognise the value of going up the funnel, building brand, doing the long and how they can use YouTube to their advantage?
Ebony de Theirry: So, what we have really enjoyed about YouTube is the measurement and the experimentation offerings so that you can continue to test, learn, and optimise. And so that's something that has worked very well for us. We actually launched our brand campaign six weeks ahead of our key moment as an opportunity to really understand how it resonates with consumers, to test, to learn, and to optimise ahead of going into that moment. And that is very much a performance-focused mindset that we have brought forward into brand.
Mark Ritson: Was there a feeling somewhere in the company where suddenly the two parts of the funnel clinked together and you suddenly see the power of top flowing into bottom?
Ebony de Theirry: Absolutely. What we found is that digital video overall, YouTube specifically, has driven the largest ROI for us as a business.
Mark Ritson: And we see this frequently now. Digital video, usually YouTube, is getting more and more play because as you say, when we do MMM studies, we're seeing the real power of it. So, Ebony, what's next?
Ebony de Theirry: There are a tonne of exciting things coming down the pipeline, and what I know for sure is it will be on YouTube.
Mark Ritson: Well, thanks for joining me. And I now officially know the answer, who is Les Mills? Congratulations on what is properly full funnel marketing.
Ebony de Theirry: Thank you.
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