Tap into the right emotions. For ClassPass, it is important for us to offer a product and a community that our members can feel a part of right when they join. There are many fitness companies or sports apparel companies out there that use supermodels for marketing. We cast real, everyday people in our ads — many of our models employees and members. Our goal is to make sure you can see yourself in our brand. We want to achieve a sense of belonging, where every person feels they can commit to a more active lifestyle.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Moncton.
Rachel Moncton is VP of Global Marketing at ClassPass, the leading fitness and wellness membership and a global provider of corporate wellness benefits. Rachel originally joined the ClassPass team as Director of Strategy and Operations in 2014 and was one of the company’s first twelve employees. Since then, the company has grown to hundreds of employees across 30 countries, and Rachel’s career has followed a similar growth trajectory. In multiple leadership positions across the company, she brought ClassPass into 26 new markets across five continents and led the company’s evolution to a credit system which replaced the unlimited model in 2018.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in Cupertino, California, during the time period in which Silicon Valley became known for startups and prominent technology companies. At the time, my father was an early employee at Nvidia, and I distinctly remember their IPO party, and the excitement of ushering a company through a big growth stage. That experience made me dream of working with high-growth companies.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
My career started off as a consultant at Bain & Company, which was a hands-on way to work with a variety of different businesses and see a lot of types of problems. I ended up at ClassPass through a bit of luck. Founder Payal Kadakia is also a Bain alum, and I reached out after finding her name in the alumni directory. At the time, ClassPass was a very small company with seed funding, and I was one of the first 12 employees. I figured that I would eventually go to business school, and that ClassPass was a way to add startup experience to my resume.
Instead, ClassPass took off. I loved the team I was working with and the problems we were solving, and there were plenty of opportunities to learn and grow on the job. I’ve now been at the company for more than six years and look forward to continuing this journey!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
ClassPass uses an algorithm to recommend studios based on a member’s genre preferences and past booking behavior, and we often rely on zip codes in order to recommend studios nearby. On the night before one of our big Asia launches, we discovered that zip codes in New York are the same as zip codes in Bangkok. The result was that our app was showing Thailand members fitness studios in the Lower East Side. We ended up staying all night to fix the problem. The biggest lesson is that when you move quickly, things will inevitably break or go wrong, but most mistakes can be reversed or resolved if you have a good team around. Stay flexible, know that you don’t know everything, and hire for the people you want to be in a room with at 3am when you are incredibly sleep deprived.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Shoe Dog by Nike founder Phil Knight is one of my favorite books, and one I find myself re-reading. Nike is known now as a major global brand, but Phil’s memoir is a personal tale of perseverance and growth, even as seemingly insurmountable challenges crop up. His story resonated on many levels — when something feels impossible, you just have to solve the problem in front of you, and find your way through, until you land on a formula that works.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The path to innovation starts with curiosity” — Bob Iger, Chairman and former CEO of Disney. This is from Bob Iger’s recent memoir The Ride of a Lifetime (another book I’d highly recommend!), in which he names curiosity as one of his ten leadership principles. My career at ClassPass hasn’t been a straight line. But exposure to other teams and other problems at the company has played a key part in my success. Be curious about what others are doing, and don’t just stop at your company or your industry. There’s a lot that can be learned from unexpected places, and being able to draw those connections is key to success.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, let’s define our terms. How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?
A lifestyle brand connects with consumers beyond the product that it offers. Successful lifestyle brands help people tap into a part of themselves that they are proud to associate with. It takes more than just beautiful imagery; lifestyle brands have a mission and a point of view.
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
The cost of acquiring new customers can be massive. Lifestyle brands lower this cost by building a community of loyal fans who want to talk about your brand. The result is more people willing to recommend your company, longer lifetime value for existing customers, and exponential growth through positive word of mouth.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Airbnb delivers an aspirational yet functional product. Their slogan is “belong anywhere” and they creatively communicate this mission for their members to feel like they are home, no matter where they travel. At the core of it, the Airbnb product is some combination of couch surfing and a hotel, but they have done a successful job of making you feel like you are part of a trendy community of travelers who share ideals including supporting local economies and seeing the world.
Nike is another example of a brand that is so much more than a sneaker. They have done a brilliant job of making people feel connected to their favorite athletes. When you slip on a Nike shoe, you feel like you will train harder, go faster and work better now that you have the right product.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Know your mission. Your slogan and product can change, but the thing that propels you forward should be consistent. At ClassPass, our mission is to help people live active and inspired lives. That north star guides and informs what we offer — we always come back to “will this add value to our community?” We know our why, and that helps us show up for work in the morning, as well as encouraging our community to book that class or treat themselves to that massage.
Make sure your brand evokes an emotion. People should feel something when they are using your product, or talking about your brand. There are many companies that will likely try to solve the same problem — defining the emotions you want people to feel when associating with your brand is what will set you apart and make you the solution of choice.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
You can build beautiful social media pages and an engaging newsletter, but to be successful, you still need a product that adds value for your community. Start with the product first, and then build from there.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Figure out where you fit in the market and what problem your product solves. Before you dive into expensive out of home marketing campaigns or influencer relationships, be very specific on who you are trying to target, and spend time getting to know the pain points and needs of those customers. That will inform your marketing strategy and make sure you spend your energy and budget on the right initiatives.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Start with a product that solves a problem. The team behind the ClassPass Instagram page does a fantastic job of creating interesting, aesthetically pleasing content, but the reason we continue to grow is because our product has solved a problem. Using ClassPass, fitness enthusiasts can quickly see all of the schedules, descriptions and reviews in one place from 30,000 gyms, studios and spas, and book fitness classes and wellness and beauty appointments all from one app. A beautiful and aspirational brand on social media can get you seen, but you will only grow your revenue if you have a product to sell.
- Define your audience. Successful lifestyle brands are targeted. They keep their focus on a specific market of people who identify with the aspirations and values that brand represents. That could be travel lovers for a brand like Airbnb or active people who wish they were more athletic for a brand like Nike. Figure out who your core demographic is and get to know their pain points and needs — these early conversations will help you market your product more effectively and reduce your spend as you identify the best places to reach your target audience.
- Tap into the right emotions. For ClassPass, it is important for us to offer a product and a community that our members can feel a part of right when they join. There are many fitness companies or sports apparel companies out there that use supermodels for marketing. We cast real, everyday people in our ads — many of our models employees and members. Our goal is to make sure you can see yourself in our brand. We want to achieve a sense of belonging, where every person feels they can commit to a more active lifestyle.
- Your best marketing strategy is word of mouth. Hands down, the most effective marketing channel is happy customers telling their friends and family about your product. Many ClassPass customers come through our referral programs, which allow members to share a trial membership with their friends and invite them along to class, or to join for a digital workout. Build a product your customers love, and make it easy for them to share that product with their community.
- Create a vision that extends beyond your existing product. ClassPass started in 2013 as a membership for booking fitness classes and helping studios to fill spots in classes that would not fill through other means. We are now doing the same thing for the wellness industry, and work with thousands of spas and beauty partners to increase their revenue and visibility. Members can just as easily search for reviews and book an in-salon manicure or an at-home haircut. We know our members are interested in self-care experiences, and we have been able to tap into new services that both increase the lifetime value of our customers and also diversify the myriad of ways they can use a ClassPass membership as their goals and needs and shifts. From the beginning, ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia talked about how it was our job to help people find things to do in the hours when they wanted to do things for themselves. If you are building a brand, think of what value your brand can add in ten years, not just the services it can offer today.
Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I believe that balance is critical — although not easy to achieve. I love my job, and I’m also guilty of spending all day in front of my computer. Some days are long, and there is always a lot to do. The catch is that I’m at my best at work when I’m taking time for myself — whether it’s a morning workout, or a ten-minute meditation, or an afternoon coffee break. And a real vacation is a must to really unplug, even if staying home!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I really admire Sheryl Sandberg. There are so many amazing things to say about her, but what jumps to the forefront for me is how she has played a critical role scaling Facebook for the past decade. Sheryl has seen Facebook through so many different growth phases (and she did the same at Google, in her previous role). I’ve enjoyed watching ClassPass grow and working with the team to tackle each challenge that comes our way. I can only imagine what it is like to see that on a much larger scale!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.