Case study

Kathy is the managing director of the Center City Athletic Club, a chain of twenty-six athletic clubs. Although the club is sufficient for generating a profit, Kathy and her management staff believe that the club could do better with the right type of advertising and publicity. Derek, the club director of marketing and sales, explained that a couple of marketing efforts have not been successful in generating new members. One approach was to invest in a program of newspaper advertising that consisted of a decal lightly glued to the front page of the Sunday edition of the local newspaper. The decals did not bring in even one new member. Radio advertising brought in a few inquiries and two new family memberships. Billboard advertising on a major highway in the outskirts of the city brought in apparently no new members. During a meeting with Derek, Kathy suggested that a better way to create a buzz about the club would be to get bloggers to say nice things about the club, including comments on Facebook and Twitter. Derek said in a somber tone, “Hold on, Kathy. The Federal Trade Commission says anybody who is paid to blog must admit that fact on the blog site.” Kathy replied, “I’m not talking about paying anybody to say nice things about Center City. And it would also be silly for staff members to post favorable comments about our club on social networking sites or on personal blogs. If anybody figured out what we are doing, it could lead to negative publicity for the club. “What I have in mind is for about a dozen Center City Athletic Club staff members to get a friend or relative to say something positive about our club on a social networking site or personal blog. We just hand out some useful things to say, even with a little goofy talk to make the blogs sound authentic. I’ll send you an e-mail later with what I have in mind.” That night Derek received an e-mail from Kathy with four sample blog statements that staff members would be encouraged to get friends and family to send, as follows:

■ Followed my chiropractor’s advice about getting a personal trainer at Center City Athletic Club. Best health move I’ve made in a decade.

■ Luv  those friendly folks @Center City Athletic Club. They treat me like a prince.

■ I’m shaping up really good at Center City. I will look dynamite by spring.

■ No day would be complete for me without my workout at Center City Athletic Club. The training equipment is great, and the trainers are even better.

After studying the four sample messages, Derek had some concerns. He thought, “I’m wondering whether this blog campaign idea could backfire. It seems a little hokey, and it would be embarrassing if we got caught. I’ll sleep on this idea and get back to Kathy tomorrow morning.”

1. What do you advise Derek, as the director of market and sales, to tell Kathy?

2. What ethical concerns do you have about the proposed blogs?

3. How effective do you think favorable comments on social networking sites and personal blogs would be in enhancing enrollment at the Center City Athletic Club?

4. How effective do you think “goofy talk” would be to help the blogs seem more authentic?

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