Jazzercise popped up in 1969 as a dance workout program. A lot has changed in the workout scene since then but one thing has remained strong: Jazzercise.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Allison Siddons Walker, the Vice President of Global Marketing and PR for Jazzercise recently for the Ignite Visibility University Podcast.
We talked about how she has kept the brand from falling victim to fitness trends while staying at the forefront of innovation and evolution.
What Is Jazzercise?
Jazzercise is a dance fitness program that was started by Judi Sheppard Missett in 1969. Judi wanted to make something fun and enjoyable that helped people stay active. Jazzercise achieved that goal by tapping into the strength and entertainment factor of jazz dance.
In the 1980s, Jazzercise blew up thanks to dance parties taking over the fitness space. But Jazzercise is more than legwarmers, leotards, and big hair. It’s a brand that has continued to show that it can go the distance.
It’s been over 50 years and people still come to these fitness classes turned dance parties. They love that they can burn up to 800 calories in one 60-minute class that combines cardio, strength, hip hop, yoga, Pilates, and kickboxing.
But dumping the legwarmer-associated stigma was not easy for Jazzercise. It took a lot of hard work and evolution to hold onto the household name they are today.
Meet Allison Siddons Walker
After a long career in film and advertisement, Allison Siddons Walker joined Jazzercise as the Director of Marketing in 2016.
Fresh off of a rebrand, Jazzercise was still struggling a bit to find its place in a world of fitness that doesn’t always feel accessible. Even though the former team had put a lot of work and energy into rebranding the fitness giant, Allison felt that something was missing.
When you first walk into a Jazzercise class, the first thing you notice is the pure joy in the room. Everyone is happy to be there. It wasn’t this hard body, fitness-bro space where people who aren’t in incredible shape feel out of place.
Jazzercise works to cement the fact that fitness is for everyone. Allison felt that was missing in the previous rebrand and wanted to work hard to bring that inclusivity and joy back into the brand messaging. She needed to bring that joy into everything, including their social media content.
Her biggest challenge? Answering the call for in-home fitness classes through Jazzercise On Demand.
The Birth of Jazzercise on Demand
Creating undeniable and exciting energy in the form of a workout class is one thing that Jazzercise really does well. It’s the thing that keeps people coming back for more.
But recreating that energy can be really hard when moving from in-person classes to an on-demand format.
Allison was up for that challenge. She knew her audience was busier than ever, and, while some will always come to in-person classes, some of them just need a more flexible option.
After working on the leadership team for over two years, Allison finally got the green light to develop Jazzercise On Demand.
And good thing she did! A few months after the in-home program was launched in September 2019, Covid-19 hit. Suddenly, in-person fitness classes came to a screeching halt. But thanks to Allison’s quick thinking and ability to be ahead of the curve, Jazzercise could live through the pandemic and came out on the other side.
After the immense success of Jazzercise On Demand, Allison was promoted to Vice President of Global Marketing and PR in March 2021. It seems pretty clear that her quick-thinking and customer-centric nature is a huge asset to the Jazzercise brand.
Jazzercise Listens to Their Customers
Allison is such an incredible marketer because she takes the time to listen to what her consumers want.
A lot of brands will follow what their competitors are doing, but completely disregard what their potential customers are saying.
Through social listening on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, Allison saw the trend of at-home workouts taking off. She knew if Jazzercise wanted to survive, they would need to adapt to this change.
Make no mistake about it, Allison keeps up with what other brands are doing in the fitness space while also noting what works well for them. She keeps her pulse on the big fitness influencers and brands.
But most of her focus lies in giving her customers what they want. Her goal is to produce content that her customers will engage with. She wants to connect them with the fitness class and community that they need in their lives.
Tapping into CGC: Consumer Generated Content
Consumer-generated content, or CGC, is more popular now than ever. The fitness space is no different.
What Allison has found works best for Jazzercise is to keep true to what made the brand popular in the first place: a fun, customer-centric workout program.
Their social media content on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok focuses on the consumer and the content that they create while taking classes. There is so much joy in your neighborhood Jazzercise class. It seems like a no-brainer to try to bottle that up and use it as content to market the brand.
Unlike a lot of other fitness programs, Jazzercise’s main selling point isn’t that it’s going to get you a super ripped body. Instead, it creates a welcoming environment where everyone can focus on the joy of dancing.
The goal at Jazzercise is to let loose and live life. It is important to Allison that that goal comes across clearly in all of their marketing campaigns.
Managing a Marketing Team
Jazzercise didn’t become the global phenomenon that it is thanks to one person alone.
Allison also discussed her incredible “team of unicorns,” as she called them. She built her marketing team carefully. Whenever she added a new team member, she made sure that she already had the revenue to support their position.
She also hires “for attitude, not for aptitude.” A firm foundation of preliminary skills is necessary to work in the world of marketing and advertising, but, beyond that, Allison advises looking for someone with a can-do attitude over a laundry list of skills.
Aptitude can be taught. Attitude cannot. It is more important to find someone with the right go-getting mindset who can then be taught the skills they need to succeed because you can’t overcome a bad attitude.
What’s Next for Jazzercise?
With Allison at the helm, Jazzercise will continue to constantly create new content. Their goal is to always make sure that everyone feels welcome and comfortable in their classes. The content that they produce is a gigantic piece of that puzzle.
Regardless of the industry, keeping a brand moving forward for 50+ years requires some space for learning and adjusting. Just as Allison’s work at Jazzercise shows, the strongest companies are the ones that will listen to their audiences, grow at a steady pace, and readjust their plan when the market calls for it.
If you want to follow a company that is basing its content marketing strategy on genuine content produced for real people by real people, Jazzercise is one of the best. They are a great case study on how humanizing your brand will lead to sustainable success.