#SwoleAndFlexy

I haven’t talked about CrossFit in over 6 weeks and am starting to twitch, so in this week’s post I will be discussing ROMWOD, a digital product whose main target customer is CrossFitters.

ROM What??

ROMWOD stands for Range Of Motion Workout Of the Day. ROMWOD was created in 2014 and is a form of yin yoga packaged into a daily video streaming program to help athletes optimize range of motion, increase athletic performance, and promote recovery. ROMWOD is intended to supplement the rigors of daily CrossFit workouts. Videos are typically 15-20 minutes in length and can be streamed anywhere, anytime, and on any device with a web browser through ROMWOD.com. Videos consist of an athlete or two going through that day’s programming, a voiceover walking you through the poses and breathing exercises, and calming background music. No equipment is needed, other than a yoga mat for comfort and sometimes a stretching band.

At-home exercise and stretching videos have been around for decades: from Richard Simmons, to Billy Blanks, to P90X. A major problem with these at-home video series was that the product was a set of VHS/DVDs that you received via mail. This meant you received a handful of workouts that you had to repeat over and over and over until you quit from boredom. A daily streaming product such as ROMWOD could not have existed even 10 years ago. With today’s technology and proliferation of smart phones/devices, anyone with a camera and basic video editing skills can create a website or YouTube channel and stream workouts to a wide audience.

Business Model

For $13.95 per month, individuals receive unlimited streaming and daily programming. For reference, the average drop-in price for a class at a yoga studio is $10 to $20.

For $24.95 per month, CrossFit gyms receive the ability to stream ROMWOD in a class setting which creates additional value for its members. For reference, hiring a yoga instructor to host classes at a gym would likely cost the gym-owners $5 per student. Now all that’s needed is a small monthly fee and a smart TV for streaming.

Yoga is nothing new, but wrap it up, tie a CrossFit bow around it, make it easily accessible…sign us up! In addition to targeting a niche market of CrossFitters, I believe ROMWOD’s success is largely due to its use of social media.

Social Strategy

1. ROMWOD has 239K followers on Instagram, 61.4K on Facebook, and 14.3K on Twitter. From these numbers, and my experience as a user and follower, it’s clear that ROMWOD relies heavily on Instagram to promote and build its brand. ROMWOD’s Instagram activity seems to fall into 4 main buckets:

  • Photos of people doing ROMWOD in cool places.
  • Photos of people doing ROMWOD with their dogs or babies.
  • Photos and videos of ROMWOD sponsored athletes lifting heavy sh*t or exercise-racing really fast.
  • Quips, memes, and motivational quotes related to exercise, stretching, breathing, life.

These posts create a casual, fun, and community-based persona for the brand. Staying true to their relaxed brand, other than a link in their bio offering a free one-week trial, ROMWOD does not push you to buy the product in any of their Instagram activity.

2. ROMWOD created a slogan, “Swole and Flexy”, to help create a memorable image in the customer’s mind and build brand identity. CrossFitters are known more for their weightlifting and pullups (the “Swole”), but not so much for their yoga and stretching (the “Flexy”). The use of the hashtag #swoleandflexy in social media activity quickly shares with users the benefits of the product.

3. ROMWOD has also helped promote itself by jumping on the meme train. At this point I think most people have heard of the viral sex catchphrase “Netflix and chill”. ROMWOD uses a play on this phase, “ROMWOD and chill”, as fun and lighthearted way to gain attention and sell merchandise.

romwod and chill

Challenges

1. Password sharing: Similar to other streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO, ROMWOD is not immune to the issue of people sharing passwords. Originally there were zero restrictions on password sharing and it was common for users to share with friends and split the cost. I’m not sure if this was intentional on ROMWOD’s part or not (similar to HBO) but this approach lowered the barriers to joining and increased user base. However, about a year ago ROMWOD updated their Terms and Conditions to disallow password sharing and implemented features that prevent users from streaming on more than 1 device at a time. It will be interesting to see if this discourages new customers.

2. Copycats: There is nothing proprietary about ROMWOD’s product or business model, which opens the door for copycats to try entering the market by offering a better or cheaper product. An example is Movement Vault, which was created in June 2017 and based on a more active stretching approach. Movement Vault is undercutting ROMWOD on price in attempt to gain market share. Movement Vault offers individual and gym memberships for $9.99 and $19.99 per month, respectively. Movement Vault only has 2.4K followers on Instagram (compared to ROMWOD’s 239K), so I think its clear ROMWOD has a first-mover advantage right now.

3. App-less: The biggest complaint surrounding ROMWOD is the lack of an iOS and Android app. Users can stream from any device but need to access the steaming service through a web browser (first world problems, I know…). ROMWOD has been commenting for over a year that they are working on an app, but nothing yet. Movement Vault also lacks an app, so this could potentially be an opportunity for a new product to enter the market.

Wrap Up

I believe ROMWOD’s heavy and creative use of Instagram to build a strong following and promote its brand has given it enough of a first-mover advantage to protect it from undifferentiated, lower-priced products. ROMWOD is a strong example of using technology to transform an existing product, making it accessible, and fulfilling a previously unidentified market.

8 comments

  1. Molly Pighini · ·

    This is an interesting post, @mpduplesmba. I think you created an all-encompassing discussion by providing an overview of ROMWOD and its business model, exploring its social strategy, and addressing its challenges. Though new to the topic, I feel I have a strong foundational understanding. While I am not an avid user of exercise videos, I know that there is a huge market for this type of products, especially as much of our generation lives an on-the-go lifestyle. It’s interesting to see ROMWOD face many of the same challenges that streaming services have tackled, even instituting similar measures to combat them. In particular, I found the ability of CrossFit gyms to stream ROMWOD in a class setting to be notable. I believe this could decrease the friction of exercise video use as consumers now have the opportunity to participate with others in a community setting. For gyms, it lowers the cost of offering similar classes and, for customers, it increases the value of ROMWOD.

  2. kseniapekhtere1 · ·

    That’s a very interesting post. I think ROMWOD did a great job with the strategy. Instead of targeting a large base, they chose a specific group of Crossfitters and gave them a product to help enhance their workout. There are so many working out apps/videos nowadays etc that I think it is really important to have a unique offering to succeed. I am also not surprised they chose Instagram to promote the brand. It seems to be the go-to app for fitness inspiration because it is so visual. My main issue with the products like ROMWOD that provide tools to workout on your own is my lack of self-control. I have always felt it is more efficient to go to classes where instructor tells you exactly what to do and makes sure the workout stays within a specified time limit. However, I appreciate the flexibility that products like ROMWOD give you.

    1. mpduplesmba · ·

      @kseniapekhtere1 you bring up a lot of good points. Regarding the lack of self control: Some find it absurd to pay $14/month for at-home stretching/yoga, but I find paying the monthly fee holds me accountable. I want to get my money’s worth so I do it more often, and I don’t have to think about it – just stream that days video, follow the program, and enjoy the progress. Most CrossFit classes reserve the last few minutes of the hour for coach-led, group stretching, and then athletes are encouraged to stay after for more stretching on their own. Before discovering ROMWOD, I found myself slacking just by following free information on the internet.

  3. mmerckbc · ·

    Great post, Matt! I especially liked your analysis of the challenges that ROMWOD is facing. As @mollypighini1 mentioned, it’s interesting to see that they have faced issues similar to streaming services, like password sharing. I’d also have to agree with you in regards to the lack of a mobile app – I find it peculiar that ROMWOD has been so slow to launch an app, especially for a brand that is so focused on making their product accessible.

  4. Jobabes121 · ·

    What a concise, thorough yet entertaining post! As someone who is interested in fitness as well, I found this post very enjoyable and educational. You did a great job of presenting all the necessary info for ROMWOD ranging from its biz model to pros and cons.

    I believe this is an awesome idea, but In addition to the self-control problem that @kseniapekhtere1 mentioned, I am also a bit concerned about the price range. In comparison to the drop-in sessions for yoga, I believe ROMWOD offers an amazing deal. However, there are quite a few (in fact, many) videos on Youtube for fitness, and famous fitness models/stars such as Gymshark or Alphalete athletes post their workout montage online for free. They not only offer workout tips but also specific programs they follow in addition to their meal prep. And no matter how hard they post on terms and conditions, users will eventually find a way to purchase one membership, split the cost, and share with many by taking turns. My main concern for ROMWOD is if it offers enough content/product for users to continue the service amid many athletes/yoga instructors sharing their workout routine online. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, as I have not used this before. Great post!

    1. mpduplesmba · ·

      @jobabes121 I think ROMWOD has solved the password sharing issue but has actually gone overboard with their preventive measures. I have not shared my password with anyone, but I will occasionally use my phone, tablet, or laptop to stream depending on the day and where I am. When they changed their policy, sometimes just being logged in to multiple devices (not streaming) would trigger ROMWOD to deactivate all devices and then you have to go through the login process all over again. This was extremely frustration and had me on the verge of cancelling my subscription. Luckily this hasn’t happened for a while so hopefully they figured out the kinks.
      One thing I don’t know is how ROMWOD prevents a gym from buying the individual membership for $14 instead of the gym membership for $25. In theory the gym-owner would just be signed in on one device streaming for a class, so I would think they could get away with the cheaper plan.
      Regarding the price range issue…ROMWOD was smart to target CrossFitters. CrossFitters tend to have a high willingness to pay: $150-200 per month for gym membership, $250 for weightlifting shoes, $50 jump ropes, wrist wraps, grips, belts, competitions, seminars, and on and on. Even though CrossFit has exploded in the past few years, I feel like part of the mindset and appeal for CrossFitters is that we are in some special club (strange, I know…) so we are willing to spend $14/month on a CrossFit-specific stretching program like ROMWOD, instead of using free YouTube material for the masses. If ROMWOD targeted all types of fitness then they would struggle. The non-CrossFitter would stick to all the free material available online, and CrossFitters wouldn’t sign up because its not made for only them.

      1. Jobabes121 · ·

        @mpduplesmba Your comment clarifies lots of things, thank you so much! As you said, I hope the password sharing issue for a multiple device holder could be resolved without anyone taking advantage of it. After your emphasis on ROMWOD targeting Crossfitters, this all makes sense. Maybe I was a bit focused too much on yoga and fitness, not crossfit. Knowing a few crossfit maniacs who go really hard, the subscription fee seems more than reasonable. As crossfit becomes more popular, I hope they can create a well-functioning app to enable users to watch the videos on the app platform.

  5. Really nice summary of the pros and cons of an industry using digital to repackage existing content (i.e. Yoga) and provide it in a new way.

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