Great Branding From a Fitness Startup

Derek Flanzraich, founder of Greatist, shares his brand strategies for differentiating his company from the competition.
Personal Branding Expert, Millennial Branding
August 02, 2012 Derek Flanzraich isn’t the typical founder of a health and fitness media startup company. In fact, he doesn’t view himself as a fitness expert, he’s not a certified trainer and isn’t a dietitian. Instead, he’s trying to learn just like his readers at Greatist. For the past six years, he’s experimented with different ways of eating, approaches to fitness and ways to be happier, and has found both success and failure.

His company, dedicated to inspiring and informing the world to be healthier and happier, is a media site in blog format with short, fun and relatable posts. Many competitors don’t back up their facts with real data, so Greatist makes it a point to do so in order to build credibility. Here is an interview I had with Derek to understand his brand strategy and lessons learned.

OPEN Forum: How did you come up with your brand name? What inspired it?
Derek Flanzraich:
Like any great name, I think, it kept evolving until it stuck and felt 100-percent right. We wanted something different, something memorable, something simple—and especially something that ultimately people could aspire to. Like an artist works on art, a "greatist" works on being great. Greatist, the company, is about empowering people to realize that to live a healthier lifestyle, they don't have to be the greatest all the time, just a greatist.

OF: How have you differentiated your brand from your competitors?
DF: We differentiate ourselves in three categories: first and, above all, is our quality. The health and wellness space is full of noise–but unfortunately too much of it is super low-quality. We cut through that by being obsessed with writing the highest-quality content in the space: Every fact in every article is cited by a PubMed study, every article is approved by multiple experts, and every sentence is gone over by an editor with a fine-tooth comb (not literally, but we would if we could!).

The second reason is we take a unique perspective, which ties back to the idea behind our name–a greatist just chooses healthier whenever they can. We don't preach, we don't judge and we don't condemn. Instead, we celebrate the indulgences in life–and we think that's a unique voice in the space.

Finally, we distinguish ourselves through our social strategy. Almost all of our traffic is driven from social networks because we're writing specifically for certain communities—thinking from the very beginning of our editorial process about how to make our content relevant, shareable and awesome.

OF: How have you used social media tools to communicate your brand? What other marketing tactics do you use?
DF: We spent an extraordinary amount of time crafting a consistent, detailed brand personality that captured our mission and how we wanted to accomplish it. Since then, we've picked the social networks on which to focus and have been as engaged as possible on those networks–making friends with fans and influencers, cross-promoting with similarly aligned brands, and having fun doing it!

OF: How have you been able to maintain your brand since you started it?
DF: With care! Brands are tricky things, I think, and need regular maintenance, watering, and love. On a regular basis, we revisit our brand personality description and tweak it if has evolved in a good way, or pull back if it is going in a direction we don't want to go in. We're also always experimenting with new ways to get the word out—and adding on the things that feel right and seem to work best.

OF: What 3 pieces of branding advice would you give to another small business owner?
First, take the time upfront to craft a consistent, specific brand personality. It will make everything easier in the future! Second, don't stop tweaking until it feels absolutely right to you. The brand won't be successful until you are its unapologetic champion—love every part of it. Third, finally, pick your battles. You don't need to be on every social network or every distribution platform. Find the ones that work best for you, your brand and your audience.

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen-Y research and management-consulting firm. Subscribe to his updates at