The online fitness platform KEEP was born out of founder Ning Wang's personal experience. In 2014, as a college graduate struggling with being overweight, Ning Wang created a series of fitness plans and realized the commercial potential of online fitness. In February 2015, Ning Wang launched the KEEP app, which attracted 1 million monthly active users within four months and eventually became China's largest online fitness platform in 2021.
KEEP used to follow the same "Acquisition-Retention-Revenue" business model as video and game apps, but it needs a higher marketing budget and lack of constant entertainment value like games. Users only open fitness apps when planning to exercise, and app retention relies on users' motivation to exercise regularly. Developing an exercise habit was difficult to KEEP.
To address the issue, KEEP found that human nature is not inclined towards athleticism and needed extra motivation. KEEP's solution was to stimulate users with medals. People enjoy rewards and the opportunity to show off their achievements. KEEP's medal strategy helped the app generate millions of dollars in revenue.
KEEP's medals are awarded to users who complete challenges in the KEEP community. Unlike ordinary medals, KEEP's medals often feature popular IPs and appeal to non-core fitness users through their appearance and design. For example, KEEP's co-branded Hello Kitty in 2022 to release Hello Kitty Medals which became popular across major social platforms.
The Medal Revelation: Collecting & Showing-Off V.S. Human Laziness
Statistics show that 55% of KEEP's revenue in 2021 generated by the sales of its own branded products. However, these products didn't bring much profit for KEEP at the early stage.
The earliest KEEP medal event launched in 2015, during the event, users could get a virtual medal for free after completing the fitness task released by KEEP. Since 2016, KEEP has begun to cooperate with some well-known events such as Beijing Marathon and Guangzhou Marathon to launch officially authorized online races. After several adjustments, KEEP eventually decided to shift its mindset from professional runners to fitness newcomers.
After KEEP and Sanrio's co-brand started and went viral, the company achieved revenue of RMB ¥417 million in the first quarter of 2022, rising 37.6% year-on-year. At the same time, the private brand revenue of KEEP also increased to 60% of the total revenue. Paid membership and Pamela courses yield only little effect, KEEP realizing the fact there's nothing more important than selling medals to young people.
Behind KEEP’s phenomenal marketing success of "Earning 500 million by selling medals", it was a deep understanding of the customers. We believe KEEP medals taught us 3 lessons.
1. Provide emotional value and bring the brand closer to users.
Signing up for a KEEP online race challenge costs only RMB ¥19 to ¥39, but the pleasure and sense of achievement that comes from completing the required distance of running and receiving rewards on KEEP can be priceless. The physical medals are the "emotional value rewards" that can be touched and stir users' hearts all the time. We all know that fitness does not happen overnight, thus, the instant reward brought by the KEEP medal to some extent can reduce the mental internal friction of users during the long workout process, and continues to heal them.
At the same time, the KEEP medal can also be seen as a "content" output by the KEEP brand, which helps KEEP to mobilize users' emotions as much as possible. There are 18 online events being held in the KEEP community between January and February 2023, including the theme of 24 Solar Terms and Little Maruko-chan, bringing a constant stream of "freshness" to users and KEEPing them focused on the brand.
2. Targeting the rise of sports socializing.
Nowadays, sports are not only "KEEPing fit". More young generations now see sports as a way to relieve stress. Many people start to record and post their own fitness achievements on their sports apps. Increasingly, people are using exercise to socialize with friends, making it a new way of socialization. KEEP has seized the opportunity of the rising sports socialize to let users communicate with others.
3. Create a social currency and extend the life cycle for KEEP.
In fact, KEEP medals function as the "social currency" in the marketing chain. Different from traditional campaigns, social currency does not need to put in a large amount of investment, but rather a user-to-user approach that precisely reaches people in the same circle of interest.
KEEP medals have a strong integration ability, allowing them to be used in a range of scenarios, such as travel, social, and sports, encouraging users to share with their friends. On WeChat Moment or on RED, "sharing KEEP medals" has become a clickbait.
The sense of accomplishment, happiness, and honor brought by a medal as a social currency is satisfying the emotional experience of users to the greatest extent at this time. During the process, KEEP enhances its user stickiness and further improves its competitiveness.