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Derek Barton's session titled "Key Strategies for Branding and Positioning Your Club" was one of the best sessions I've ever attended in a club industry trade show, and it's not just because it included some funny commercials. I didn't even have to look at my watch once during the session.

Barton worked at Gold's Gym for 20 years before beginning his own advertising agency. Barton's most eye-catching slides (besides the commercials) included logos of famous brands in all industries. The brands and their logos were instantly recognizable.

Barton was recently hired by Joe Cirulli and Gainesville Health and Fitness Centers in Florida to improve its logo. (This was not the only mention at the show of Joe Cirulli and his success, by the way.) Barton took out what looked like a coffin or a bathtub in the logo and played up the word "Gainesville" for a better look. After a before-and-after viewing, Gainesville's new logo stood out better with other brands.

Barton says the industry is not doing its job to try to reach out to potential members through advertising. Barton showed a Budweiser yoga commercial in which two men in the class are enjoying watching the women in the class do their poses. The industry should produce a commercial like that, Barton says.

Barton's presentation focused on brand positioning. Like many seminars I've attended, Starbucks was praised for its brand. Recalling what Starbucks founder Howard Schultz said in an interview, Barton said that Starbucks is selling theater, not just coffee. Barton showed a photo he took of people standing in line at a Starbucks, not unlike the line I saw at the Starbucks around the corner from the trade show.

"Have you seen a line outside health clubs?" Barton asked.

Barton also showed some examples of improvements he made at Gold's Gyms, most of which had to do with putting the logo or old photos of the Gold's Gym at Venice Beach on bare walls of the club.

Finally, Barton's seven steps to successful branding are:

1. Know your direction.

2. Brands are like people (you either like them or you don't).

3. Keep your promises (FedEx delivers overnight; Domino's Pizza delivers in 30 minutes or less).

4. Define your brand's personality.

5. Be true to yourself.

6. Commit to the relationship.

7. Make sure you have the four P's: passion, personality, perception and persistence.

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