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When you create a company and a brand, you can only hope that your products become the most well-known in the industry, maybe even to the point that people mistake your brand name for any other similar product. For many people, the word “Spinning” has become synonymous with the act of riding an indoor bike, and the terms “Spin bikes” or “Spinners” likewise have become generic-ish terms for indoor cycles. So is this a good problem to have? Or is it a horrible never-ending, nightmarish battle to retain your brand integrity?
And how did this happen to Spinning in the first place?
For background, long ago in the early ‘90s if you told someone you were going “Spinning”, they’d likely think you’re going to go turn in circles in an open field. Then a couple of guys named John Baudhuin and Johnny G. came along and created a line of indoor cycles and called them Spinning bikes. By 1994, Spinning made Rolling Stone Magazine’s hot list as the “hot exercise” you need to try. By 1996 there were more than a thousand Official Spinning Facilities spanning over 30 countries. Success! Winning!
Not so fast.
Spinning Out of Control
The rise of Spinning as a brand as well as a popular exercise coincided with the rise of the Internet. And what started to happen, through the huge amounts of energy and promotion (online and offline) of Spinning as a style of exercise, Spinning classes, Spinner bikes, etc. was that the average person started to think of indoor cycles just as Spinning bikes. At some tipping point, people began to pack into indoor cycle studios that had nothing to do with the Spinning brand, but started to think of themselves and workout buddies as Spinning enthusiasts. That became a problem. And not really a good one.
Xerox, Kleenex, and Coke are just a few of the most recognizable names that due to success have become somewhat generic for the type of products they sell. And they’ve had to throw huge amounts of legal energy at dissuading businesses from infringing on their trademarks. When people go to the fitness store and ask for a “Spin bike”, they might be shown all sorts of brands. Then they might even buy one that’s not actually a Spinning bike. You see the problem. Indoor cycling (and Spinning) as an exercise trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, so Spinning (and Mad Dogg Athletics, the parent company) could be fighting this fight for a long time.
Becoming Generic in the Internet Age
My impression is that, at this point, the company behind Spinning has a bigger problem than Coke or Kleenex. Most people know that Coke is a brand even if they say Coke when they mean any kind of cola. But if the average man or woman on the street says they’re going Spinning, they could mean anything. And I’d wager they have no idea that it’s a trademarked word that means a very specific thing.
A quick scan of the Spin, Spinning, and Spinner landscape of the Internet search engines shows that tons of websites, magazines, and businesses (small, large, and HUGE), even Wikipedia are all using the terms generically and improperly for indoor cycles and indoor cycling. Ignorance is not a good defense usually, but in this case it is a big part of the problem.
A quick bit of research on the origins of Spinning or a friendly email from Mad Dogg Athletics will cure that ignorance. Then the ball is in the indoor cycler’s court. But I’d argue that, with the Internet being the world’s biggest Petri dish for erroneous ideas, once this one was out of the bag at the dawn of the Web, Xerox had nothing on Spinning’s uphill battle to protect their brand name. And talking about a great product in the only terms, names, and descriptions we may know to describe it is just going to happen.
A Solution Inside the Problem
On the flip side, the Internet’s thought-virus Petri dish environment might be what turns this around for Spinning, or at least reduces the ignorance factor. A smart, viral-y online marketing campaign could help. People like the Spinning brand, and goodwill goes a long way in America.
Mad Dogg Athletics, the owners of the Spinning, Spinner, Spin and Spin Fitness names have been victims of their own success in an age when speed-of-light communication is being distilled down into smiley face emoji’s. At the end of the day, the company is just trying to make a great line of indoor cycles and exercise programs that help people get in shape and feel good about themselves. Let’s give them a hand and say “indoor cycle” instead of Spin bike (unless of course it really is a Spinning bike – then say whatever you want). Spinning will thank you. As will the nice lady from Spinning who messaged me to say I was using their brand names incorrectly. ☺