Mint Fitness

I was referred to Patrick and Melissa John through a mutual friend of ours, Wess Brown. He was the principal photographer for my musical debut (9Davine‘s Oyster & Champagne, 1999) and a colleague during my time at Leo A Daly Architects. At the time, the Johns owned a typical fitness facility in Wheaton Maryland (USA), a suburb of Washington DC. I remember our initial brainstorming session with Patrick in late 2004 like it was yesterday. He described his vision for “an urban retreat” with zen sensibilities — a perfect fit in my world.

Patrick and Melissa wanted to establish their new fitness experience in the heart of Washington DC. They were ready to take a mighty leap both culturally (from suburbs to the city) and financially. They sought leadership in the areas of branding, marketing and new membership. Wess recommended the Johns contact me for guidance. The key clicking point upfront was the fact that i had run an agency (Zinc) one block away from their desired location in the Adams Morgan district. I was a regular performer at Cafe Lautrec (now closed) and a lifetime member of Bedrock Billiards — both neighborhood favorites. I lived in Dupont Circle, an adjacent upscale community where they planned to cultivate new members. Channeling my creative and marketing talents through this base of knowledge would prove invaluable.

Initially, my focus was singular — to solidify the name, tagline and logo for the facility. After a short period of deliberation, we fell in love with “Mint” for the name. The colors evoked were appealing. The smell and taste were crisp and refreshing. The possibilities were seemingly endless. Next, we needed a tagline. Because of my background in music and my father’s hobby as memorabilia dealer, I suggested a play on Mint Condition (Google this if you don’t get the references). The first version of the tag “Condition Yourself” led fluidly into the current spin “Mint Conditioned” — both sharp and direct for their industry. Lastly, we needed a logo designed. Two local designers (Mark Pepperdine, Mark Seavey) and I produced various takes for review. The Johns preferred a simple typographic treatment and fell in love with the below art.

From here, we progressed into signage & building brand elements. There was an excellent opportunity to make two different statements through the architecture. On one side, the facility fronted a well-known intersection in Washington DC — 18th street and Florida Avenue. On the other, it tucked into a quieter side street. The Johns brought in a local architect who transferred various elements of our art and palette into the exterior cladding, materials and paint. They spared no expense in making the right impression. The efforts were likely instrumental in attracting hip hop producer and icon Pharrell to rent the first floor units for various fashion and lifestyle pursuits.

Next, we tackled the preliminary marketing collateral — business cards, letterhead, a brochure and a website. We shopped to create a library of stock photography images. Two nice touches we brought to their identity were ample use of white space coupled with rounded edges. For the website, we initially relied on a Flash introduction. That progressed into a brochure style effort as we got closer to the grand opening. The suite was recognized for excellence with the “M Award” by the American Marketing Association (AMA) in 2005. Since this time, the Johns have extended the brand to the smallest of details — like mint leaves in water carafes, or the log stitched onto headrests and pillows in the massage areas.

The last and most important order of business was to ensure a successful grand opening. This process began early on by conducting quantitative and qualitative market research. We brought in market researcher Bob London to help us with the quantitative side of things, while the Johns and I focused on the qualitative aspect of cornering the demographics. We visited the local fitness facilities, asked questions, took notes – whatever was necessary to take the pulse of the competition. We isolated opportunities for differentiation, crafting mission and passion statements, developed a marketing program, spun memberships incentives, and began to pitch the concept to consumers. When initial response and returns came in solid, the Johns formed an in-house staff to drive branding, marketing and membership forward.

I’m thrilled to have been an integral part of founding a landmark destination in the nation’s capital — and grateful for fulfilling the dreams of a very cool couple in Patrick and Melissa John. Today, you’ll find Mint making a big splash with a secondary facility on K Street (a desirable address in downtown Washington DC) and recent press from WTOP Radio, Washington Post and Washingtonian magazine.