by Rocky Romero
The game of Soloflex is over for Jerry Wilson, the founding father of Soloflex.
He played well, provided a fine product, and faded into a whisper.
Sadly, Soloflex joins that list of products that includes larger cars, tube TVs, and print newspapers. The time had come.
There is discussion by some that perhaps a well heeled, deep pocketed, health enthusiast would resurrect the products and reposition Soloflex in the marketplace.
There are many factors that conspire against that. Age, gravity, and disappointments have affected Jerry Wilson and subsequently, the Soloflex brand.
Notwithstanding the success of selling one million Soloflex machines, according to their website, the fundamentals for a solid business diminished quickly in the final days.
There are three fundamentals. I refer to the success formula as TPM, the Target audience, the unique Process, and the compelling Message.
Only one of those fundamentals existed in the final days for the company to reach excellent levels. Its uniqueness. Its process.
Soloflex only had one, all three were needed to excel to the level it had in the peak year of 1995.
Clearly, we can all agree, that the biggest strength for Soloflex is the unique distinction of being the first to market in the home gym arena in 1978.
While many men had barbell equipment in their homes in those days, a radical shift in concept for muscle strengthening with a home gym providing as good or better results than weights became a compelling reason for a niche segment of the market. This is the second ingredient to the success formula: a great target audience, willing and able to pay for the Soloflex promise.
It worked better with the TV advertising that took off at a time when millions of people where ready to consider something unique like this. It also required about $150 million in marketing muscle dollars to bring it to the public. This is the third ingredient of the success formula: the messaging to the right audience with a unique product.
The timing was also right because of the growing awareness of strength as an integral part of our health. Soloflex helped to teach us this.
Men adapted to the Soloflex Muscle Machine more easily than women. The women’s strength movement had yet to take off. At that time, sports programs for women were barely starting and muscle strengthening was not considered feminine.
It would be 8 years later, in 1986, before a competitor in this arena would appear. It had a similar sounding name: Bowflex.
Soloflex had defined the marketplace and others began to look at this area more closely.
Even then, Soloflex maintained it’s uniqueness in the product and the recognizable, signature styling. This styling continued with the announcement of the Rockit. The Soloflex Rockit focused on the lower body strengthening. It also was the first product to consider another target market: the aging population.
The Rockit advertised not only strong, healthy, great looking, young people but also those fun, gray haired people in their later years. They also could become stronger, safely.
It almost worked.
The boomer generation noticed but was not ready to admit that they were aging.
Sales for the Rockit were weak, while the sales for the Soloflex Muscle Machine continued strong.
Not strong enough as their competition, Bowflex.
Bowflex blossomed into a public company and began to acquire other companies in the fitness arena. It grew stronger in marketing, products and positioning and renamed itself as Nautilus, Inc.
Soloflex remained a private company, with a few products, and a smaller share of the market.
Even the last hurrah for Soloflex, the WBV (Whole Body Vibration), became an attempt to resurrect its niche dominance. The target market was the “baby boomer”, aging population.
While somewhat unique, the Soloflex WBV encountered legal opposition because of its advertising. Less than favorable consumer reports also affected the continued success of the WBV. Missing from the success formula was the compelling message to its target audience to buy the WBV.
Soloflex had become the aging fighter that had taken too many punches and was unable to stand up to answer the bell for the next round.
It was a great 30 year fight.
By 2008, the time had come to hang up the gloves and to rest the signature Soloflex Muscle Machine.