There is no shortage of apps aiming to help consumers improve their fitness, on the go and on their own time. Aerobic workouts, strength training, Pilates, yoga, cycling – name a form of exercise, and the odds are good to great that there plenty of fitness apps one can choose from to work out at home.
But for all the choices, Obé Co-founder Mark Mullett noted, there isn’t a lot of variety. What is happening in the streaming workouts may vary, but it is always the same look in the video: a toned instructor, a mirror wall, bright-white lights, high-gloss floor.
“Nothing really grabs you and makes you excited to work out. If you look at the fitness landscape, you quickly realize you can’t really tell the difference between an at-home fitness video from 1993, 2003, 2013 or today,” Mullett told Fast Company.
Obé, which is an acronym for “our body electric,” is a live-streaming, on-demand fitness platform that is looking to sprinkle a bit of the old Jane Fonda magic into its offerings. And that is not being euphemistic: The actress’ iconic workout videos from the early 80s were an inspiration for the subscription streaming service, which aims to take a more stylish approach to getting fit. That means, among other things, soft lighting, pastel colors, a minimalist setting and slicker fashion choices.
“Our customer wants something different,” explains Mullett of the company’s millennial audience. “She wants something that that feels branded, that feels special – that evokes joy.”
Because the problem with fitness in the U.S. is that it is not an experience associated with joy, but rather with obligation and misery. But, Mullett noted, back in the early 80s during the Fonda heyday, people liked working out with Jane. The goal for Obé is to make it feel a lot less like working out, and a lot more like having fun. Fun, but in a mobile-optimized way: Obé’s set dimensions are 16×9, the exact same as one’s computer or smartphone screen.
And all of those pastel colors and neon lights serve a purpose other than looking cool. They are also a form of branding for the company – and an effective one at that. In the last 12 months, the fitness startup has partnered with numerous high-end retailers, such as Outdoor Voices, Victoria’s Secret Sport and Carbon38. Now, fans who want to work out with Obé can dress the part from head to toe – in pale violet and blue pastels, or pinks bright and electric enough to be seen from space.
The singular design elements are paired with an interactive app structure that frequently (but in a friendly way) pushes members to “reserve” their virtual spot for live streaming classes or to set up their weekly schedules on Sundays. The rewards can be things like getting a shoutout from the instructor during the class period.
“Plan your workouts like you plan your life,” reads the app, which automatically syncs with the user’s calendar.
Critical to Obé’s success so far is users sharing those workouts and bringing new people into the Obé family. The brand has a private Facebook group with more than 2,500 members who review workouts, compare routines and, of course, share images of themselves in pastels, sweating post-workout.
“Just going to a fitness class or just taking a class at home does not a fitness lifestyle make,” noted Mullett. “You really need it to be a part of who you are, your routine. So what we really care about is where accountability meets that community. What really excites us is fitness as a lifestyle.”
Today, participants in that lifestyle are mostly female millennials between the ages of 25-44, with the remaining 40 percent mostly in college age range. The goal for the future, according to Mullett, is expanding the company’s offerings and instructor roster. Possible areas of interest include healthy eating and personal care.