Want to bring more men into your spa? Then you might want to take a page from Bliss Spa Fort Lauderdale, which just celebrated its third annual Blissguy Fort Lauderdale Competition at the W Fort Lauderdale (FL). The goal was to find 10 to 20 well-groomed and well-spoken guys willing to compete to be the next face of Bliss Spa Fort Lauderdale and represent the best of health, wellness, and guy glamour for the next year. Highlights of this year’s popular event included a series of casting calls, which involved potential candidates filling out a fun questionnaire, being interviewed, and posing for a headshot. On event day, the finalists strutted their stuff on the runway and answered fun and flirty questions from a panel of elite judges, including reps from Ford Models Miami, Original Penguin, and Bliss Spa, in
addition to Maxim magazine’s hometown hottie and local TV and radio personalities. Involving the local community, the competition featured a variety of sponsors, such as Original Penguin, Ford Models, y100, Ted Gibson Salon, Smartwater, Bodytek Fitness, Emagination Creative Group, and Beranek Optometry. The lucky winner was treated to one year’s worth of Bliss spa services, a $500 Original Penguin shopping spree, and a mega gift basket of special gifts from event sponsors. He also agreed to make a number of appearances at special events at the W Fort Lauderdale throughout the year. Here, Micheal Wilson, director of spa at Bliss Spa Fort Lauderdale, and Scott Brooks, general manager of W Fort Lauderdale, reveal how they conceived this innovative idea to market to men.
What prompted the idea to create the Blissguy competition?
SB: When W Fort Lauderdale first opened, the community was abuzz with excitement over the new property and its featured partners, such as Bliss. As we settled into Fort Lauderdale, we posed a challenge to our team: Come up with exciting ways to keep our locals and visitors alike interested in the hotel and help build brand awareness. The idea of the Blissguy competition was developed. It was a perfect solution, as it was a unique event concept that offered our community a chance to participate and was a shining example of what the Bliss and W Hotels brands had to offer.
MW: Our goal was to keep this energy elevated through the summer off-season and to even target a few demographics that may not have experienced Bliss Spa quite yet while giving our regulars a chance to celebrate with us on an amped up level. Blissguy accomplished all of this and more.
What was involved in the planning process?
MW: A need was identified, and a brainstorming session was hosted. From there, we created a concept, developed it, and set goals for the event, such as what qualities the Blissguy should possess, what role the winner would play in the spa and community, and what the return on investment should be for the event. Next, we identified key partners who would help us achieve these goals, reach our targeted demographics, and align well with our brands’ images and goals.
How did you involve the community?
MW: We began with a grassroots marketing plan. For contestants, we targeted our community movers and shakers to spread the word and integrate our messaging into local gyms, firehouses, and social networks. Regarding sponsors, we reached out to the businesses and organizations in our community that had positive reputations and the ability to reach a large number of our community residents. The simple process of word of mouth partnered with strategic advertising and social media took on a snowball effect, and soon, it seemed, the entire community was talking about Blissguy.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
SB: Aside from all the moving parts—sponsors, contestants, event vendors, and guests—there was the challenging task of ensuring that the event concept was properly relayed to all of our internal departments, as well as our sponsors and media partners. This was key to ensure that the integrity of the brands involved were upheld. A chain of communication was developed, which helped guarantee that the event messages were being effectively and efficiently communicated with the needed parties. This communication chain was upheld from the event conception through the execution.
MW: A new concept is always tough to launch to the community, our hotel, and sponsors. We toiled over how to get guys to show up. Once we established the rules of the event, it became much easier to communicate the concept effectively. Despite the fun nature of the event, it was imperative that we protect the brand’s image. The same attention to detail in communicating was implemented in selecting sponsors. Once the word was out that we were looking for partners, so many organizations jumped at the chance. We had to keep our main goals in mind and only choose partners that would elevate the event and align with our brand.
How did you promote the competition?
MW: In addition to an intricate grassroots marketing campaign, which included on-site promotions at our sponsors’ locations, we relied heavily on viral efforts. From Facebook and Twitter to eblasts and blogs, we integrated our messaging into every available portal. We also partnered with a local radio station to reach another demographic of potential guests and contestants and used giveaways to drum up excitement for the event. Print ads and PR-driven stories in newspapers, magazines, and blogs also played a heavy role in promotion.
What benefits did the spa and Bliss brand derive from the competition?
MW: We increased overall brand awareness, especially to the male market. The event brought new faces into the hotel and spa and gave us a platform to promote the new He-Wax services and male-focused spa menu. Additionally, Blissguy seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. All of our Blissguys have garnered a lot of attention on their own, many becoming successful models and still touting the Bliss brand after their reign. The competition has community and national attention.
What advice would you give to others interested in coming up with similar ideas to market to men?
MW: Think outside of the box. Maintain integrity and uphold brand standards. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Keep your concept simple, and always ask for help when needed. Your community is your biggest supporter. Our staff and the hotel were beyond supportive, which was a saving grace, but in the end, it’s the community that really helped us take the event from a concept to an epic annual spectacle.