Loyola College, Baltimore, MD, B.A., English; Minor, Art History
Christina DeGuardi isn’t afraid to admit that she, not so unlike many of us, sometimes struggles with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As senior vice president of marketing, branding and communications for Crunch, a health club chain, it’s an important realization that Christina says allows her to personally relate and market to her company’s clients and potential clients. With an expanding international presence and rapidly growing competition in the fitness industry, Crunch needs that personal connection to succeed.
In addition to personally relating to the feelings of the gym-goer and (sometimes) gym-avoider, Christina also brings an innovative approach to Crunch’s marketing challenges with years of agency experience managing premier global brands. And while working on big accounts like Burger King might seem a far stretch from the world of selling good health, it has worked well for Christina as she’s successfully helped grow the Crunch brand.
I have learned to confidently express my point of view and that it’s OK if not everyone is in agreement.
When you were a little girl, what was your dream job?
I started out wanting to be a vet but then realized there were some unsavory aspects to the day-to-day in that profession that I did not have the stomach for. After that I vacillated between being a professional basketball player and being a lawyer.
How did your career in marketing begin?
At the time I graduated college I knew only that I wanted to pursue a career in some sort of creatively driven business. That summer I was teaching swimming lessons and one of the parents was a big wig at an ad agency; he was kind enough to get me an interview. After passing a typing test (yup, they made you do that back then), I was hired as a receptionist.
What triggered your switch from agency to client side?
Making the switch was not something I had really considered prior to the opportunity presenting itself to me. I was working as the point person managing the Crunch account at an ad agency and the Crunch marketing director at the time confided in me that she was leaving and that she wanted to recommend me as her replacement. I was flattered, nervous and incredibly excited for the opportunity.
What does a day in your life entail? How do you organize your day?
Each day varies quite a bit depending on my meeting schedule, what initiatives we are working on and what is happening with the overall business. Some days I am working on long-term projects that we are trying to get off the ground or move forward, and other times I am reacting to fluctuations in the business or even the weather (snow storms are not your friend in the gym business). Overall, I spend a good amount of time communicating with people via email, conference calls or the in-person interaction I have with my team providing guidance throughout the day.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
My favorite aspect of my job is being part of something that I believe in, something that I can relate to and something that ultimately has a positive impact on people’s lives. I have always been an athlete and worked out. Crunch was actually the first gym I joined when I moved to NYC after college. However, like most people, I struggle with maintaining a consistently healthy lifestyle, so it’s very easy for me to personally relate to the people I am tasked to market to. I feel personally connected to the challenges and very invested in our success.
What is a project you're currently working on that you can tell us about?
I am working on a few projects that are somewhat extensions of our business model. Each exposes the Crunch brand to new audiences and allows them to experience the brand in a different context than a traditional membership purchase. One is related to driving membership and revenue; the other is related to recruiting and retaining employees. I find these types of projects incredibly rewarding; they tend to challenge what you think you know and force you to expand your professional knowledge base.
What is the biggest challenge you face in today’s marketing landscape?
The biggest challenge we face is actually a biproduct of the explosive growth of the fitness industry, which is ultimately a very positive thing. Fitness has become something that more and more people see as an integral part of their daily lives — a gym membership is no longer a luxury or “nice to have.” That culture shift has brought about much more competition. From boutique studios focused on the latest and greatest workout trend to the low-price gyms that make a gym membership totally accessible, there are definitely more options than ever before. The good news is that this makes us look at our offering and challenge ourselves to make our product the best it can possibly be.
What qualities does it take to be a successful producer of great marketing content?
Organization, confidence and creativity are very important. Having the ability to multitask and navigate problems skillfully and gracefully are vital.
What do you look for in candidates when expanding your team?
Besides the specific qualifications, I look for people who have a warm and engaging personality. I also, look for opportunities to give a little truth serum to the person during the interview by asking something that’s unexpected and see if I can get them to reveal something that they hadn’t planned to prior. I need to fully trust everyone I hire, there can be no question in that area; so his or her willingness to be honest is very important.
What are some leadership lessons you’ve learned so far?
I try to exhibit the qualities I expect from my team in how I personally operate every day. I work very hard and will handle any task given, big or small. When I see a problem, I am willing to step in to solve it whether or not it falls within my area of responsibility. I am a careful and effective communicator: taking the time to choose your words appropriately leads you more quickly to conflict resolution rather than to conflict. I have learned to confidently express my point of view and that it’s OK if not everyone is in agreement. I have also learned that working with and around like-minded people is what gives you the ability to be successful and working among not so like-minded people is what gives you the patience and understanding you need to be successful.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Crunch?
Everyone who is part of the Crunch brand and experience is passionately committed to delivering on our No Judgments philosophy. We really are proud as an organization that we believe in making fitness fun and accessible to everyone and anyone, all shapes, all sizes, all types, all levels. It’s why I joined the Crunch on West 83rd Street in 1993 and why I love working here today.