Flex Those Marketing Muscles with Charles Atlas

Hello and welcome to the Kanawha Valley Hustlers podcast. I’m Joe Justice, your host and the Kanawha Valley hustler. Today, I want to share a story that has always fascinated me, a story that goes back to the roaring twenties, a tale of strength, marketing, and the transformation from a 97 pound weakling to an icon of masculinity.

In the early 1920s, the concept of bodybuilding was still in its infancy. There were no sleek gyms with cutting-edge equipment; instead, you had strongmen in circus-like acts showcasing their power. This was the era when Charles Atlas emerged.

Atlas, a winner of the World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man Competition in 1922, faced a challenge common to many in his time – the changing landscape of post-industrial revolution cities led to unhealthy living, poor diets, and a need for physical well-being. It was in this environment that Charles Atlas sought to make a name for himself.

However, the world of bodybuilding and physical culture wasn’t as mainstream as it is today. Atlas, though successful, wasn’t reaching the heights he aspired to. That’s when he crossed paths with Charles Roman, an advertising genius. Together, they revolutionized marketing in the fitness industry.

Atlas had a great program, a fantastic physique, but what set him apart was the dynamic tension system. Charles Roman saw an opportunity to rebrand Atlas’s image and market it not to the typical physical culture enthusiasts but to a wider audience – comic book readers, boys aspiring to be like their heroes.

The stroke of brilliance was avoiding traditional physical culture magazines and diving into the pages of comic books where dreams of strength and heroism flourished. Roman coined phrases like “Dynamic Tension” and the famous “97 pound weakling” – a number carefully chosen to sound authentic. This strategy exploded the popularity of Charles Atlas.

The lesson here is clear – know your target market. Atlas and Roman understood the power of reaching an audience that aspired to be what they were selling. Understanding your market is key.

As we approach 2024, my advice is simple: embrace your target market, work with them, understand them, and watch your growth explode. So, until next time, this is Joe Justice reminding you to hustle hard, hustle smart, and always hustle with a smile.

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