Upscale gym giant Equinox is set to launch a luxury hospitality brand, opening its first hotel location in 2018 — and marking the company as the latest to join the growing trend of pushing the envelope on “brand experiences.”

The first fitness-focused hotel is set to open in New York City in 2018, Travel + Leisure reported earlier this year. Equinox has plans to expand the endeavor nationally if successful, and its ultimate aim appears to be transitioning to a fully integrated fitness and wellness lifestyle company.

This much-discussed launch is news in and of itself — members and outsiders alike appear eager for a glimpse of how Equinox’s upscale experiences will translate to hotel stays — but it’s also part of a much larger marketing movement.

Beyond Branded Experiences

The idea of experiential marketing or building immersive “brand experiences” isn’t new, but it has picked up steam in today’s mobile era — a time in which 90 percent of purchases are still made in physical places, but customers expect something more from their shopping journey. In other words, if they’re taking the time to go to a store, they want something they “can’t get on Amazon.”

This is a simple explanation of the inspiration behind set ups like Cadillac’s Cadillac House and Kellogg’s NYC cereal café: Brands want to go the extra mile when it comes to creating an immersive experience with the potential to surprise and delight, but the showroom (or café, or other setup) is still aimed at showcasing and/or selling the brand’s original product.

But this type of experiential marketing appears to be giving rise to another type of brand extension: massive national (or international) brands expanding into verticals that are completely separate from what they are known for — essentially pivoting into a new industry while still (hopefully) driving brand awareness for their marquis product as well.

One example? PepsiCo’s foray into the restaurant business with the opening of New York City’s Kola House. Nothing is overtly “Pepsi” — other than the inclusion of the Kola nut in some of the signature cocktails — and the company appears to be approaching the project from the ground up, hiring established restaurant staff and staying away from anything too branded. As such, the project isn’t a branded experience project for Pepsi — but since its ownership by Pepsi is overt, as is its “Kola nut” hook, it’s also more than a standalone restaurant opening.

This appears to be the vein in which Equinox will position its new hotel. It will be a luxury hospitality experience in its own right, but with the fitness focus and the placement of an Equinox gym within the property, it’s a way to tie together all of the pieces of the (rapidly expanding) Equinox brand puzzle.

However the hospitality side of Equinox’s business evolves, the company’s CMO Carlos Becil is convinced that it’s a good time to be in the fitness and lifestyle industry: “The demand for fitness and high performance living has never been greater, and we don’t see it slowing down,” Becil told Condé Nast Traveler. “It’s visible across categories, including technology, wearable devices, fashion and, of course, in our own business. We’re opening a record ten clubs this year and will soon have 100 clubs in three countries. We’re experiencing record levels of demand for the Equinox brand.”