How FitBit Dominated the Wearable Industry

By Grayson Kemper
7 Min Read
FitBit featured image

In 1965, the first pedometer came to market. The manpo-kei originated in Japan to combat the growing inactive lifestyle of the population as a result of a prosperous economy.


A Japanese professor of health sciences concerned with obesity invented the manpo-kei, which means “10,000-step meter,” to encourage Japanese citizens to walk.

The device was marketed with ads that stated, “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day.” Although the number was not derived from years of scientific research, 10,000 steps a day continues to be a popular daily goal for millions of people.

Fifty years after its invention, the idea that the average adult needs to walk 10,000 steps a day to maintain their health drives a thriving wearable industry.

It was not until 2009 when James Park and Eric Friedman released the Fitbit Tracker that quantifying one’s steps became an American past-time.

Fitbit was the first health and fitness tracker wearable on the wrist, the device faces stiff competition from Apple and Samsung smartwatches. To maintain its competitive edge, Fitbit pursues growth aligned with its mission by building unique fitness features and innovative partnerships.

Fitbit is the Original Wearable Device

Of his inspiration, Park stated: “I had been working like crazy at startups over the last three years and really let myself go in terms of fitness.”

The entrepreneurial duo delivered the first sensor-equipped clip-on or wristband gadget for serious and casual athletes to ignite the wearable trend.

Fitbit debuted as a clip-on device. The earliest version of the product featured a single button that cycled through the display to analyze your progress toward the 10,000 step goal. This progress was imagined as a blue flower, which users were encouraged to grow by steps.

Users uploaded information to the Fitbit website where one’s performance could be analyzed and shared with other Fitbit users.

At the end of 2009, 5,000 units were shipped directly to customers. The startup had another 20,000 orders on the books.

In 2013, the device moved to the wrist. This more fashionable version not only made the tracker an accessory but also enabled the device to capture metabolic functions such as heart rate more easily.

As the first wearable fitness device on the wrist, Fitbit dominated the marketplace.

By 2014, the majority of the activity-tracking marketplace was held by Fitbit. 

Fitbit Remains Competitive With Purposeful Marketing

In 2015, Apple Watch launched to offer more advanced metrics and compatibility with apps, drawing athletes and iOS users to the device.

Fitbit’s stock experienced a significant market loss in 2017, decreasing in value by more than half.

According to market research group IDC, Apple and Xioami out-shipped Fitbits in the first quarter of 2017.

The release of Fitbit’s own smartwatch, Fitbit Ionic, made the original wearable fitness device competitive again.

Fitbit’s Commitment to Its Mission Drives Growth

According to Edelman research, over half of consumers will buy a brand that is compatible with their beliefs.

Fitbit’s purpose-based brand drives growth through contributory marketing campaigns such as FitForGood.

For example, the company held a competition in support of three national healthcare charities. Users logged in or signed up for a Fitbit account and selected a charity to support by walking or running.

Fitbit counted the total steps taken between a period of time, ranking charities based on the steps taken for it to discern the amount of money donated. First place received $500,000, second place was awarded $350,000, and third place got $150,000.

Fitbit not only gained earned media through the charitable campaign but also strengthened connections between the brand and consumers by contributing to causes they care about.

By integrating both unique and comparable features to competitors and remaining purpose-driven, Fitbit has been able to remain competitive in the industry it built.

Fitbit continues to leverage its mission to spur growth, shifting its business model to position itself in the healthcare industry.

Recently, Fitbit purchased Twine Health and partnered with Google Cloud to provide consumers with more health information and professional care remotely.

The Fitbit Care program supports employee wellness with virtual coaching, online medical care, smart wearable devices, and self-monitoring.

With Fitbit devices, employees’ key vitals such as heart rate and sleep information are delivered to care providers in real-time.

The goal is to bring real-time medical information, remote medical assistance, preventative care, and machine learning to consumers and institutional clients.

The program offers support communities on social platforms and access to professionals who guide users through health programs including smoking cessation.

Fitbit Care expands the company into the B2B sector by providing solutions to issues businesses face, all while remaining true to its mission.

Fitbit Innovates to Stay Relevant

Fitbit dominated the wearable industry by marrying technology with health and fitness. This purpose has enabled the company to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace through contributory marketing campaigns that reflect the brand’s mission.

Fitbit has also used purpose to locate strategic partnerships opportunities, positioning the company for sustained success.

This article was written by Kate Russell, a Content & Editorial Associate for Clutch, a platform dedicated to helping business buyers find the best fit for their services needs. She edits, curates, and publishes reviews for the Clutch site. 

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Grayson Kemper is a Content Marketing Manager for Clutch and a Senior Writer for The Manifest.
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