Peloton got canceled.
One and a half years later, it invested $400 million into building its own manufacturing facility in Ohio. The at-home workout equipment company even had Mark Zuckerberg using their product as his example explaining the use case of VR,
“Think about it like Peloton, where you have a subscription, but instead the device is VR and you put on your headset, and you’re in this amazing environment and you’re doing a boxing class with an instructor, or a dance class…”
How did the Peloton marketing team go from canceled to getting free promotion from the owner of the world’s largest social media platforms?
By following the basic marketing principles that have been taught for years and mixing them with the available technology of the modern-day.
Peloton Gets Canceled and Then Cancels Themselves
Peloton initially hit the zeitgeist in December of 2019 with their now infamous (and removed from their marketing channels) video ad of a husband gifting a Peloton bike to his wife. The ad didn’t resonate well with consumers, who immediately took to social media to talk about their distaste for the ad creative.
Things looked bad as media companies published headlines like these and garnered millions of collective views:
Peloton was canceled.
At least that’s what Twitter thought.
The reality was some people on Twitter were mad about the ad spot, but plenty of Peloton customers were totally fine with it. “Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey. While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate,” Peloton told CNBC.
Peloton’s stock dipped slightly ($5) before working its way back up in true up-and-to-the-right graph fashion despite a 14-week shipping delay. With their newfound fame thanks to the virality of their controversial ad creative (could this be the 2021 case study of no press is bad press?), Peloton launched a brand new offer in November 2020.
The Peloton Tread and Tread+ treadmills.
Five months later, they recalled every single one of them.
Preventable injuries and ultimately the death of a 6-year old child forced the company to take their treadmills off of the market until they had the safety features necessary to live in their customers’ homes.
Their stock dove from $118 to $83 between April and May of 2021, when the company went public about the dangers of their treadmills.
And yet a month later, the stock continued to climb and work its way only $10 short of its $118 April 2021 high.
How is Peloton surviving being canceled for ad creative and admitting their products had caused a fatality?
Peloton’s Marketing Strategy
Peloton is more than at-home workout equipment.
It’s a brand.
Peloton has taken the idea of branding all the way to home plate.
Their customers don’t quietly use their equipment. They tell all of their friends and family about it proudly. And that comes with hard work from their team.
The brand takes its product seriously by hiring workout instructors signed with some of the biggest talent agencies in the world (UTA and CAA). These aren’t new spin instructors learning on the job: they’re experienced instructors working professionally with a talent agency.
Peloton also moderates all shows by having each script submitted 36 hours before showtime. All of this on top of securing a partnership to use Beyonce’s songs in their shows.
It’s clear their product team is focused on customer sentiment and social listening, but what marketing strategies is Peloton using to get out of controversy and continue to dominate market share?
Customer Value Journey: Tap Into Their Raving Fanbase
Peloton has a *paying* army of salespeople selling their products for them.
The last stage of the Customer Value Journey is the Promote stage. It comes far after somebody has just found out about your brand and past the moment they’ve ascended to your highest tier offers.
In the Promote stage, your customers become your salespeople. They’re happily telling their friends, family, and followers about their positive experience with your brand. This Promote stage is where Peloton lucked out.
Their customers, despite controversy and fatality, continued to stand behind the brand. They kept posting their workout photos and videos to Instagram and putting the company in a better light.
Ninety-three percent of marketers agree that consumers trust content created by customers more than content created by brands. If other people were still okay with riding their Peloton, other Peloton users felt like it was okay for them to continue.
Create the same effect: Tell your customers how they can make content to share with their friends, family, and followers about your brand. You can do this by telling them what to create (“Take a photo at the beginning of your ride and after to show how hard you’ve worked!”) and by showing them other customer-created content across your socials (like sharing customer Instagram stories to your brand profile).
Marketing Foundations: Strategically Using FOMO
With user-generated content comes FOMO.
When we talk about Peloton’s ability to create more than a product and tap into the power of a consumer-loved brand—we’re talking about FOMO. Fear of missing out is the part of human psychology that tells us fitting in is better than standing out. Our minds have evolved to be part of the group because that’s what kept us safe a million years ago.
Nowadays, that’s what keeps us in the zeitgeist.
FOMO has been used in marketing for hundreds of years. We talk about FOMO regularly, especially using it in our email subject lines, because it works. People want to know that they’re taking part in what other people think is cool.
Peloton tapped into this human psychology and catapulted its brand to at-home workout dominance. In comparison to another at-home workout option, Tonal, the stats tell you everything about how Peloton has created a brand over a product:
Tonal Instagram following: 178,000 followers
Create the same effect: Use your customer content to create FOMO, showing how many people have chosen your product over the competition’s and how happy they are with their choice. You can do this by consistently posting their content to your marketing channels, talking about your customer’s success, and asking for testimonials and feedback that can be repurposed on your sales and landing pages.
Community Growth: They Make the Peloton Experience Relatable
Peloton is a brand that gives you access to a community—and that’s how it’s created breakout growth.
When you get a Peloton, you get to be part of something bigger. As Ryan Deiss explains, you want to create movements with your products.
Peloton did that.
They made their spin bikes the cool kid on the block. So cool that their fanbase created an Instagram account dedicated to Peloton memes.
That account is sitting at 282,000 followers (that’s more followers for their meme page than Tonal has in total!). The more relatable it is to do Peloton workouts, the more FOMO is created and the happier customers are to create user-generated content about the product.
It’s a holistic marketing approach that continues to feed itself.
Happy customer talks about how much they love Peloton → Someone who’s not familiar with Peloton learns about the brand → They see the meme content and feel FOMO → They buy a Peloton → Happy customer talks about how much they love Peloton…
Create the same effect: Your customers are all having a collective experience. How can you create a digital headquarters that lets them relate to that experience under your roof? This experience goes for their Before State (the state they’re in before they buy your products) and the After State (the positive benefits they get from solving their problem with your product).
The Phenomena of Peloton’s Comeback
Peloton didn’t cross their fingers and hope their company would survive.
They built a brand that would survive with a product that:
- Relies on their fans to do some of the selling for them.
- Makes customers want to share their experience.
- Has a built-in community of people who relate to a prospect’s Before and After States.
We see this success in the up-and-to-the-right graph of their stock price (the goal of all stocks) and in consumer sentiment.
Peloton hasn’t been canceled, its community only seems to have grown stronger. And it all comes down to basic, implementable marketing strategies available to all brands today.