Peloton Ad Shows Power of Consumer Perception

Peloton’s viral exercise bike ad shows the power of consumer perception, and the importance for brands to monitor social analytics to maintain brand – and stock – health. And it also offers a case study in how to pick up a viral moment and use it to your brand’s advantage, as one super savvy company (not Peloton) did here!

The Peloton Ad Controversy

Peloton offers high-end, interactive exercise equipment to a very niche demographic: those who can afford two to four thousand dollars for an exercise bike or treadmill! They’d announced offering more economical options in mid-November. And everything was looking amazing for Peloton Interactive, as they moved into December. “Peloton beat revenue estimates and delivered a positive outlook for the holidays. Here are the highlights:

  • Connected fitness subscribers jumped 103% year over year, expanding the member base to 1.6 million.
  • Likewise, total revenue increased by 103%, to $228 million.
  • Subscribers to the company’s fitness program seem to like the progress they see in the mirror, as churn was an extremely low 0.90%, with a 94% 12-month retention rate.
  • Gross margin ticked up, which helped narrow the net loss to $49.8 million — a $4.8 million improvement.”

And then its exercise bike ad went sideways.

Giving Back in Unexpected Ways

The controversial video, The Gift That Gives Back, shows a young and fit mom/wife being gifted a Peloton exercise bike for Christmas. It’s a gift from her husband. She then records herself using it for a year. And then shares her happiness – and how using the bike has changed her – with her husband as a ‘thank you’ during their Christmas celebration the following year.

Peloton, the gift that gives back

The ad itself, which first appeared on November 4th, didn’t go viral right away. And it might not have, if it hadn’t been spoofed. It was pretty uneventful for almost a month. We see typical ‘exercise equipment’ conversation about Peloton equipment in the days following the commercial’s release. We see pretty positive Net Sentiment too . . .

We see typical ‘exercise equipment’ conversation about Peloton equipment in the days following the commercial’s release

But then there was a sudden spike in mentions and sentiment nosedive on December 2nd .

spike in sentiment due to parody by comedian

We can see that this happened because a comedian decided to create a pretty hilarious parody of it and it went viral pretty immediately:

sorting out the source of the spike in Peloton sentiment with a fluctuation summary

And that opened the floodgates, with all eyes turned toward Peloton, and not in a good way . . .

Peloton Pedals into the Hot Seat

Peloton outcry ramps up online

The ad was immediately flagged for showcasing a Stepford Wife-type mentality/lifestyle. The Peloton wife now appeared unsure and anxious about the whole ‘gift’ experience. And so much more:

conversations happening online about Peloton,shaping consumer perception

Peloton says it’s disappointed by how its viral ad was misinterpreted.

“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a company spokesperson said in an email. “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.”

And that disappointment apparently extends to its shareholders. Peloton’s stock dropped dramatically, “15% in three days, wiping more than $1.5 billion from its market capitalization.”

Peloton Interactive stock dive

And the company hasn’t had much to say beyond that. But others online have, like Saturday Night Live

SNL parody of Peloton

Also, a quick-thinking gin company, which has obviously been monitoring online buzz.

Peloton Wife Sequel – The Gin Commercial

Ryan Reynolds’ company, Aviation Gin, was quick to snap up the Peloton Wife for an ad promoting its gin. It was quick to capture and exploit themes that online has been offering up. And the ad is titled, The Gift That Doesn’t Give Back, just in case someone somehow misses the obvious Peloton connection.

The Peloton Wife is out with friends, celebrating ‘new beginnings’ with her supportive, concerned friends. And she’s downing multiple glasses of the “smooth gin” and staring off into the distance.

Aviation Gin, the gift that doesn't give back

Aviation Gin has taken advantage of a viral moment and expanded its life. Mentions of it are now spiking as well, but in a good way:

Aviation Gin mentions from using Peloton wife in ad

And it’s something that Peloton could have done as well.

Peloton Brand Health Tracking & Ambassador Activation

Had the company been alerted to the volume of mentions happening about its brand in general, and this commercial, specifically, it could have taken more decisive (and advisable) action beyond expressing disappointment in consumer perception, which probably didn’t win them any fans. And certainly didn’t demonstrate consumer understanding.

They could have easily sorted out the root of the mentions with a transparent next generation AI-powered social analytics tool (as seen above). From there, they could have explored what percentage of mentions were actually negative:

analyzing positive and negative sentiment

They could have explored negative mentions to better understand what was being said, and why. And they could have learned they’re coming off a bit out of touch with that new, more affordable, demographic they’re branching out to capture, for one.

Peloton a bit out of touch with that new, more affordable, demographic they’re branching out to capture

And most importantly – that they were being associated with sexist, dystopian descriptions. This is never a good thing.

They could have also run a filtered search of the positive mentions to find potential brand ambassadors. And these folks could support a new narrative, one that focused on empowerment and audience understanding. Peloton has shared a few emailed testimonials online, and their Facebook page offers a solid sampling of fans, but they need to do more. A couple of highly engaged Twitter-verified female fans/Peloton bike owners would’ve been a great place to start:

potential Peloton brand ambassadors, who could shift consumer perception

It’s Never Too Late for Social Analytics

And they still could do these things. That’s the great thing about social listening. It offers up real-time insight around consumer perception. And lots of opportunities.

With the conversation showing no signs of slowing down just yet, the brand can likely expect a few more jabs aimed its way before it dissipates. Particularly, as #FakePelotonFacts has started to take off as well:

fake Peloton facts gaining traction on Twitter

Maybe that stiff drink is in order, along with a healthy dose of social analytics intelligence to inform the company’s next move.

Reach out, Peloton! We can show you how – and why – to follow the sentiment as you move forward!