3 Things Peloton Did Right in Responding to Ad Controversy

Dec 5, 2019

In an era of sensitive social media reactions and brands quick to apologize, Peloton has committed to riding out the recent controversy around its holiday ad.

The high-end exercise bike and virtual spin class company was mocked online for a recent ad depicting a woman receiving a Peloton bike for Christmas from her husband and documenting her year-long fitness journey. The spot drew comparisons to dystopian TV show Black Mirror and was criticized for sexist and elitist overtones.

It’s been a tough week for the brand, which saw share prices drop as parody videos popped up and opinion columnists chimed in. But Peloton’s ads have been criticized for their overly idyllic settings in the past, and it hasn’t had a lasting impact on the brand’s popularity with its target market.

Here is the brand’s response to the recent viral outage:

“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. 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.”

The ad isn’t like to win any awards and may have angered some by focusing on an affluent couple who already seem to have their fitness in check. (Granted, affluent fitness fanatics is the brand’s core audience.) The success or failure of the ad aside, there are three things Peloton did right in its response to the recent viral outrage:

  1. It resisted apologizing. The memes were already coming. Peloton saved face with existing and potential customers by standing by the ad and reinforcing the sentiment behind it in its statement.
  2. It focused on customer loyalty. Along with its statement, Peloton included three emails it received from customers supporting the ad. Reporters were compelled to include those positive reactions as the other side of the argument, rather than a stuffy corporate response.
  3. It stayed in its lane. Peloton is secure in its brand message and tone. It’s hard to out-woke Twitter, and a brand peddling luxury exercise equipment is smart not to try.

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