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- Peloton has stumbled into a PR crisis over a holiday commercial that critics called clueless, classist, and sexist.
- The company lost nearly a billion dollars in market value in one day this week, though Peloton said its stock price tumble was not caused by the ad backlash.
- In a confidential brand positioning deck obtained by Business Insider, Peloton said it would not use any “cheesy ads” or “before and afters,” two things the ad was criticized for.
- The deck describes Peloton’s target customer and the challenges of selling a premium product to a middle-class audience.
- It also says Peloton ads should make users feel empowered and tech savvy while emphasizing their membership in an exclusive community.
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Buzzy startup Peloton is in the middle of a PR crisis over a TV ad that was ridiculed on social media as clueless, classist, and sexist.
The ad, “The Gift of Peloton,” depicts a slim woman getting a stationary bike for Christmas, spending twelve months documenting her own fitness progress, then showing the results to her partner.
After the ad backlash, the company saw nearly a billion dollars in market value wiped out in a single day as its stock value dropped by more than 9%.
But in an internal brand positioning deck obtained by Business Insider shown below, Peloton said it would avoid some of the same things that critics attacked the holiday campaign for.
The deck, dated May 2018, serves as internal guidance and was also sent to ad agencies that were competing for the company’s business.
Peloton says it wouldn’t do ‘snobby’ or ‘aggressive’ marketing as it tries to grow beyond its wealthy core audience
The slides include detailed definitions of Peloton’s brand values and target audience in addition to creative guidelines for its advertising campaigns.
For example, one slide states that Peloton is not “snobby” or “aggressive” in its messaging. Another says that it is “not a gimmicky fitness brand” and that it will not talk down to consumers or include any “cheesy ads” or “before and afters,” a common health marketing tactic of showing people’s achieving their weight loss goals.
Critics claimed that the ad appealed only to an upper-class audience based on the home and people depicted in the spot. They also mocked the ad’s use of a mid-’90s pop song and the woman constantly filming herself; multiple memes depicted her imprisoned in her own home. As for the before-and-after aspect, the woman tells her partner at the end of the ad, “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me.”
Yet the Peloton deck states that households in its target audience make, on average, $100,000 to $150,000 or more per year, and spend at least $150 on fitness each month.
The deck also calls Peloton “premium,” stating that ads should focus on the “innovative design” of the spin bike itself to make users feel like members of a “tech savvy” community.
The brand defends its much-derided holiday ad, disputing claims the controversy led to a 9% stock price drop
Yesterday, Peloton defended the holiday ad to The New York Times, countering rumors that it would stop running amid the controversy. They also disputed speculation that the stock hit was related to press coverage of the campaign.
Peloton told CNBC that the ad was “created to celebrate [a] fitness and wellness journey” and that it was “misinterpreted”
Peloton and Mekanism, the agency that made the ad, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Ad measurement platform iSpot estimated Peloton spent more than $14 million on placements for the holiday ad alone over the past month. It continues to air on broadcast TV and all major digital platforms, and despite the negative press over the ad, iSpot describes sentiments regarding the ad as “65% positive.” And as part of a rapid growth plan, the company more than doubled its sales and marketing budget this year to more than $320 million.