How to Overcome Bad Content
Peloton Christmas flop teachers brand managers to embrace collaboration
Reaction earlier this month to the Peloton commercial probably produced some mixed feelings for the companies brand strategists. If it were me, probably my first reaction would be fear of losing my job.
In case you didn’t see it yet, it depicts a woman that just got an exercise bike from her husband. She records her progress over the year. She’s attractive, fit, and by the end of the commercial, she looks exactly the same. That’s it.
And yet, the wave of negative comments social media was probably a surprise for the creators of the ad. The criticisms that came said the commercial was sexist in a way that instructed how women should look for their men. It also might just be that they just wanted to sell bikes, and not get into larger social dynamics that have been so central to this fiasco.
In any case, that’s what happened. Markets soon took a measure of the negative reaction, and $942 million was wiped off Peloton market cap in a single day.
From another — slightly rosier — perspective, you can say that this might actually work to Peloton’s advantage. Right now, there are over 9 million views on Youtube with almost equal like and dislike sentiment.
This much bad press might be the most valuable thing for their Christmas sales. If they convert just 1 percent of those views for these bikes that retail over 3k, then they have made their money back. The fact that this ad is still on YouTube says a lot. What exactly, isn’t known to anyone but Peloton.
Was it really fair?
As a brand strategist for a fashion company, I am always thinking about the risk of publishing content. Our content must include people's bodies to advertise the product. How else could we convince the customer that underwear will make them feel sexier? If our jeans would look make their butt attractive while wearing them? Customers would want.
Peloton, or any exercise company or promoter, has the same dilemma. They have to start at the same research-driven we all start with. Studies here have shown:
- Consumers tend to place more positive associations with physically attractive people.
- Additionally, they are better at changing purchase intentions and beliefs.
- Likability is affection for the source as a result of their attractiveness and behavior.
Now sometimes you can take these points (as they did) and still fail (as they clearly did). That’s because sometimes you make bad content. Your actors don’t work out, or your story sucks, or maybe it just looks stupid. I think that Peloton might have a little of all that going on here.
Looking at that commercial, and saying that it was made by a bunch of sexist guys who only think a women’s place is in the kitchen seems more unrealistic, then just saying that they made a bad commercial. I think it’s fair to tell them that they made a bad commercial. It’s worthy of parody or the butt of the joke. However, when people start demanding that they make an apology for it — that seems a bridge too far.
Peloton is ultimately going to survive this. Their market cap has stabilized. More importantly, we haven’t even seen their quarterly earnings yet. So it will be truly interesting to see what, if any effect the outrage had.
What can brand strategies learn?
It’s a risk to publish or create, and there are going to be some that take your story, and look at it through their own worldview lens. This business is risky and people who want to be offended will always be out there waiting to find something that they hate or dislike about the way you presented the information.
There was a time for me when I was absolutely critical towards my work and second-guessing it. When the work is for my company I always make creating a collaborative effort for things that will go live. I try to get a diversity of opinions on the content, and try to run in by our in house publication guide to making sure that it is in line with the way we talk as a brand.
The advertiser shouldn’t be deterred from creating negative feedback. That doesn’t give them permission to and piss people off just to get some attention on social media. If that’s really their aim, then that will not only show, but they also deserve the criticism they get.