Peloton is not what you think it is. You may be under the impression that it’s a stationary bike with a video screen. But you’d be wrong.
Peloton is a logistics-technology company and a social movement—it’s like Apple for fitness. The brand sells complex internet-connected tech products, through which it offers services that have attracted a huge and growing following that is, shall we say, uniquely enthusiastic. Call it the International Church of 1% Body Fat.
How they got to this place is an interesting story. Peloton uses something like a 3S-style model, plus word of mouth marketing, to achieve what is a truly remarkable level of impact in the fitness market.
It’s About You
The quickness of Peloton’s success is startling. And it starts with their brand story.
They sold their first bike in 2014, just six years ago. Three years later, they had nearly 500,000 users, including both stationary bike owners and app users. (One of the lesser-known features of Peloton is that you do not need to own one of their $1995 bikes to join their classes.)
Today, they have 500,000 followers just on Facebook and they boast far more users than their nearest competitor, SoulCycle. Peloton’s 2020 market valuation reached $700 million this month before the stock market crashed. As I write this, it is up again for the week. They are officially the leading brand in their market.
So how did the brand get this far in so short a period? Their early focus on combining tech and fitness, according to the founders, was always important, but I suspect it has a lot more to do with the story the brand shared with its audience. That story goes something like this: Today, fitness can be a part of your life that gives you complete control, and, when you join Peloton, you become part of our family.
And voila, consumers understood the value, and the family. Crucially, the company was the only one to see the writing on the digital wall, choosing to cater to a desire they saw in consumers for increased control and personalization through advanced tech. To do this, they created a bike and a service that struck the midpoint for those who love to work out but hate the gym itself (a huge number of people). Joining exercise classes remotely means you can quite literally have it both ways. The user gets the group dynamic—peloton is the French word for “platoon” and refers to a group of cyclists moving in unison—without having to leave the house. In our digital age, this is the equivalent of the holy grail. And with the recent crises at hand, with more people working and even socializing from behind a computer screen, the future growth of this industry in particular seems all but assured.
Without appearing to press the issue, the very idea of the internet-connected stationary bike communicated to potential buyers that the focus would always be on you: how you want to work out—when, where, how long, and with whom. You get to choose, always.
Strategically, this was typified in things like their “Better Is in Us” campaign that rolled out for the 2018 Winter Olympics. This demonstrated to their target audience—Olympics enthusiasts—how advanced technology was able to offer them a new way to stay fit. Add that to Peloton’s strong sense of community, celebrity instructors, annual events, and word-of-mouth marketing and you get a brand that’s hard to resist for people interested in staying fit.
Peloton = Wellness + Technology + Community
Word-of-mouth is an essential part of the brand. Enthusiasts would probably say that joining Peloton is something like joining a large family that happens to include a few superstar instructors, some of whom have 200,000 followers. Attending Peloton events and getting to meet likeminded users as well as their celebrity instructors is an added and attractive thrill. In the early days, the brand worked hard to build community, but now the community is building up the brand all on its own.
In addition to their line of badged clothing and their sold-out events, the brand advocacy they bring to the table combines genuine enthusiasm with laser-focused strategy. Part of that strategy involves both fantastic content—exercise and fitness classes that are fun and easy to talk about—and a gamification of cycling through tech. You don’t just get to join a class, you enter a competitive and fun world not unlike that of a top-selling video game. All this content and game play provides a lot of fodder for Peloton users to chat about. And, clearly, they have been.
The health focus, fun community, and high technology are great, but Peloton knew they could not overlook the issue of cost, since not everyone can drop nearly $2000 on a stationary bike. So, wisely, they chose to offer classes—not just cycling classes but also fitness and strength training—to non-bike owners who can engage in strength training classes without the need for any equipment at all. The cost for that is just $40 per month and includes everyone in your family.
A great product, like the Peloton bike, is only as good as the story and strategy that it delivers to audiences. By constructing their product around a modern online lifestyle, handing control to users, and establishing a self-sustaining word-of-mouth community, the brand represents the best way forward for health and wellness purveyors in the future.
It comes down to this: brands must make a great product, yes, but offer a great brand story and something unique for people to talk about and you’ve got a brand loyalist for life.
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