Peloton is sweating again, this time after a product recall and the CEO’s admission that it should have happened sooner. The stock has fallen nearly 50% from its January highs, and the company expects upcoming sales to fall significantly. Can Peloton bounce back? We asked CTPers what they think the brand needs to do to repair some of the damage to its brand reputation.
Fixing what’s broken is the first step in any crisis, much more than choosing the right words to explain it. Otherwise, you’re prolonging the crisis and creating distrust with the public.
Except in this case Peloton went with the always poor choice of, “nothing to see here.”
It’s not smart to outright resist a recall when your product is tied to dozens of accidents with children and at least one child’s death. But that’s what they did before eventually agreeing to the recall. Even if it disagreed with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s action Peloton should have accepted the recall immediately and worked with the agency to fix the product while apologizing, showing real concern for those who were injured or died, and assuming its community would make it right.
Which brings us to the real corrective action needed here – the culture. Peloton needs to ask itself, “Who are we and what do we stand for?” Because despite millions of loyal evangelists who love sweating up a storm on the bike, Peloton has a people issue. As in, it doesn’t seem to understand them or care about them very much. Figure that out by not looking at your customers as data points and one-dimensional faces on a screen.
The company is more than the hardware of bikes and treadmills; it’s a business built on class subscriptions and, thus, a community. and trust is important in communities. The company better fix that or just like the people sitting on their bikes – there will be lots of motion but the problem won’t go anywhere. – Brian Heffron, EVP, Partner
I really wish I could root for these guys. I do. They’re crushing sales and their customers are the textbook definition of loyalty. Wouldn’t it be great if they were ALSO setting an example in great corporate communications? As an outsider myself (who does not own a Peloton), it seems to me that the brand gets a lot of negative press and brushes it off with an attitude of ‘well, we’re Peloton and we’re untouchable.’ I don’t think that strategy will work for much longer. Especially as competitors like SoulCycle increase brand awareness among Peloton’s key audiences.
Peloton’s next step needs to be to eat a slice of humble pie. Sure, they’re Peloton, but that doesn’t mean they’re exempt from building trust with their consumers. They need to go back to the basics. Appreciate their current consumers for getting them where they are today and show that appreciation by creating products and messaging that are most relevant to them. Or else, the next negative headline may start making those all-too-loyal customers think before they endorse Peloton again. – Lizzie Morrill, Senior Brand Manager
For a company so attuned to the value of community in building its brand, it’s amazing how easily that community has been ignored in times of trouble. Through cringey ads, supply chain issues and now a major recall, coupled with the nature of its responses, Peloton has struggled to manage crises in part because it seems to lack a complete understanding of its community. How could they not have recognized the emotional reaction when “urgent warning,” “death” and “children” were used in the same stories and conversations – if not the same sentences.
Peloton has benefited immensely from the impacts of the pandemic. But there are headwinds, with competition for at-home fitness and nutrition; patents; and consumer behavioral changes as society reopens and gyms begin to actively court customers. If the company wants to realize ambitions of expanding beyond its core Bike product, it needs to pay more attention to, and better understand, the community central to that growth – not just when times are good. Peloton may have developed a passionate following, but it’s also building, on a parallel path, a track record of relationship and trust challenges. – Todd Graff, SVP Public Relations
As an avid Peloton user, I don’t think anything can break the reputation they have with current customers given the enormous community they have. The product is pretty superior, the service is fantastic, the classes are constantly fresh, and they continuously add new features to the app and bike to optimize the experience. The treadmill issue, while awful, is not a new issue in the treadmill category so it’s surprising to see the negative media. I would imagine Peloton will be back with a new product to replace the old that checks all the safety boxes and then some. – Lauren Kimball, SVP, Director of Brand Management + Operations
Shift from treadmills to bikes or other equipment. This is a great PR opportunity to quickly address and solve the safety issues. Consumers are still hesitant to go back to gyms so now is the time to get some positive publicity based on how they handle it. – Christine Hickey, Director of Human Resources