I’m Scott from Boston, the husband who just gave his wife the gift of Peloton.
It was interesting to me, and somewhat baffling, to witness the sound and fury swirling around Peloton’s “Grace from Boston” TV ad. What’s less surprising is that the Twittersphere is full of experts on topics ranging from advertising to food to foreign policy.
But I digress. As someone who’s spent the better part of his adult life in advertising, the level of mainstream media covering and stoking the hate genuinely intrigued me. Really, why this ad? So even as the heated commentary continues to simmer, I’m humbly offering some counterpoints to the noted offenses taken, based on the brand’s strategic underpinning – and on the real occasion that my wife’s Christmas present, a new Peloton, arrived at our home a few days ago. Spoiler: She’s as happy with her gift as is Grace from Boston.
Many took exception with Peloton’s $2,000-plus price tag that further compounds via the $40 or so monthly subscription to live and archived classes. Clearly Grace and her husband live a privileged existence if they can spend so freely, right?
But “privileged” is a loaded term. The point is that Peloton doesn’t claim to be a “value” brand. Nor does Equinox in the fitness category, nor do countless premium or luxury brands that rely on holiday gifting for a disproportionate share of their annual sales. For consumers wanting a more accessible price point, brands like Planet Fitness roll out the purple welcome mat. No one is forcing people to pay more than they wish for fitness.
Which leads to the next point: Poor Grace herself having the audacity to be fit and the suggestion that her chauvinistic gifter of a husband believes she’s still not fit — or skinny — enough. As one tweet sarcastically declared, “This year i’m thankful for the inspiring peloton commercial of the apprehensive 105 lb woman whose life was forever changed by her new exercise bike bc she was able to get to her goal weight of 103 lbs.”
Peloton is not a weight-loss brand; it doesn’t make that claim in this ad nor in any of its other marketing or content. It’s a fitness and lifestyle brand, and fitness comprises many aspects beyond weight loss. It comprises the physical and emotional.
As I understand it, marketing experts on Twitter believe the better approach is a testimonial featuring a real Peloton customer ecstatic over the excess pounds she dropped. And while we’re at it, let’s have her hold up the big elastic-waistband pants worn BEFORE her Peloton transformation. Now that approach, the weight-loss industry’s old bread-and-butter, would rightly invite strong criticism.
Finally and most importantly for Peloton, its business success depends squarely on its customers not simply buying the bike, but paying monthly subscription fees for classes and programming – i.e., the classic razor/razorblade model. The reason Peloton has avoided becoming an overpriced laundry rack, like so many other pieces of home exercise gear, is the programming. It virtually places riders in a live class, with motivation streaming from instructors and a virtual community of fellow riders.
Every single exercise and fitness brand knows the path to profitability lies in converting its “joiners” into habituated and committed users. The majority of people who join gyms or buy gear do so with great intentions that dissipate after a few short weeks or months – witness the crowded gym floor full of Resolutionists in January giving way to the vast open spaces come March.
That’s why Peloton makes the commercial about Grace’s full year of developing a habit that ultimately makes her feel better about herself. It’s not about her weight or her waist size, but her habituation to a fitness regimen that makes her feel healthy. And happy, or at least happy enough not to waste her time on Twitter.
So while I may well have opened myself up to social media venom, my holiday wish to the haters (and everyone else) is for them to spend time with friends and family in the real world, exercising together or doing whatever it is that makes them feel healthy and happy. That’s what it’s all about.
Scott Rabschnuk is the former EVP, managing director of Hill Holliday Health. You cannot find him on Twitter @drschnukie.