Peloton’s success is a testament to the power of brand awareness and an aggressive advertising budget. However, even small to medium-sized businesses can learn valuable lessons from Peloton's advertising and organic marketing efforts.
Peloton is a leading exercise equipment and media company. They sell different workout equipment like Peloton bikes, treadmills, accessories, and they also offer guided workouts through their fitness app.
To become such a well-known brand, the company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising. The company then benefited from the home-workout boom in 2020 once COVID lockdowns forced the world to find ways to be healthy without access to gyms.
For all the marketing strategies that Peloton got right, there are several others that they adopted later than necessary and still more approaches they’ve still not explored to their full benefit. Let’s look at what Peloton did right, where they fell short, and what other companies can learn from these takeaways.
The Positives of Peloton’s Marketing Strategy
Peloton’s strategy includes:
- Offering a Product That People Want
- A Business Model That Incentivizes Loyalty
- Gamification of Its Products
- A Big Investment in Brand Awareness Advertising
- Lifestyle and Aspirational Marketing
- Offering a Lower Tier of Products with a Free Trial
- An Easy-to-Navigate Website
Peloton didn’t become a leader in their industry by happenstance. Everything from the quality of their products to the incredible investment in brand awareness contributed to their success in the early 2020s. Though the company has struggled to maintain their market share in recent years, there’s still a lot to learn from the Peloton marketing strategy.
A Product That People Want
It should go without saying that no amount of advertising or savvy marketing can make a business a behemoth in their space if that business doesn’t offer a quality product. And Peloton offers bikes, treadmills, rowing machines, fitness classes via their app, accessories, and apparel that are largely considered high-quality products.
However, perhaps the most critical asset Peloton sells is its instructors. Cody Rigsby, Robin Arzon, Ally Love, and Kendall Toole (not to mention the dozens of other instructors) are personalities that inspire, delight, and even entertain their followers. Many of Peloton’s instructors also have significant reach on social media, each amassing their own fan bases and bringing in more customers into the Peloton fold.
A Business Model That Incentivizes Loyalty
Buying a piece of Peloton equipment is expensive. The cheapest entry point for bikes (as of 2023) is a refurbished Peloton bike that costs $1,145, though the standard bike comes in at $1,445 and the Peloton Bike+ is priced at $2,495.
In other words, Peloton equipment is an investment, and once you’re invested, you’re more likely to stick with the potentially thousands of dollars you’ve put toward their products. It’s worth noting that once you buy Peloton equipment, you eventually need to subscribe to their classes to get the full value of their products.
Once you’re in the Peloton ecosystem, you’re more likely to become loyal, not just because of your investment, but also because of the strong social and competitive incentives you get through the gamification of their products.
Peloton leverages gamification to further incentivize customers to become loyal ambassadors of their products. The company taps into the competitive and social spirit of their users by having leaderboards and allowing users to earn points, achievements, and badges based on their scores. You compete against others, track your journey, and try to beat your own personal bests.
Built into the gamification approach is a sense of community Peloton users get when they start using its products. Users across the world can compete but also inspire each other to continue on their journey with Peloton, deepening their ties with the platform and increasing their chances of using Peloton for the long-haul.
A Massive Investment in Brand Awareness Advertising
To become a household name and pop culture sensation, Peloton invested hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising in the early 2020s, MediaRadar reported that the company spent $322 million in 2021 alone, focusing mostly on television ads (70 percent) and digital channels (30 percent).
As the business began to decline once its consumer base started returning to gyms, the business was forced to reduce its ad budget the following year. The investment in brand awareness advertising in the late 2010s and early 2020s made Peloton a leader in its industry.
Lifestyle and Aspirational Marketing
Peloton co-founder and former CEO John Foley infamously said that “Peloton sells happiness.” He added that the fitness behemoth is also “a media company that changes lives, inspires greatness, and unites people.”
This is evident in their commercials, which showcase users becoming better versions of themselves after using Peloton products. In advertising their products, they’re tapping into the social, psychological and emotional appeal of what users can achieve if they dedicate their time (and money) into the Peloton way of life.
Offering a Lower Tier of Products with a Free Trial
The cost of entry into the Peloton world was originally steep, as consumers needed a bike or other piece of expensive exercise equipment. But, in 2022, Peloton seized on the opportunity to be more inclusive in its product offerings with an app that featured workouts, including strength, yoga, cycling, and running. Users could try the app for free for three months.
Peloton also offered users the chance to pay for exercise equipment on a monthly basis, lowering the bar of entry for those uncomfortable with a major investment.
In May 2023, Peloton doubled down on this more inclusive approach. The company announced a new tiered pricing structure for its digital app that includes a free membership option.
An Easy-to-Navigate Website
Once you land on Peloton’s website, you know immediately what they offer and how much it costs. It’s easy to get started and to find what you’re looking for. That’s critical for any company to nail, but it’s especially true if you’re investing the same amount of money in advertising as Peloton. Once you generate interest in a product, potential customers shouldn’t have to work hard to take the next step.
Where Peloton’s Marketing Strategy Could Improve
Like many major companies who have massive advertising budgets, Peloton’s marketing strategies aren’t anywhere near perfect, particularly in the digital, organic space. A few examples of where Peloton falls short include:
- Missed Opportunities on Their YouTube Channel
- An Initial Lack of Content Marketing Efforts
- Failing to Showcase Celebrity Use and Social Proof of Products
A company can achieve a lot if they offer a popular product and invest millions upon millions of dollars into advertising, but Peloton’s marketing initially lacked several key elements, particularly from a digital marketing perspective.
Missed Opportunities on Their YouTube Channel
A few of Peloton’s YouTube videos get hundreds of thousands of views, but most of their video content falls well short of what they could be achieving on the world’s second-largest video platform. Their videos are mostly centered on Peloton’s products and not on the needs or wants of their current and potential customers.
For example, you’ll see unboxing videos, the story of Peloton and TV commercials on their channel, but you don’t typically see sample workouts that people can try for free or guides on how to do exercises properly or instructional videos on the proper way to do a specific exercise. That type of video content marketing would broaden Peloton’s influence beyond their current users and position the company as a trusted voice in the fitness space.
Crucially, despite the extreme popularity of their instructors, the company fails to get them involved in their YouTube video content. Aside from brief introductions, Peloton doesn’t incorporate instructors into their video marketing content..
An Initial Lack of Content Marketing Efforts
Initially, Peloton didn’t consistently publish great content aimed at their target audiences. Though they now maintain a blog that is trying to remedy that, SEMrush research shows that the vast majority of their traffic comes from branded searches, not from people trying to learn more about fitness in general, which is where the real organic opportunity lies for Peloton.
However, Peloton’s current investment into creating blog content shows some potential. It regularly features content about general overall fitness instead of solely touting the benefits of Peloton’s product offerings. For example, you’ll find Peloton blogs about the muscles worked in rowing workouts and the best time of the day to work out.
Though many of Peloton’s blogs do cite credible research, they’re competing on search engines against formidable publishing companies and reputable medical sites, everyone from the New York Times to the Mayo Clinic to Healthline, all darlings of Google’s search engine results pages. To be even more competitive, they could consult medical professionals more often, having their content written or at least reviewed by the most credible voices in the field.
Failing to Showcase Celebrity Use and Social Proof of Products
Many influencers, celebrities, and everyday people regularly post about their Peloton workouts. Peloton would gain more momentum on social media by paying closer attention to the buzz around their products and amplifying it by reposting or commenting on it.
Peloton did partner with Beyonce to license her music and use her in promotional materials for its products. While that partnership likely yielded profits for Peloton, it was another costly advertising investment.
Where Peloton has fallen short is not consistently promoting celebrities who are organically posting their workouts online. Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Mahomes, and Venus Williams are just a few high-profile names who have discussed their Peloton workouts on social media platforms.
In other words, Peloton has brand ambassadors en masse on social media, many of whom are A-list celebrities, and though it takes time and money to pay someone to monitor social channels closely and promote posts from celebrities and influencers, doing so would likely reap dividends in providing social proof of their products.
What Business Can Learn From Peloton’s Marketing EffortsFew small to medium-sized businesses can match the marketing budget of Peloton, but they can all learn a few key lessons.
- Brand Awareness Matters: It’s vital that people know your company and products or services exist. A creative brand awareness campaign that shows people achieving what customers aspire to can help cement your brand into your audience’s mind.
- Quality Products Are Essential: No amount of ad budget makes a difference if your product is subpar and users aren’t delighted with your service. It’s table stakes for companies to ensure they offer great products and services for their marketing efforts to be successful.
- Delighting Customers Increases Brand Loyalty: You don’t necessarily need to offer customers accomplishment badges or gamification to delight your users. By simply engaging customers with exceptional service and being as helpful as possible, you can turn your users into advocates for your products and services.
- Address the Needs, Concerns, and Questions of Your Customers: When creating a YouTube or blog content strategy, remember that you’ll be more likely to reach an audience if you aren’t solely focusing on your own brand or products. People want content that helps them accomplish what they want to do, so remember that brand awareness campaigns and content marketing efforts are very different—focus on providing helpful content to drive organic traffic, not simply touting how great you are.
Peloton has faced several bumps in the road in recent years, from a change in user behavior to lawsuits about the safety of its products, but it continues to be a leader in its space. Businesses from many industries can learn valuable lessons by following and improving upon these Peloton marketing strategies, even if they don’t have an advertising budget to match.
Are You Considering Your Own Business’s Marketing Strategy?
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Note: This article was originally published on January 30, 2020. It was updated in September 2023 to ensure accuracy and helpfulness.