Peloton Rides into Crisis Management Mode – Maybe!


So that we all know what we are talking about in this week’s blog, let’s begin by watching a 30-second advert created by Peloton for the Christmas gift season, in which a husband buys his wife her first ever Peloton, an expensive exercise cycle which allows you to participate in Spin classes from your own home.How do you feel about it? 

Outraged? Amused? Insulted? Indifferent?

When it first appeared in early November, there was little reaction. 

But in early December, the Internet, as it tends to do, became outraged, with many people calling the video creepy and offensive.

The Atlantic magazine summed up the views of those that took offense at the ad by saying about the wife in the video: “Her facial expression suggests to some viewers a desperate attempt to please her spouse and maybe, if you really want to take things to their logical extreme, that she was compelled to mount her fancy new bicycle against her will.”

Suddenly, parody videos began to appear - some of them quite funny.

As the kick-back to the commercial reached a Twitter frenzy, Peloton’s stock lost nearly a billion dollars of value in a day.

Heck, even the actor who plays the husband had to speak out in defense of himself and said the experience had left him wondering whether there would be repercussions for his career.

Here’s the twist.

Peloton has not responded as if it believes it is in a crisis.

And industry commentators are giving the company credit for its management of the situation.

The PR industry online newsletter, The Daily Dog, published an article on December 6th with a headline that posed the question: “Is Peloton crazy for not apologizing for that ad – or is it creating a new era of crisis response.”

The author of that article, Richard Carufel, explained: “The brand said it’s ‘disappointed’ in the misinterpretation, but has gone no further – a pretty radical move into today’s marketing landscape, where crisis experts have trained brands to apologize immediately and without a second thought regarding actual blame of intention.”

USA Today suggested that brands are deliberately putting out ads to create dialogue, not really caring whether the dialogue is positive or negative .

Oh, and that spectacular fall in the Peloton stock price? 

Analysts seem to agree that it was caused by the brand’s Black Friday sales and other performance factors, rather than a specific reaction to the advert and the Twitter controversy that followed.

For the rest of us, this is a particularly good example of everything we have been talking about in this blog for more than two years.

Driven by social media and changing cultural, social and political factors, the context for crisis management is undergoing massive change.

That impacts the way we plan for an issue, the resources and team we build to handle issues – and even the way we define whether an event is even a crisis or not.

This is the season for giving our partners over-priced exercise equipment for Christmas – but also for revising and updating issues & crisis preparedness plans for next year.

It’s never been more important to have a plan that is up-to-date and built for the new digital age in which we now live.