Peloton became a multidimensional brand. Here’s why it matters.
February 10, 2021
To experience the success of the fitness juggernaut, brands will need to put in sweat equity — and think beyond the physical.
Zoom replacing boardrooms. Instacart bumping the weekly grocery run off your calendar. House Party subbing for … house parties. COVID-19 has materially reduced the number of physical experiences people engage in, and in some cases this shift — where the virtual version potentially is more valued than the physical — may be here to stay.
It all points toward the rise of multidimensional experiences: neither digital or physical, but rather a marriage of the two that ultimately improves people’s experience of a product or service. Multidimensional brands aren’t just about seamlessly showing up in digital and physical, but rather, recognizing the many dimensions of a customer and creating an experience that serves their needs at every point in time. And if there’s an exemplar of the multidimensional brand experience, it is Peloton.
“Peloton has created a sense of intimacy in a virtual space where many other digital platforms have failed”
From its Kickstarter roots to its dizzying rise on the NASDAQ to its inevitable back-order headaches (and Peloton’s responding investment), the fitness company has not only managed to create, but also scale a world-class multi-dimensional experience. Peloton takes the best of in-person group fitness classes and pairs that with premium, memorable digital experiences for its roughly three million members.
But even companies that don’t live in multiple dimensions can take something away from Peloton’s success. And as this shift toward slipperier notions of brand experience continues, they’ll need to pay attention. Here we look at how Peloton has created its multidimensional experience and set the foundation for success in a post-pandemic world. We’ll unpack the elements that make Peloton’s value proposition unparalleled, and offer key lessons that brands can absorb into their practice and make their own.
Beyond a stationary bike or tread.
Fundamentally, Peloton is synonymous with a great workout. It offers live classes like a traditional gym or health club would, but because Peloton is multidimensional, the class can ultimately serve two purposes: first, to simulate the feeling of a group fitness class and second — and arguably more important — to create content to fill Peloton’s virtual library, allowing members to choose (and most recently, stack) the type of class, music, instructor type, and length in a veritable “choose your own adventure” approach to fitness. And because it’s on demand, a member can always cue up a favorite, long after the class was filmed. Peloton doesn’t just fulfill the need of getting a workout in — it empowers members to control and work out completely on their own terms, providing convenience and functional value far beyond other workout options.
Beyond group fitness.
Virtual high fives, digital leaderboards, challenging friends — these are just some of the cues Peloton has taken from in-person group fitness. A camera even lets you simulate riding with close friends or workout buddies. But where Peloton truly excels is in the scale and reach of the community.
Peloton has used its virtual platform to create tremendous emotional and social value. Because of its multidimensional nature, instructors and members can use Peloton as a platform for culturally relevant issues; adding to the emotional component of a member’s experience. #BlackLivesMatter is proudly and prominently displayed by nearly 192,000 members as of January 2021. Cycling instructor Kendall Toole brought attention to Mental Health Week with a dedicated ride taken by 101,000 members. The brand also gives members the opportunity to create their own affinity groups, whether it’s by interest (#Pelo4Wine), workplace (#TogetherWeAreHuge), or solidarity through difficult times (#PelotonRNs, #PelotonTeachers). The combination of virtual platforms’ reach and scale — needed to give these communities depth and critical mass — and the physical act of riding with like-minded people amplifies the emotional value of group fitness.
Beyond a playlist.
Peloton is at the forefront of music culture. Artists are frequently showcased in dedicated artist series, where specific treadmill, yoga, cycling, mediation, and strength classes become forums for celebrating their artistry. Recent collaborations have featured mega-stars such as Beyoncé and Calvin Harris. Cycling instructors Ally Love, Tunde Oyeneyin, and Alex Toussaint backdropped Beyoncé’s music against epic rides, complete with costumes, hair, and makeup. Not only does the music power the workout, it’s at the heart of every ride, serving as a key entertainment component and an engine for discovery. What’s more, Peloton’s music experience is multi-channel, meaning that members can favorite songs in class, expand their sonic repertoire, and automatically build out a playlist in their Spotify account to revisit after the class. Peloton recognizes the value music brings to their experience, and has designed its platform to amplify artistry and build community.
Beyond individual goals.
Peloton supports the personal journey with encouragement from instructors and fellow members. Milestones are called out and highlighted during the course of a group class. But even more importantly, leveraging the relationships instructors have with members, Peloton has created a sense of intimacy in a virtual space where many other digital platforms have failed. This intimacy is key in building platform stickiness and lifetime buy in from members. To do this, Peloton instructors personally connect with members in class, but also on social media platforms. Often during the live taping of a class, instructors will call attention to a story shared by members on social media.
Instructors are also remarkably candid, layering in their own personal stories and struggles to help foster empathy and connection across the network. Robin Arzón launched a series of prenatal ride and strength classes, having announced her own pregnancy in the fall of last year. Tunde Oyeneyin, meanwhile, drew awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement via a 30-minute ride where she shared stories about BIPOC Peloton employees and her own personal experiences. This intimacy fosters a sense of true connectedness among members and the Peloton experience.
Beyond a single component.
The bike, treadmill, and accessories are all best-in-class. The screen is as large as some TVs, with high-quality sound and video playback. The app, which can be used without connected equipment, puts the user at the center — it’s easy to navigate, serves up recommendations, and works on most devices, anywhere, anytime. The platform can easily connect to most bluetooth-enabled devices, allowing users to seamlessly connect peripheral devices like earbuds and heart rate monitors. The brand has built an ecosystem that follows and enables users — not the other way around — establishing Peloton as a reliable buddy and motivator. They’ve even cropped up in hotel gyms. There’s no excuse to miss a day or sweat session.
However particular these brand attributes may be to the Peloton experience, they spring from a set of operating principles that all brands can adopt, regardless of industry, size, or sector. So, what lessons can other brands take on and make their own? Here are a few.
1. Make every investment strategic Every investment Peloton makes is scalable, and constantly evolves and improves the experience. Instructors teach across disciplines, the platform can house any fitness genre, new connected products can bolt on, and partnerships with artists can be implemented across class types. Even Peloton’s acquisitions are scalable; its recent $420 million acquisition of Precor fitness — its largest to date — will not only allow the company to increase manufacturing and distribution of their bike and treadmill products, but also give Peloton access to two key capabilities: a 100-person R&D team to design and build new hardware, as well as access to commercial partners such as gyms, universities, hotels, corporate campuses, and apartment complexes, extending the experience beyond the home. To be successfully multidimensional, each investment should meaningfully contribute to the customer’s experience and continue to build and expand the ecosystem via content, touchpoints, or capabilities.
2. Align the business model with purpose Peloton has directly aligned its business model to support member engagement and expand the community in a very clever way. For those with connected equipment, the monthly membership is unlimited and available for every household member who can access all classes across equipment platforms, mobile devices, and even smart TVs. The open subscription model creates a virtuous circle where all household members are incentivized to participate and join the Peloton community to get the most out of the monthly membership. Additionally, Peloton offers a generous referral program, encouraging members to share their experience with friends. Both of these mechanisms offer rich emotional and monetary incentives that deeply engage members and grow the Peloton subscriber base, which leads to the sale of more products and accessories. As brands think about creating multi-dimensional experiences of their own, it is key to ensure that the revenue models, referral bonuses, loyalty programs, etc., are in line with, and in service of, its long term purpose and business goals.
3. Treat the ecosystem as the foundation It’s not enough to create an ecosystem with physical and digital touchpoints, intertwined with a durable brand experience. While every interaction must feel familiar and additive, multidimensional brands go a step further and meet customers’ needs functionally, socially, and emotionally. They then use the ecosystem to amplify those needs via a combination of physical and digital experiences.
4. Create a clear value exchange It’s one thing to have a compelling value proposition, but quite another to have customers socially, emotionally, physically, and financially invested in it. To accomplish this, you must have a clear value exchange — what do customers get in exchange for their time, energy, emotions, and wallets? In Peloton’s case, members get encouragement to achieve their fitness goals, a community of like-minded individuals, a place to listen to and discover great music, premium fitness equipment, and comprehensive fitness classes — all in the comfort of their homes and on their own schedule. That’s an attractive package.
As brands continue to adapt to user expectations and drive success in a post-pandemic environment, it’s key to remember that a one-to-one virtual replication of a physical experience is not enough. Peloton has shown that to gain traction and build business value, the experience has to be deliberately designed in service of users. Brands must understand the many dimensions of a customer and their needs at any point in time, across environments — physical, digital, and sometimes, a combination of both.
Sarah McMains is a vice president and business strategist at Huge, based in Los Angeles, California. She is also a member of Huge’s global Peloton team, #TogetherWeAreHuge.