Peloton is facing backlash for a commercial they released on November 21 amidst the holiday shopping season. Seriously, Twitter is having a field day with this one.
Check out the commercial, “The Gift That Gives Back,” below.
Did you cringe?
I can understand why people are critical of this ad. On the surface, it seems pretty terrible, but personally, I did not perceive it with such disdain.
I’ll start by saying that I do not work for Peloton — I’ve never even tried it. However, as someone who does marketing for fitness brands, I think I viewed this ad through a different lens. I decided to round up my responses to some of the tweets and criticisms people have about it.
Both Sides of Peloton’s Holiday Commercial
Below, I am sharing tweets that circulated about the Peloton commercial, with my responses written underneath each.
Fitness is not a goal that you reach one day and then stop. Taking care of your body is a lifelong journey and this applies no matter what your current fitness level or economic status.
The woman looks nervous in the beginning because she is trying something new. A new experience, especially in fitness, can be intimidating. This feeling of uncertainty is something people of all sizes and income levels can understand, and by the end of the commercial, we see that the woman overcomes her fear.
If you play it back, you’ll see there was no mention of weight loss in the commercial. I see this ad more as as a mental and behavioral change than physical.
How quickly we forget that the benefits of fitness transcend physical changes. In 31 seconds, we see a story about a woman who develops a habit, demonstrates grit, and exercises commitment (no pun intended!).
Next, I need to revisit this husband-wife dynamic and the relationship between the characters in this ad.
Something to keep in mind — clearly this woman is a mother. She may even be a working mother, as we see her waking up at 6am and also walking through the door in business attire. We don’t know the kind of stress she may be under on a daily basis. Finding time for fitness or self-care is probably challenging.
So maybe she ASKED for a Peloton for Christmas, hoping the convenience of working out from home would help her balance her busy schedule. Maybe her Peloton ride is the only moment of her day that she gets for herself.
Maybe, just maybe her husband isn’t trying to push or control her. Maybe he actually loves her and wants to gift his hard-working wife something that will make her life easier make her feel happier every day. After all, as Elle Woods said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands, they just don’t.”
We are quick to criticize the fact that this woman is taking selfie videos on her bike — I know I did at first. Seriously, who does that?! Oh wait, pretty much everyone I know who works out.
Many, many people document their fitness activities on social media. It’s not a bad thing — we all could use a little #Fitspiration.
This woman’s fitness journey was not vain — she was sincere. She was not flexing or making it look easy. She was sharing all of her authentic feelings with her friends and followers. From nervousness, to exhaustion, to eventually pride, we can only hope that perhaps this woman’s posts inspired someone else to get moving.
As you saw, the woman then compiles all of her selfie videos into a montage to share with her husband, thanking him and explaining how much the Peloton has changed her. I admit the montage is a little odd and unconventional (God forbid we show gratitude to our spouses who invest in an incredibly thoughtful gift), but why is it so hard to believe that this woman has changed?
Maybe she was never a morning person. Maybe she now has more endurance to go hiking. Maybe she’s more engaged at work. Maybe she’s a stronger and happier wife, mother, daughter.
Again, change is not limited to the differences you see in the mirror.
Does the Peloton Ad Miss the Mark?
I’m typically a fan of any ad that tells a story and evokes emotion rather than hitting me with a hard sell (for more on this, read About Face by Dan Hill). While this Peloton ad stirred up some not-so-positive emotions, here are some others I found illustrated in the commercial:
Perhaps we judged this ad too quickly? Peloton is still good in my book.
Last month, I returned to my alma mater, the University of Central Florida to talk about marketing and personal branding with a group of students. Of course, I had to teach them what I know the best way I know how — with pop culture references.
I started brainstorming what moments in pop culture would be relevant to a room full of ambitious young students about to head out into the real world. They’ll be sending out resumes and trying to land their first real job out of college. I remember how hectic that was!
Although most of the students in my audience were born in the year 2000 or later (which was pretty eye-opening), I chose to emphasize the ultimate high achiever of the early 2000’s: Miss Elle Woods.
Thankfully, Reese Witherspoon’s performance in 2001’s Legally Blonde was iconic enough that these young students understood the reference. Plus, she’s a fellow sorority girl!
I admit, Elle Woods is probably not the most scholastic example of a successful person. For starters, she’s a fictional character, but it turns out there is a lot we can apply from her story in Legally Blonde.
How to Market Yourself Like Elle Woods
The entire premise of Legally Blonde is rooted in goal setting and proving yourself, despite doubt or lack of experience. If you’re trying to advance in your company, position yourself as a thought leader, start a business, land a new job, or even change careers, here are five things you can learn from Elle Woods:
Control your narrative by using your channels to your fullest potential.
You might recall that Elle Woods took it upon herself to submit a video essay to Harvard. In fact, Kim Kardashian recently recreated it for Halloween. Although VHS tapes are a thing of the past, the takeaway is that Elle Woods used the channels that were available to her to tell her story and illustrate why she deserves to go to Harvard.
You can do the same on your website and social media. If you haven’t already, start a blog or YouTube channel where you share content relevant to your career goals. If you create enough content about a certain subject, you will position yourself as a local expert.
Find a way to stand out.
Remember Elle’s pink and scented resume? It’s a little out there, but the point is, it’s unique.
As one of my favorite authors, Sally Hogshead, always says, “It’s good to be better, but it’s better to be different.”
Elle Woods wasn’t necessarily smarter or more experienced than her colleagues, but these subtleties helped make her memorable. And when recruiters have an influx of job applicants to sift through, being memorable is essential.
You don’t need the most prestigious degree, experience, or qualifications.
Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome? It’s when you feel like a phony— like you’re not credible enough to talk about certain things. The voice in your head tells you that you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. These doubts and insecurities end up holding you back from achieving your goals.
It’s true that between Elle Woods’ bright blonde hair, loud pink outfits, and bubbly personality, she stuck out amongst the other law students depicted in Legally Blonde.
But she still put in the work just like everyone else. She got her foot in the door, then proved that she deserved to be there regardless of her background.
Be unapologetically yourself.
You may recall in one of my recent posts about Dancing with the Stars, I mentioned my favorite book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. One of the messages Gilbert is that in this competitive world we live in, even if something has been done before, it hasn’t been done by YOU.
Remember, how Elle Woods won her case while representing Brooke Wyndham? Based on her own life experience, Elle knew you couldn’t wash your hair too soon after a perm if you wanted to keep your curls in tact. It’s hard to say if any other lawyer, including a more experienced or knowledgable one, would know that!
Don’t overlook the fact that you have your own stories, experiences, and perspectives to bring to the table.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, especially yourself.
Elle Woods set her sights on law school initially to win back her unsupportive boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, who told her she wasn’t smart enough. She then kicks him to the curb and becomes successful regardless.
The bottom line is, Elle took matters into her own hands because she knew she could do it. She used the tools at her disposal to stand out and market herself, and then worked her way up.
Achieving Your Goals: What, Like It’s Hard?
If Elle Woods can get into Harvard Law, you can achieve your goals, too. You’ve just got to make moves and build your brand.
Start by making a personal website that showcases your portfolio, illustrates your personality, and shares your expertise. There are really low-cost building platforms like Wix, SquareSpace and Weebly that have beautiful, easy-to-use templates.
With that advice, I’ll also leave you with words of wisdom from Elle’s commencement speech:
“It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”
In my last podcast episode of Making the Brand, my guest Gina and I talked about about what bloggers can learn from Sex and the City. One of the things we touched on was Carrie Bradshaw’s obsession with shoes, which really stems from Sarah Jessica Parker’s real-life obsession with shoes.
But on the show, Carrie has no problem dropping hundreds of dollars on designer shoes. I guess you can say shoes are her guilty pleasure. Throughout the entire series, Carrie and the other characters touch on some of their favorite luxury brands from Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, Dior, Fendi, Prada, etc.
No pun intended here, but on the heels of that episode, I want to talk about another brand of heels that has become a huge part of popular culture, in large part thanks to Sex and the City. I’m talking about what we know as red bottom shoes, which is a moniker for the real brand name, Christian Louboutin.
Red Bottoms in Pop Culture
You’ve probably seen countless celebrities wear Christian Louboutin shoes from Taylor Swift, to Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Meghan Markle, Selena Gomez, Blake Lively, Rihanna, and Katy Perry. And at a price point of $800 and up, they’ve really become a status symbol.
Speaking of Christian Louboutin’s high price point, you may recall this being referenced in Ariana Grande’s song, 7 rings, which is all about lavish spending and luxury. In one of the lyrics, she says that “happiness is the same price as red bottoms.”
There are a ton of other references to red bottoms in pop culture. Jennifer Lopez has an entire song called Louboutins. Hip hop star, Trina, has a song called Long Heels Red Bottoms, Cardi B mentions them in her song Bodak Yellow, and they are prominently featured in the TV show, Breaking Bad.
So what is it about red bottoms that makes them so special? I personally don’t own a pair and have never tried them on, but it’s fascinating to hear Christian Louboutin himself talk about how these heels make women feel. He says they completely change your body language and you feel this sense of confidence from head to toe. In fact, he says it’s more important to feel sexy than comfortable — I think some women would beg to differ, ha!
Christian Louboutin openly acknowledges the shoes’ high price point, yet I love that he stands behind it. They’re certainly a premium product, but you also get what you pay for. These shoes are nothing short of quality.
Beyond a Trend: Red Bottoms & Social Proof
Clearly red bottom shoes are a fashion statement, but it turns out there is a scientific reason that they are so popular.
Best-selling author and Wharton School Professor, Jonah Berger, talks about this at length in his book called Contagious: Why Things Catch On. The book does an incredible job explaining what makes things go viral and why certain products or ideas become popular. He dissects the science of social influence and shares something he calls the STEPPS framework. Each letter in the acronym breaks down a social influencer: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Practical Value, Public, and Stories.
While I wish I had some time go over every element of the framework, let’s discuss the one that applies to Christian Louboutin shoes: Public
Jonah Berger describes Public as follows: “If something is built to show, it’s built to grow. The more public something is, the more likely people will imitate it. He says, Design products and initiatives that advertise themselves and create some visible behavioral residue.”
He uses the popularity of red bottom shoes as the perfect example to convey Public. Christian Louboutin found a way to make his shoes more visible by adding his signature red color to the soles. This not only makes the shoes look more fashionable, but it makes them more memorable. And as Jonah Berger says, because of this feature, they end up advertising themselves.
Another example Jonah Berger mentions in Contagious is Livestrong Bracelets, which were popular in the early 2000s. Livestrong uses these bright yellow bracelets to visually represent and symbolize a donation made to the foundation. This helped raise awareness in a very public way.
Applying Public to Your Business
So think about your own business or brand. How can you apply the “built to show, built to grow” mentality? Is there some type of visual you can attach to your products to make them unmistakable, like the Christian Louboutin’s red soles? If you have a storefront, how can you turn your windows into a spectacle?
If you want to influence an audience to buy your products or to become a customer, try to build brand awareness in a different way. Throwing money at advertisements isn’t always the answer. Sometimes, all you have to do is create something special that becomes a trademark identifier of your brand over time.
Before there were bloggers, there was Carrie Bradshaw and her column in the fictitious publication, The New York Star. I like to think that Carrie’s character on Sex and the City paved the way for women to be unapologetically themselves and write about how they see the world.
I sat down with my good friend Gina to discuss Carrie and Sex and the City’s influence on marketing, blogging, and social media. Take a listen to the full episode below or scroll down to see some of the our best takeaways for bloggers!
What Bloggers Can Learn from Carrie Bradshaw and Sex and the City
Have no fear. In her column, Carrie divulges about her sex life — the good, the bad, and the ugly. You don’t necessarily need to spill the deets on your romantic conquests, but the idea is to connect with your audience by being as transparent and authentic as possible. Don’t be afraid to let your real stories shine through!
If you have a computer, you can make a name for yourself. From her trusty Mac laptop, Carrie built her brand word-for-word and shared a piece of her life with the city of New York. She is proof that when you write publicly, you can create a following.
Take advantage of two way-communication. Sex and the City aired from 1998 to 2004, when print media was still alive and well. Today, anyone and everyone is empowered with their own digital channel where you can not only write and share content, but you can engage with your audience and build relationships.
Lean into what makes you, you. Beyond Carrie’s articles about sex and relationships, we saw other aspects of her personality, such as her love of fashion and shoes. You might even define Carrie as a fashion icon. When blogging and building your own brands, have fun and share all the dimensions of who you are.
Write consistently. If you want to get your name out there, you have to write as much as possible and build momentum on your blog. Carrie consistently showed up for her weekly column and churned out content, even when she felt stuck with writer’s block.
Look to your own experiences for inspiration. Carrie built her column based on her own relationships and perspectives. Although she is a fictional character, we felt like we knew her and could relate to what she was going through. Just like Carrie, you can derive insights and lessons from your own experiences and share them with your audience.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog, what are you waiting for? You have a channel at your fingertips! I hope you’ll take this inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw and start writing! You’ll learn so much about yourself in the process.
Now that The Bachelorette is over, we need to talk about Dancing With The Stars (DWTS).
I’m sure it’s no surprise that I first started watching DWTS because Nick Carter was a contestant back in 2015. Leave it to anything Backstreet-related to get me hooked. He ended up getting second place behind Bindi Irwin, who was amazing. She really deserved to win.
I feel like younger audiences haven’t yet gotten on board with DWTS yet, but let me tell you, this show is an incredible feat. Even just from production standpoint alone, I’m in awe of it.
Somehow, week to week, they create countless custom costumes for every dancer — all the sequins and glitter you can imagine. They film and edit video package interviews and compile behind-the-scene shots. They also remix songs or orchestrate them to be played and sung live on set. There are custom graphics and lighting setups for every dance, and not to mention, it’s filmed entirely live. They somehow pull this all off before showtime hits on Mondays at 8 p.m.
But all of that is just scratching the surface. All the while, the dancing pros are learning new choreography for the opening number and then choreographing their routines with their partners, and coaching them throughout the entire process.
However, the real heroes of the show are the contestants. And it turns out, there’s so much we can learn from them when it comes to building your personal brand.
These famous actors, athletes, singers, models, whoever, bravely step out of their comfort zone to put on their dancing shoes and perform in front of America on live television. FOR EVERYONE TO JUDGE. Literally, they are judged. Can you imagine anything more terrifying? It’s scary, but it demonstrates ultimate growth and vulnerability.
This week, one of this season’s contestants, James Van Der Beek, shared a clip he shot on his phone of one of the contestants, singer Lauren Alaina, just after she finished her performance. She was emotional, hugging two other contestants: Ally Brooke from Fifth Harmony and model Sailor Brinkley Cook. Lauren was in tears over what she just accomplished.
I just love this moment because I feel like it perfectly articulates the strength that these contestants show.
Some people joke that the show is for washed up celebrities, but that is so wrong. This show is about second chances. Even just looking at this season, you have people like:
Hannah Brown, “The Bachelorette” who got her heart broken on national television.
Or Lamar Odom, who hit rock bottom in 2015 after being discovered unconscious at a brothel in Las Vegas.
And Sean Spicer. I don’t know much about his politics, but I do know he’s faced a ton of scrutiny and now has a chance to show a different side of who he is.
Then you have Ally Brooke, who is trying to find her independence after the breakup of her girl group, Fifth Harmony.
And one contestant that has a special place in my heart is Kel Mitchell. Kel starred on Nickelodeon’s All That as well as Kenan and Kel in the late 90’s. Kenan Thompson’s career took off — he’s been a regular on Saturday Night Live for years. But for some reason, Kel didn’t find the same success after Nickelodeon. And now he’s back in the spotlight.
Dancing With The Stars and Your Personal Brand
DWTS reminds us that everyone has a story. Everyone is fighting their own battle in some way, and the only way to grow from it is to step, or dance, out of your comfort zone.
This is a huge lesson we can apply as you set out to build your personal brand online.
So many people shy away from this vulnerability in fear of what other people will think. So they won’t share their work. They won’t write the book or start the podcast or make the YouTube video. Or they won’t reach out to someone they admire or asking if they’ll mentor them. They won’t take the class or apply for the job. They take no chances. They let life, and opportunity, pass them by.
And what’s worse, is they are withholding their gifts from the world.
Break Through Fear, Build Your Brand
No matter what your passion, strength, or expertise, you can find your audience and build your personal brand from it. You just have to overcome that fear.
“Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree. You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist. You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal. You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons. You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again. You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder. You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder.”