Do not make the mistake of this brand because this happens when you pretend to be authentic

6 min read

The opinions expressed by employees are personal.

Most likely, we have all seen Peloton's infamous announcement. You may even have seen some parodies on the internet. At this time, almost everyone has an opinion about what they say about society, not to mention the position on the future of marketing.

Do not make the mistake of this brand because this happens when you pretend to be authentic
Do not make the mistake of this brand because this happens when you pretend to be authentic

Clearly, the luxury fitness brand sought attention during the Christmas season. But not this kind of attention. If for a moment we can ignore the debate about whether the message of this particular announcement was biased, or what it says about social and sexual policies, what is clear is why it happened.

Considering the situation on this issue, we bring together some of the leading minds in the marketing industry to make a special edition of our podcast, Authentic Influence. Andrew Essex, former director of Droga5; Peter Horst, former marketing director of Capital One and Hershey; and Mike Shields, a Business Insider and Wall Street Journal journalist, met with us to discuss “false authenticity.” The focus of our conversation: Peloton's Christmas announcement in 2019. Click here to listen to it.

Peloton, like many great publicists, urgently needed authenticity, something that is perceived as vital to reach the younger and more skeptical generations. Contrary to what they wanted, what they generated was “false authenticity,” which may be the easiest way to alienate these young and skeptical consumers. The Peloton ad was designed to look like a real person was counting his “trip” through the use of his phone. Like many publicists, the brand and its agency tried to make a script that replicated an authentic moment.

According to Mike Shields, what happened to Peloton shouldn't surprise us. “If you're trying to figure out how to be authentic, and find a way to make sure you look real to consumers, you probably shouldn't do it, because you're probably going to end up faking authenticity.” However, what is shocking is the lost opportunity that this represents. If there was a brand that had clients shouting its passion towards it, literally every day, it was Peloton.

“The idea that person-to-person validation is more attractive than a commercial's validation is like saying that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west,” says Essex. “I think the professional response to this is: 'duh …'”

Peter Horst echoes this feeling, “When you can use real people telling their story authentically … that's incredibly powerful.”

However, very few brands are willing to take that step and partner with consumers as their promoters.

Just imagine that Peloton executives would have found a way to exploit their customers' love for the brand and show real people using the device. You can imagine an inspiring series of selfies and videos (maybe not so pretty, but definitely authentic), that show the real life of these people and how the workouts have been changing their lives, and then distributing that content among those people's friends .

Brands need direct relationships with their consumers. What would happen if that relationship could go beyond selling them , and turning them into promoters , associating with you? There is no doubt that this is scary. Brands are used to controlling their own stories and hiring “experts” to help them (and to blame someone when something goes wrong). Giving up some of the control to the “common people” is risky. But it seemed that Peloton had control over his message, and look what happened.

The brands that will win in the future are those that dare to partner with their real customers and that are smart enough to take advantage of the technology to ensure brand security … Those that crack the code to partner with customers as scale promoters, predictably and safely for the brand, with metrics and optimization in the long run.

After all, brands don't prefer to spend 80 cents to buy a new customer, instead of spending a peso, and 70 of those 80 cents spent go to their best existing customers, instead of third-party media companies (with now only 10 cents destined to technological solutions that make it possible)?

As the digital world struggles to compete with Facebook or Google, the future of advertising will evolve to help advertisers channel the power of their customers and thus change the amount of money spent on third-party platforms to take it to customers that are associated with brands as promoters.

This vision creates a much more effective and powerful marketing ecosystem, one that governs customers and “real authenticity” (and not third-party platforms).

So instead of thinking of Peloton's announcement as a mistake, maybe we can perceive it as a perfect teaching moment as we move into this decade, regarding the future of advertising that is much more directed by customers.

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