John Foley, the CEO and founder of Peloton, joins Rebecca Jarvis of ABC for an interview on May 5, 2016.
Calmly and confidently, he says the following.
“I think that the Peloton brand will be bigger and more influential than Apple in 10 years.”
Now, maybe you’ve heard of Peloton, the all-in-one stationary bike and at-home cycling class platform, and maybe you haven’t. Either way, you’re probably wondering how, or why, the founder of a stationary bike start-up, then just four years old, could make such an ambitious claim.
(Photo from Crain’s New York Business)
The company has already proved Foley’s inspiring idea to be true: that people would pay to re-create the cycling class experience at home – but to have more influence than the most influential brand of the past decade? That is a different beast entirely.
I’m not here to say that his prediction will be true, but what I can say is that the Peloton riders, all 600,000 of them, likely believe it to be.
On the surface, it’s easy to think of Peloton as, well … a stationary bike company.
And from there, one might assume that they compete with other cycling and fitness-based brands SoulCycle, Flywheel and Barry’s Bootcamp.
But ask Foley and he will adamantly tell you that Peloton is not a stationary bike company and instead considers his competitors to be Tesla, Amazon and Apple.
To understand this line of thinking, you must first understand Foley’s philosophies. There’s no goal too grand, and no vision too wide. Later in that very interview, he goes on to say:
“You hear that goals should be achievable. I don’t think that goals should be achievable because you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. I think that if you hit every goal that you set out for yourself, you will never know how far you could have gone.”
In the two years since saying that, he has taken the company very far. For the second year in a row, Peloton tops the list of New York City’s fastest-growing companies, as subscribers tripled this past year alone.
Today more than ever, consumers are going to market to become more of who they aspire to be. They are constantly searching for brands that will help them change their behaviors for the better. They have a natural desire to change and improve. Peloton does just that, innovating an outdated category with a fusion of revolutionary software and masterfully designed hardware, they have inspired audiences in ways that benefit their well-being tremendously. Riding Peloton becomes a part of your weekly routine. It’s a lifestyle.
So, if Peloton isn’t a stationary bike company, then what is it?
It’s a great question, and one that Foley gets often. Peloton transcends so many categories, and because of that, it stands in a category of its own.
Yes, the company became popular for selling its own state-of-the-art bikes, but Peloton is far from a hardware company.
That bike comes equipped with a 22-inch tablet computer, one that Foley claims, in addition to being three times the size, is even better than Apple’s. If you don’t want to purchase the bike, you can still enjoy Peloton’s classes through a monthly subscription via its award-winning app, and although they recruit software engineers from the likes of Google, technology is only a part, albeit a very large one, of what they do and offer.
On that tablet, Peloton streams cycling classes led by professional instructors to its legion of subscribers live from its television production studio in New York City. It’s an aspect of their business that has people labeling them “the Netflix of fitness,” turning instructors into celebrities with hundreds of thousands of social media followers and giving its riders over 8,000 on-demand classes to choose from – uniquely positioning Peloton as a media- and content-production company that’s attracting executives from Netflix and HBO.
And with 31 showrooms nationwide, a number that’s expected to grow to 50 by the end of 2018, Peloton is also an e-commerce and retail company. When purchasing the bike, whether online through their website or through one of their showrooms, you can pay an additional $250 for the bike to be delivered in one of their Peloton-branded Mercedes Sprinter vans by Peloton employees, who then install the bikes into your home, which also makes Peloton a logistics company.
It’s not the most economical way to deliver the bikes, but it’s an important differentiator for Peloton, as it gives them 100 percent control of the consumer experience end to end. Uncompromising in their direct-to-consumer approach, the deliveries are made by brand enthusiasts who are equipped to deliver a high-touch, on-brand experience. They can answer any questions the consumer may have, give the brand a voice and build relationships. Most importantly, they know how to get them set up and riding in no time.
So, if you’re following along, that makes Peloton a part hardware, part technology, part media, part logistics, part e-commerce and part retail company, all while not truly being any one of those.
In Foley’s words, his brand is a “disruptive technology company at the nexus of fitness, tech and media.”
If anyone knows disruption, it’s Foley, and he hasn’t always been on the right side of it.
As the former president of e-commerce at Barnes & Noble, Foley had a front-row seat when the company and its NOOK were subject to disruption by Amazon and their Kindle Fire.
Speaking to a large audience at CES in Las Vegas last year, he reflected on the experience.
“At Amazon, they make the Kindle Fire, and they make it for $250 and they sell it for $150. That disrupted all the Dells and HPs and IBMs and Acers who also tried to make tablets, but they were hardware business models. When you make a tablet, and you make it for $250 but sell it for $500 because your business is making money on hardware, you can’t compete with Amazon, who makes their money on the digital content after the fact.”
For Peloton, it’s not about the hardware, as the company primarily has a subscription digital content business model.
That’s not to say the bike isn’t the best bike in the world, because it is, but what truly differentiates Peloton from anything else is the content, community motivation and software it provides its consumers.
The bikes are suited with an electronic dial that displays your exact resistance from 0 to 100. It shows your cadence (pedaling speed), calories burned, distance ridden and total power output (a combination of your speed and resistance). The tablet constantly compares your current ride to your personal record, minute by minute, pushing you each time to reach new milestones. The tablet also shows you where you rank among others who have taken the same exact class, giving you incentives to climb the leaderboard.
If you take a live class, the instructor will often shout out your achievements, like breaking a personal record or riding your 100th ride. This make the Peloton experience immersive, entertaining and interactive. You become a true virtual member of the class, giving you the magic of being in the room all from the comfort of your home. You can even video chat with other riders and friends while the class is in session.
With over 8,000 classes to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Rides vary in length, difficulty, music genre and by instructor. Some combine riding with an upper-body workout, and Peloton has even added yoga, ab workouts and stretching classes to their library as well. Skip a trip to the gym and enjoy the rush of your favorite classes at the tap of a screen, on your terms.
Everything at Peloton has been designed with intention. That intention is a bit of a tongue twister.
Peloton wants to make you want to want to work out more.
And they’ve succeeded. Through a synthesis of social marketing, word-of-mouth advertising, persuasion design, behavioral science and design thinking, Peloton has mastered the art of behavior change marketing. Proving that emotion leads to motion, they’ve inspired their audience, increasing their commitment to improving their health. Sprinkling in behavior change ingredients into every brand touchpoint, they have created a cult-like following that has become the envy of brands everywhere.
Ninety-six percent of riders would buy the bike again if they could go back in time. On average, riders ride eight times a month, or twice per week.
But more impressive than that is their Net Promoter Score, an index that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. Peloton has an NPS of 91, which, per Foley, is the second-best NPS in the world and far ahead of Amazon, Apple and Netflix. Foley has stated that his goal is to make Peloton the first company ever with an NPS of 100.
This brand loyalty makes word of mouth a powerful acquisition tool, as over a quarter of Peloton’s customers first learned about Peloton through a friend or a family member.
So what’s next for Peloton?
Earlier this year, they announced their entrance into the treadmill market with the Peloton Tread, a $3,995 Internet-connected treadmill with a 32-inch HD screen, so that if you step off the treadmill to participate in any of the guided core exercises, you still have a fully immersive view. The Peloton Tread will be available this fall.
The treadmill market is five times bigger than the stationary bike market.
Peloton is already working on a third product, and it won’t be their last.
“We want to build the biggest consumer-products brand in the world. We’re going to make Apple look small-time,” Foley tells Bloomberg.
As for taking the company public, Foley has stated that he eventually will, but not for financial reasons. Instead, he looks at an IPO as a marketing event – a way to generate awareness and get the word out about Peloton to the masses, helping as many people as possible improve their health and fitness.
That’s why Peloton is our inspiring action brand of the month!