In the 2021 Prophet Brand Relevance Index® (BRI), we witnessed a major rise from a direct-to-consumer (DTC) fitness brand that has been slowly moving up the ranks over the past few years. The most relevant DTC brands in today’s market are those that have a seamless orchestration of content, community and commerce. In most cases, content is what drives community which then propels commerce. However, in the case of this brand, their nurturing of community actually generated content (both native and UGC), which drove sales. As we think about the DTC trifecta (content, community, and commerce), we cannot find a brand in this year’s BRI that has been more successful in delivering on all three components. This has led to undeniable brand relevance, along with dazzling financial performance.

Our winner began 2020 off to a rough start with an ill-executed advertisement where the intent did not match the perception of the audience. However, in the months following, the brand found its stride, reaching such a level of demand that they were forced to halt advertising until their supply chain could catch up. If you haven’t guessed it just yet, we’re talking about Peloton, which started out with the Peloton bike but has quickly expanded into other offers (e.g., at-home treadmill or online yoga classes). Even if you don’t have a bike yourself, you’re likely to know someone who likes to talk about theirs and how it has changed their life.

Let’s dig into why Peloton is this year’s BRI direct-to-consumer winner, and how it beat out other DTC brands as they adapted during the pandemic.

Building Community in a Time of Isolation

Finding ways to create community became more important than ever in 2020. While Peloton already built its model around community, it truly brought it to life by not only highlighting user stories but also in the experience they delivered. Without the ability to create community organically in a physical space, Peloton supplemented it through key features such as allowing users to send each other virtual high fives, creating and viewing user profiles, and using the video chat function to live chat with friends as they enjoy the same class in the comfort of their homes.

Peloton also introduced “tags”, which allow members to filter the thousands of people on the leaderboard into sub-communities of people with similar interests, such as #Vets or #Teachers. With these tags, members can then see what classes others have taken and when they are taking classes, allowing them to ride together. These sub-communities have grown beyond the Peloton platform, through Facebook Groups and other social platforms. Tags are just another example of how Peloton continues to innovate its products and services to build a meaningful community.

Delivering On-Demand, High-Quality Content

Peloton’s community is the gift that keeps on giving, including an explosion of user-generated content. With the goal of becoming the “largest connected fitness platform in the world”, Peloton has aggressively pursued customer acquisition onto the platform. For many DTC brands, the enormous costs of customer acquisition can jeopardize profitability and sustainable growth. Aside from Peloton’s massive library of on-demand, curated fitness classes, Peloton’s user-generated content creates virality and generates earned media. Instructors create themed rides with playlists that become shareable and dance moves that become iconic. Peloton is a case study in how a community of devoted fans and celebrity-like instructors can produce content that works on behalf of the brand.

Fueling a Commercial Pipeline

With a massive increase in brand awareness comes the question of whether the company can convert that interest into a purchase. With bikes starting at $1,895 and treadmills at $4,295, Peloton’s physical products are cost-prohibitive to the average customer. Peloton has navigated this cost barrier through a diversified, commercial model that makes it easy for customers to justify the purchase. Through their app, Peloton acquires customers that might not be able to afford the physical products, while building brand loyalty that helps convert customers to buy the equipment. Most importantly, Peloton has stood out as a reliable brand during the pandemic with clear communication around potential supply chain delays and how to provide installations in a COVID-safe way.

Final Thoughts

Whether your company is digitally native or B2B, there are still lessons to be gained from Peloton’s success. If you want to think more like a highly relevant, DTC brand, consider asking yourself three questions:

  1. What tactics might we use to build and nurture our community of customers that will lead them to engage with other customers and our brand in authentic ways?
  2. How can we generate content or inspire customers to create their own content that will lead to brand loyalty and earned media?
  3. How can we deliver a frictionless, high-quality experience that will make customers more likely to try our products/services and remain loyal?

At Prophet, we help companies leverage direct-to-consumer practices around content, community, and commerce to drive growth like Peloton. Please reach out if you are interested in learning more about our direct-to-consumer expertise.