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3 Lessons in Reactive Marketing Learned From Peloton’s Response to Sex and the City Reboot’s Dire Product Placement

Are you a Sex and the City (SATC) fan who hasn’t gotten a chance to watch the first episode of the reboot, And Just Like That…, yet? Yes? Then leave. Immediately. There are spoilers ahead. However, everyone else can read on. 

You know how folks say there is no such thing as bad press? In 2021, I think we all know this isn’t true. However, if your brand is able to handle bad press in a positive way, then maybe there’s hope. Peloton’s masterful handling of a fictional fatality associated with their iconic bike is a case in point. 

Here’s the situation. At the end of the premiere episode of And Just Like That…, Mr. Big (played by Chris Noth) gets in a 45-minute ride led by instructor Jess King on his Peloton. Shortly after the ride is over, he has a heart attack. Carrie returns home from Charlotte’s daughter’s piano recital to find Mr. Big on the floor. She tries to save him (but not calling 9-1-1, of course), but he dies in her arms. 

Peloton

Mr. Big riding his Peloton

Mr. Big was a BIG deal in the world of SATC, but the show creators said he needed to be out of the picture for Carrie’s storyline to move forward. However, using a Peloton bike as the murder weapon of choice sent Peloton’s stock tumbling. Peloton claims it didn’t know how the show planned to use their product in the storyline, but their response to the situation teaches marketers how to spin a potentially negative situation into something positive.

Be positive

Peloton’s stock went tumbling and Peloton had all the reason in the world to be upset by the portrayal of their product in the premier episiode. After all, nobody wants their health and fitness product to be linked to a heart attack! However, instead of pointing fingers internally by firing a bunch of folks who should have known how the bike fit into the show’s storyline, their initial response was to remind the audience about the character’s SATC days. 

Peloton’s stock fell post show

In an interview with E!News, Peloton’s cardiologist, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, said “Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle — including cocktails, cigars and big steaks — and was at serious risk as he had a previous cardiac event in season 6.”  This attempt to add context to the situation serves as a reminder of who Mr. Big was and why his death by heart attack wasn’t very surprising.

Dr. Steinbaum added, “These lifestyle choices and perhaps even his family history, which often is a significant factor, were the likely cause of his death. Riding his Peloton Bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event.” Her spin (no pun intended) on Mr. Big’s devotion to riding the Peloton (he passed on the day of his 1,000th ride) possibly extending his life is a great reframing of the story. It’s certainly possible that if Mr. Big hadn’t taken up time on the Peloton, that he would have seen the same fate much sooner.

Maybe your business had a negative review or there was a situation taken out of context with a customer. Before getting defensive, take a deep breath. How can you respond in a way that makes you and your business look not only calm and collected, but also shows that you stand behind your products and services? Perhaps give more context to the situation or explain benefits that might be missed by the information already available to the public, as Dr. Steinbaum did.

Use humor

(IMPORTANT: The commercial featuring Chris Noth discussed below has since been pulled by Peloton due to the sexual assault allegations of three women. Peloton’s clever response to the And Just Like That… episode is still a great lesson. Furthermore, Peloton’s discontinuation of the commercial featuring Chris Noth is yet another great lesson in reactive marketing.)

After the initial response by Dr. Steinbaum, Peloton decided to “clap back” with a hilarious commercial that was created in two days (yes, that’s clap back speed in commercial time). The commercial featured Chris Noth (yes, Mr. Big) sitting cozy on a sofa with Peloton trainer Jess King (yes, the trainer featured on And Just Like That…) discussing how great he looks. Noth then suggests getting in another ride on the bike. 

Ryan Reynolds (yes, THE Ryan Reynolds) joins the fun with a voiceover talking about the benefits of cycling. At the end, he says, “He’s alive.” The commercial reminded viewers that And Just Like That… is fictional and that nobody actually had a heart attack after riding a Peloton. The humor used by Ryan Reynolds’ advertising agency, Maximum Exposure, is exactly what the situation called for. 

Don’t have a huge budget to hire Ryan Reynolds and his advertising agency to solve your PR problems with a bit of his signature silliness? That’s okay! You can still approach the situation with humor. For example, maybe someone on your team posted a personal tweet as your business (it happens all the time). Instead of freaking out, see if there is an opportunity to make a joke out of what they said. 

Get folks talking with social media

The And Just Like That… drama with Peloton has gotten them a TON of free publicity. Yes, their stock price fell. However, the way Peloton handled the situation has won them a ton of admirers in the marketing work and gotten folks to check out the product again. They used Twitter to circulate their commercial, which allowed it to spread quickly and got it in front of news organizations who shared it with their audiences. 

You can do the same thing! Whatever your response is to a negative situation, make sure you share it with your audience. Show your customers that you handled everything with humor and grace. Hopefully, they’ll share with people they know, and you’ll be the talk of the town (in a good way).

Reactive marketing isn’t always easy, but it can score your brand major points. Just follow in Peloton’s shoes by making your response positive and, if possible, funny. Then, use the power of social media to make sure your side of the story gets out there. And just like that (*wink*), your negative situation can turn into a positive one. 

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