How quickly should you respond to a crisis? Lessons learned from Peloton

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When a PR crisis hits, the gut instinct is to react immediately. But this will almost always do more harm than good, because when you react instantly, you react emotionally. Effective crisis management takes the emotion out, making room for the strategic thinking needed to navigate a crisis event and come out the other side with your brand reputation still intact.

Of course, the best time to react is before the crisis hits in the first place. With the right risk analysis and mitigation strategies in place, most crises can be avoided altogether. But failing that, or when the unexpected happens, brands need to find the balance between acting fast and thinking strategically.

And at first glance, it seemed that fitness brand Peloton had struck the balance well when they hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently. 

A media storm first hit the brand when the highly anticipated Sex and the City reboot ‘And Just Like That…” killed off beloved central character Mr Big in episode one, as the result of a heart attack following a vigorous Peloton workout. 

The company’s share price dropped by 11 percent overnight after the episode was released, prompting the company to issue a statement from their health board advisor Dr Steinbaum, commenting on the “extravagant lifestyle” of the character, highlighting his history of heart problems and cardiac risk factors like eating steaks, drinking cocktails and smoking cigars.

Ryan Reynolds’ production company, Maximum Effort, were quickly drafted in the produce a video advert showing Mr Big and his Peloton instructor sitting in front of a fire talking about “new beginnings”, with Reynolds providing a voiceover saying: “And just like that, the world was reminded that regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Cycling strengthens your heart muscle, lowers resting pulse and reduces blood fat levels. He’s alive.” 

Known for their humorous, viral responses, fast turnaround and Hollywood level production value, Maximum Effort turned the video campaign around in just 36 hours. 

But these rescue efforts were hampered further when Chris Noth, the actor who played Mr Big in the series and the advert, was accused of sexual assault and Peloton had to pull the ad.

So how effective was their crisis response? Could this all have been avoided with better brand stewardship? And what lessons can we learn from them about crisis management?

In this episode of the Ethical Marketing Podcast, we discuss risk management, crisis response and how Peloton could have better protected their brand.