How To Prevent Ad Catastrophe With Intention-Based Communications

Peloton Ad Campaign WriterDesign

Why is Intention-Based Marketing essential in ad campaign communication?

As marketers, it is our job to anticipate and spot sources and causes of noise in the marketing communication process. Even ones that appear to be unrelated or a possible cause of interference, we need to analyze.

Why should we? Simple:

  • Inform
  • Remind
  • Persuade
  • Connect

So, our goal to persuade consumers to purchase that Taylor Swift album, reserve that pre-COVID vacation from Trivago, retain the law services of Cohen & Cohen, and the myriad other goods, services, events, experiences, and ideas that we offer, should be carefully conveyed with messaging that leaves minimal room for misinterpretation.

Case Study: Peloton

Peloton ad that aired in December 2019 became the “commercial that launched a 1,000 memes.” This according to Inside Edition, who posted their take of the controversy on YouTube:

Peloton seems to have missed the mark in their 2019 holiday campaign.

From the anxious and (let’s be honest) terrified expression on her face upon receiving the Christmas present from hubby, to the heartfelt “thank you” she expressed to him one year later because the bike “changed her life,” consumers everywhere were outraged by the message they had perceived.

As one netizen put it, the perceived message was:

Ladies, exercise harder/be thinner for your man and then thank him for it.


Credit: Photo by Reddit User u/himynameiscolin

How could this have been prevented? Read on if you don’t subscribe to the “all publicity is good publicity” mentality.

Let’s Break It Down

Who are you talking to?

Firstly, analyzing the target audience is the best way to start.

Who am I trying to sell to? What do they do? What do they like? How old are they? What is their annual household income? What do they do for fun?

In Peloton’s case, this might have looked like:

  • All Gender
  • Ages 18-60
  • Active Lifestyle
  • Looking to become active – new year / new me
  • Annual Household Income: $75,000+

Peloton seems to have gotten this right.

Who benefits from my product?

Secondly, we should take a look at the target market because the target audience and the target market are not one and the same.

Who would benefit from my product? Why would they be interested in what I have to offer?

In Peloton’s case, this might have looked like:

  • Parents
  • Overworked Professionals
  • Stay-At-Home Parents with little to no time to exercise
  • Older adults who could benefit from cardio
  • Younger adults who will enjoy an aggressive exercise bike ride

Generally speaking: people who would rather get their exercise on in the comfort, safety, and convenience of their own home, and doing so in a judgment-free zone.

Why should they care?

Through market research and analysis of consumer behavior via historical sales transactions, we can derive these types of key learnings. Then, we can use the intention-based communication model where we first develop the concept and the formulation and then finesse a clear intention. What is that intention?

It should have been NOT to shame an already thin woman into losing more weight and promote unhealthy habits.

Peloton seemed to have dismissed the noise surrounding the perceived message:

The 116 lb woman’s YEARLONG fitness journey to becoming a 112 lb woman is just ridiculous. Come on.

If the company had taken more time to review the message they were encoding, they might not have had to release the following message:

While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by – and grateful for – the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.

Do you agree? Sound off in the comments section!

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