Peloton’s CMO sees a healthy brand in the future
Lori Tauber Marcus is applying her senior-level experience from Pepsi, The Children’s Place, and Keurig to help grow the young at-home fitness brand into “one of the most important brands and important companies of this age.”
Health and wellness have been a major focus of marketing vet Lori Tauber Marcus’s life. Now, as CMO of Peloton, the at-home-fitness company founded in 2012, she’s finally getting the chance to marry her personal mission with her career.
Marcus joined Peloton this past spring, after spending more than 20 years in senior marketing and general management positions at numerous noteworthy companies, including PepsiCo, The Children’s Place, Keurig Green Mountain, and Nielsen Marketing Research. In her new role, Marcus will lead Peloton’s global marketing organization and continue to build the earlier-stage company’s global brand as it continues to expand.
Marcus spoke with CMO by Adobe after a couple of weeks on the new job. The discussion included her career path, marketing initiatives, and what she sees as the future of Peloton.
CMO by Adobe: You’ve been involved with some of the world’s most prominent private and public companies. What was it about Peloton that intrigued you?
Marcus: It’s really two things. The first is I can’t overstate the importance of health and fitness in my life. I do keynote speaking. I speak about health and wellness and fitness, and it is the way some people would describe religion as part of their personal mission. It is really part of my personal mission. It always has been and then even more so over the past eight years or so. I’m a cancer survivor, and so at that point when I was going through all my issues, I really doubled down on the importance of health and wellness and fitness in my life.
So that’s by way of background, but you might say, “Well, Lori, there’s lots of health and wellness and fitness companies out there. Why this one?” And it’s really twofold. One is I actually bought my Peloton bike in early February, and the product itself, this integrated experience, has changed my relationship with home fitness, and it has changed my life in a very transformational way, and so that’s the product piece. Even then, I don’t know that that would have been enough to have me come work here. Then when I met the founder/CEO, I just fell in love with the notion that he was trying to build this incredibly important brand and build culture in a way that I believe in so fully.
CMO by Adobe: Why was that meeting so integral to your decision?
Marcus: It has always been my marquee at all companies that I’ve worked at to build and leave great themes and create great culture. So when I met John Foley, the CEO, and I realized that he had created this incredible product experience, and side by side with that he was looking for a partner, a leader to help him continue to build this great company and culture, that was really it for me.
CMO by Adobe: What was Peloton’s marketing component like when you came aboard?
Marcus: It’s early days, but I think the company punches way above its weight in terms of they’ve done some beautiful branded work. They have a TV spot that’s been running that is very beautiful, very well done. So I’m starting from a very strong base.
CMO by Adobe: Describe some of the things you’ve been able to do in the short time with the company.
Marcus: [In my first few weeks], we shot a new TV campaign and some new print. What we’re going to try and do is just continue to elevate the brand, but also dial up the energy and intensity and emotion in the product because one of the things that’s really important is we have to really help people to understand that this is not typical home fitness. This is not you watching [TV] while you’re on the elliptical, barely breaking a sweat. This is you having the best workout of your life every day in your home.
CMO by Adobe: Let’s return to your background. You’ve done so much. How did those past experiences prepare you for this? There doesn’t seem to be a fitness tie.
Marcus: It’s really interesting. I keep having these moments where I say, “Wow, this is kind of meant to be,” and those are not normally words that come out of my mouth. I was with PepsiCo for 24 years. It’s an amazing company. I think you know it’s known for training great marketing leaders, but also just great leaders overall, and so it was a privilege to have had such a long and wonderful career there. From Pepsi I learned classical brand management, brand strategy, and all of the foundational elements of marketing, which are very important here at Peloton.
Interestingly, after Pepsi I was the CMO of The Children’s Place, which is a specialty retail for children’s apparel. What has been so helpful about that is The Children’s Place has about just over a 1,000 stores in North America, and so all of the training that I got there in terms of visual merchandising and store marketing, e-commerce, CRM, and loyalty marketing has been a great build to the foundational consumer products marketing I had at Pepsi.
Then what’s amazing about the Keurig experience is, in some ways, that’s really where I learned about hardware and service. Fundamentally it’s a single-serve coffee maker, and so I learned about hardware, I learned about contract manufacturing, but the real parallel there is Keurig is a system, an appliance … and in many ways Peloton is the same thing. It’s a system, so it’s a beautifully designed—the best home-cycling bike you could have—but then it’s about the software and the content, so it’s really a system, just like Keurig. The learning that I got at Keurig was in terms of how you have to have those things work in concert.
CMO by Adobe: What short-term and long-term goals have you set for yourself?
Marcus: The major thing I need to do very quickly is make sure I have the right organization in place, so [fill] talent gaps where we have them, and then put together the right media plan, the right PR plan, making sure that we’re doing everything that we need to do with community. Obviously, our priority as a company is we want to continue to sell more bikes and more subscriptions, so I need to make sure that we have the right marketing from an acquisition standpoint, and then continue to dial up our efforts around retention with our current base of riders.
CMO by Adobe: Tell me a little bit more about this campaign you referred to earlier. Was it your campaign or something that existed when you came in?
Marcus: It was, but I would say it was in the works already. One of the nice things about working for an earlier-stage company is it’s a little bit more informal, and John, the CEO, is amazing about bringing me in from the first day I met him … letting me see some of the work that Partners & Spade, our advertising agency, had started working on. So I was able, even before I started, to get my handprints on this and have an influence on it before it was at the one yard line, ready to go.
CMO by Adobe: What do you consider the secret to settling into a new company like this? How do you make a successful transition?
Marcus: I think the important thing is understanding where your experience [fits in] and how to bring that to the company without losing the culture and the beauty of what makes this company great.
CMO by Adobe: Let’s discuss your plans for increasing the company’s digital presence.
Marcus: I think it’s fair to say our market is probably split about 50/50 between traditional broadcast and then digital. We’re starting from a strong base in terms of retargeting and things like that. One of the opportunities that we have, and especially as we continue to produce great creative, is to be a little bit more targeted in terms of understanding which segment people are in and where they are in their purchase journey. We can probably do a better job of targeting the right message to the right person at the right point in their journey versus just retargeting with the same kind of Peloton ads over and over in your digital experience.
CMO by Adobe: Reflecting on your career, what can you tell me about something you’ve done that demonstrates a willingness to break new ground?
Marcus: At Pepsi—I hate this term, but it’s kind of true—I was always known as an “intrepreneur,” somebody who’s an entrepreneur within the confines of a big company. I was the person who always got picked when it was a blank sheet of paper, and people would say, “We don’t know how to organize this. Lori, can you go figure it out and come back and tell us what you need in terms of people, budget, resources, whatever? I loved that stuff.
At one point I was tapped on the shoulder by the CEO of Pepsi North America and asked if I would figure out how to form a long and meaningful relationship between PepsiCo globally and McDonald’s. I spent four years commuting out to Oak Brook [Ill., McDonald’s headquarters] and did a lot of different work internationally between Frito-Lay, healthy sides at McDonald’s, and Tropicana orange juice in Europe with McDonald’s. Ultimately we developed an oatmeal parfait product for them, and we put Quaker oatmeal, a healthy breakfast alternative, in McDonald’s.
CMO by Adobe: What are you most excited about now?
Marcus: I don’t know why, but it never occurred to me that I could actually get paid to work in the health and wellness and fitness space. It is a joy and an honor to work for a company that makes a product and experience, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it has changed my life.
What I’m really excited about is we’re not just a company that wants to build a great product and sell a lot of bikes. What I’m the most excited about is we’re trying to build one of the most important brands and important companies of this age. For a young, early-stage company where I can really have an imprint, not just on the marketing and on the products, but also on the culture and the company itself, that is, the ultimate experience after decades of great training in corporate America.