Kate Winick: How to run social strategy for a growth brand pre, during & post pandemic; Peloton’s Instructor to Creator pipeline & How to cast talent for your brand’s social channels

We explore lessons from Kate’s 5-year run at leading social for Peloton during a high growth time and a pandemic. Including: (1) The Sex & The City debacle (2) How they supported their instructors as the faces of the brand as they rose to fame (great learnings for companies looking to support employees’ personal brands) (3) How to hire creators as the face of your brand (4) Why follower count doesn’t matter, but it also really does (5) How Influencers fit into your retention & new customer acquisition strategies.

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Listen: Apple





Jess Phillips (00:00.356)
What’s up, guys? Welcome back to the Social Standard Podcast. I am so excited for my guest today, Kate Winnick. She is the former senior social director of Peloton, and she did that role for five years. So if that doesn’t excite you about this conversation, I don’t know what will, but Kate, what’s up and welcome? It’s great to have you. Yeah, so I just alluded to it, but, you know, five years at Peloton running social, that means obviously you were there.

Kate (00:21.968)
So great to be here.

Jess Phillips (00:30.372)
pre-pandemic, during the pandemic, and post-pandemic. I am sure that was a journey. So give us, if you will, kind of like a general synopsis of that time, like what actually happened. Like, I mean, I don’t even know where to start. Honestly, there’s so much I’m sure that you could share with that.

Kate (00:33.89)

Kate (00:48.662)
Yeah, it was a long journey. I mean, I think one of the things that, you know, that people who were not necessarily a part of that whole story arc don’t remember is how fast everything happened. So when I joined the company in 2018, in about midway through 2018, that was pre-IPO, yes. So we went public that fall. And then that Christmas was the big holiday ad that blew everything up.

Jess Phillips (01:04.652)
Okay. That was pre-IPO.

Kate (01:18.694)
Um, like all those, those events all occurred within really just a couple of months of each other. Um, and that was, that was winter 2019. And then, you know, it’s, it’s really pretty much a year later that we’re, that we were into COVID. Um, and you know, and from there working our way back out of it. So, I mean, and those are really just like, I think the like national global highlights, there was a lot more in there.

But I think in terms of what it’s like to run social at a company that’s in hyper growth and experiencing hyper growth, you really are working at a different company every six months. And so it made some things that I become accustomed to. Prior to coming to Peloton, I’d led social at Click Media Group, which owns Who, What, Where, Verde and My Domain, or did at the time, they re-orgs and then.

Jess Phillips (01:53.628)

Jess Phillips (02:02.02)
Okay. Yep.

Great brands, yeah.

Kate (02:07.534)
And then at Hearst magazines prior to that leading social for L for the US edition, which was sort of the flagship global edition. And then a couple of other small startups before that. So this was not my first rodeo with running a large social program at a brand. And yet it was a completely different experience because you’re working for essentially a different company every six months. And so the things that I was accustomed to having like annualized strategy and like planning months in advance.

simply wasn’t possible under the circumstances. That things were happening too quickly in the business to plan as far ahead as we all wanted to and needed to. And so learning to really carve that out and to pivot within pivots was really, that was the lesson over five years, over and over again.

Jess Phillips (02:52.772)

Jess Phillips (02:58.228)
Yeah, I can imagine. And I think that’s a really good point too, because I know that even if you hold steady, the company and the growth and you have all of those things, even then in the last three years, social has changed so much, right? So there’s so much pivoting going on for those of us who have not even experienced this hyper growth stage. So I can imagine to add that on top of it. Yeah, exactly. And you know, exactly. But the thing that I think is interesting, and just to remind people too, it’s like,

Kate (03:11.803)

Kate (03:17.122)
Right, yeah, who was busy with TikTok in 2018? You know, things change no matter what, right?

Jess Phillips (03:27.84)
You know, you mentioned a few sort of bumps along this Peloton ride that you’ve had, right? But they did, you IPO’d, that’s interesting. And I believe you even, you created live streamed content or was it live stream or was it real time? It was real time coverage. So I’m gonna edit this part out. I’m just gonna say that I just want to, like I wanna share with our audience a little bit about some of those accolades that you had during that time because

It is to your point, you can see a lot publicly, but what’s going on internally and knowing how the social team is privyed and involved in a lot of this, I think is crucial. So, you did some vanity metric style work here where you went from 135,000 on Instagram to 1.9 million on Instagram. That’s huge.

Kate (04:05.166)

Kate (04:14.506)
I mean, we all know that follower growth is not the most important metric, but it was one of those things that like, and couching that to leadership as I came in, you know, I think there was, I had sort of like a split sense about it, that I was like, I don’t care about the follower metric, and that I know that that’s not what tells me I have an engaged audience and tells me that I have content that’s working.

Jess Phillips (04:19.564)

Jess Phillips (04:29.4)

Kate (04:37.654)
But at the same time, we’re creating a market for a new product, right? Connected fitness was essentially not a thing before Peloton. And if we’re going to be the market leader, we need a following that kind of reflects that. Like we, I wanted us to be as big in our space as we felt and as we were. And so some of that was following. So I was like, we’re gonna do this organically. We’re not gonna cheat. There’s no black hat, anything in this situation, but.

Jess Phillips (04:44.301)

Kate (05:03.486)
you know, it’s something that I keep an eye on and that I wanted to get us to a million. I figured at the point at which we were over a million, I would stop sweating it and like it would grow however much it grew. But that sort of initial race to a million was important because I wanted the brand to be taken seriously and for people to see that this was catching on. And I think follower metrics is like…

It’s one of those things that like, it doesn’t matter, but if you’re debating whether or not you’re taking the source of a piece of content seriously, it is something that I think plays into perception. If it wasn’t, people wouldn’t worry about it.

Jess Phillips (05:37.092)
Absolutely. And it’s also reflective of the hyper growth that the company was seeing. So I think that to me tells, it ladders up with the story of Peloton and Peloton’s growth. Right?

Kate (05:41.526)
Yes, very much so.

Kate (05:48.13)
Definitely. I mean, yeah, it’s the one unanswerable question, I think, for so many of us, which is like, well, what percentage of our followers are customers? I’m like, I don’t know. Good luck getting that out of meta. No, I don’t know that it does matter. But I think at Peloton, it was always a really interesting question because we’re a subscription business, right? So we have both retention and acquisition metrics that were really significant and really important to us.

Jess Phillips (05:58.549)
And does it matter?

Kate (06:14.45)
And that’s always the case. When you have subscribers who are re-upping every month and who are constantly re-engaging with your content, ideally every day, you want to be speaking to them on an ongoing basis. And you want to talk to them like they’re a part of the family, while at the same time, making your content comprehensible for people who are on day one or who may have serious misperceptions about your brand and who need to be educated in a way that’s really intentional.

Jess Phillips (06:23.297)

Jess Phillips (06:34.66)

Kate (06:42.094)
that really reflects where they are in their journey. I think we always, people always talk about where is social in the funnel and it’s everywhere. And then you’re also running two different sort of funnels. You have a sales and acquisition funnel and then you also have this sort of retention flywheel that you’re trying to activate.

Jess Phillips (06:58.218)

Jess Phillips (07:04.996)
100% and that’s and that’s sort of what I even meant about like does it really matter because you yeah Of course, it does matter right to some degree and that baseline the retention and the constant community I think it’s probably the big word that I would lead it that you do But you also do need to be using it to acquire new customers I mean, it’s to me It’s almost like a 50-50 split if you’re doing if you if you’ve got a 50-50 split in this ideal world where you could actually Measure this I think that’s probably how you get the flywheel going, right?

Kate (07:17.826)

Kate (07:29.07)
Yeah. My day one story from Peloton, and this was literally my first day at work, I started the weekend after our annual member event, which at the time was called HRI, later became Homecoming, and now it’s actually Peloton on tour. You can get tickets on the site. And there, and I was talking with our VP of Community, who’s like a wonderful person who had, she’s been with Peloton at that point, as long as I…

Jess Phillips (07:44.033)
Love it.

Kate (07:55.238)
stage. She’d been there I think almost nine years in the end. And she was asking me, she’s like, so what did you think of the social coverage from HRI this weekend? And I’d been watching and I’ve been paying attention and I was curious to learn and I finally just said, I was like, you know, it was cool to watch but at no point did anyone tell me what HRI stands for.

Like I just had no idea what this, like I knew this event was called HRI. I had no idea what that meant or where that came from or how to understand what the event was called. And that to me was like really emblematic of the challenge that was ahead of me for the next five years, which was to take this brand that had built this incredibly strong and loyal community that was really family-like in the early days and to figure out how to scale it and make it comprehensible and understandable and exciting.

to everybody else without losing that community feel.

Jess Phillips (08:48.068)
Yes, 100%. Oh my goodness. I think it’s so interesting that you were able to have your first day be that particular event, because you’re right, I mean, coming in with like a total fresh perspective, you’re a newbie, what an education that was for you and what a benefit I think it was to ultimately the social team.

Kate (09:03.862)
He didn’t want me to start the weekend before and work through the event. Um, but I pushed back on that. And we still joke about that all these years later. Exactly. I was like, I don’t think I can do live social event strategy for a brand I’ve worked for 10 minutes. So maybe I’ll just start on my own.

Jess Phillips (09:12.362)
That’s a lot of pressure to start to like do social media for a brand that you’re just, you know.

Jess Phillips (09:19.852)
Right, exactly. Maybe I’ll hang out. That’s good for you to kind of know the limit there, right? Because I think a lot of people would say, sure, I’ll dive in. And then I think that probably actually sets you up for a lot of failure really quickly.

Kate (09:28.562)
Yeah, yeah, I was like, this would be a real sort of crucible type thing that like, I don’t know if any of us really benefit from meeting each other under these circumstances.

Jess Phillips (09:35.44)
Exactly. So OK, the obvious question here then is, what does HRI stand for?

Kate (09:40.61)
Oh, it was a, it was home rider invasion. So at the time this was the tread was not yet on the market. Um, so bike was really the, the flagship product we were doing. We were doing some strength classes and some things like that, but pretty much everything else, uh, really dedicated strength content, yoga, running, like all of that had yet to launch. Um, yes, exactly. So these were, these were not Peloton members yet. These were home riders. Um, and then it started self organizing. Mm hmm.

Jess Phillips (09:43.969)

Jess Phillips (09:47.351)

Jess Phillips (10:00.652)
Right, because this is 2018.

Jess Phillips (10:06.508)
Got it. So you could still, you could still buy the bike at home and ride at home, or you could go in studio because we were still doing that.

Kate (10:12.81)
Yes, you could go in studio and that was how they originally conceived it was this was literally just a group of very loyal writers who decided to get together and storm the studio for a weekend. And they booked every single class all together and just took class after class and threw themselves a party in the in the lobby, which was really fun. We were like, we should do something with this.

Jess Phillips (10:22.733)

Jess Phillips (10:31.352)
So that’s a really great like digital community brought into real life experience. That’s so interesting. Okay, got it. Yeah, that makes for great content, I’m sure. And I’m sure that the social, the buzz on social and people sharing and stuff, that content’s gotta be pretty dynamic and pretty helpful as you guys are continuing to grow.

Kate (10:35.702)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Kate (10:46.615)

Yeah, I think it’s fun. You know, I think we’re at a different point in the journey now where like, if you’re a Peloton person and you’re obsessed with Peloton, like your friends and family like probably are used to hearing about it. Like they already know that.

Jess Phillips (11:00.384)
Yes, yeah. Well, that’s a big thing. Do you remember Beachbody Fitness with Tony? Gosh, I’m not gonna remember his name now, but it was P90X was a big, like a big thing. And I remember doing that, like back when I was in private equity in Boston, and actually like our whole firm did it. And it was all anyone could talk about. And I think that’s the thing with fitness is people just wanna talk about their journey no matter what, right? And what they’re going on.

Kate (11:06.889)

Kate (11:13.398)

Kate (11:17.845)

Kate (11:26.606)

Jess Phillips (11:27.468)
that naturally lends itself, right? Whereas are people necessarily gonna want to talk about like their new dishes at Nausium? No, probably not, right? So you guys do have a few things going for you that sort of grease the wheels on this success path, right?

Kate (11:33.064)
Thank you.

Kate (11:36.898)

Kate (11:41.491)
Yeah, I think it’s one of the things that makes working in fitness as a discipline really rewarding and as a field really rewarding is that ultimately when people are telling you about their fitness journey, they’re telling you about themselves. They’re telling you about something they’re doing that they’re really proud of. Fitness stories ultimately are stories of self-improvement and self-actualization.

I know it sounds very cheesy and very Peloton to be like, you know, we can do hard things and we can push through this and we can pick up heavy things and carry them longer than we ever thought. But watching our community do that day after day was the greatest privilege of that five years. I mean, it was inspiring in every moment to watch people get knocked down, take a hit, and get back up and to use Peloton as a tool to help them do that.

Jess Phillips (12:29.764)

Kate (12:30.65)
It was really something that was very special to be a part of building. You’re not doing that for them, they’re doing it for themselves. But the better tools we can put in place, the more options we can give them for accessing that part of themselves, I think the better off people are.

Jess Phillips (12:36.696)

Jess Phillips (12:46.564)
Absolutely. I mean, I know even watching a lot of your content, I actually spent a good time checking out TikTok as well last night. And it is, it’s very motivational and it’s very exciting. And I was like, I need a, I need a Peloton. I need it now. Like I want to do this. Like let’s, let’s do it. Right. You know, you get very excited and I think to be what a, what a privilege to be part of that journey with people. I think that’s so interesting and what an interesting time as a marketer and a social media leader to be able to really kind of connect with someone.

Kate (12:52.684)

Kate (12:58.734)
Thank you.

Jess Phillips (13:16.416)
in a positive way, right? Like everything is positive. You’re literally swimming in like endorphins as you’re working out. And it’s like, you have such a natural positive association. That’s really cool. Now I think the way that you capitalize on that, it’s like you kind of have this gift, right? But then how you capitalize on it, how you take it to the next level, that I think is where the magic of someone like you comes in. And I know that, you know, I know we say it is vanity metrics and it is, but to your point, I think still, I mean, listen, 135,000 to 1.9 million.

Kate (13:32.834)

Jess Phillips (13:46.156)
That’s some blood, sweat and tears. No matter how you look at it, right? So I think you should be super proud of that. I also thought it was interesting that you launched on, it was on Giphy that you launched and you have like over 2.5 billion impressions from that, which is incredible. You also, as we mentioned the IPO coverage that you did in real time there from the NASDAQ, like in New York, I mean, amazing, right? Like that has to be like a cool moment.

Kate (13:46.766)
Thank you.

Kate (13:57.367)


Kate (14:05.09)

Kate (14:10.77)
That’s pretty good. That’s like one of those sort of like, it also again, feels like a vanity thing, you know, to some degree that like, you know, for brands to put up a billboard in Times Square, what does that really mean? What does that say about you? Like, is this, you know, I’m a New Yorker through and through like born and raised. So like, is New York the center of the universe? Like clearly, but like, actually, no, like actually, we’re a national brand and international brand.

Jess Phillips (14:27.468)

Jess Phillips (14:31.886)
Ha ha!

Kate (14:36.51)
And like, does it mean that much to have simply paid some money for some out of home in Times Square? Like, not really. But it is a really, it is a very cool moment in that like this is sort of a cultural icon and to get to cast yourself into that environment and to see other people see it and react to it. It’s a very special thing to get to experience as a marketer, to kind of see that.

Jess Phillips (14:57.396)
Yeah, I agree. And I also think it puts you into, it puts social into another vein, which I wanna talk about in a few minutes here, but like you are for all intensive purposes, a PR firm at that moment, right? It’s not, you’re not, and I don’t wanna say just social media because at this point in time, social media is marketing to the extent of like, what anything has ever been, but social touches so many different aspects of the business and you really are.

Kate (15:10.198)

Jess Phillips (15:24.94)
You are a PR machine then, and how you convey things on social media is impactful to how your audience and your potential audience sees you, perceives you, and ultimately will engage with you.

Kate (15:24.955)

Kate (15:35.562)
Yeah, I mean, I think that was one of the… So over the course of the time that I was working there, we relocated the team three different times. And that doesn’t include all of the other opportunities we had in there to relocate the team that we didn’t. I started out on retention marketing. So reporting into my first boss, there was Brad Olson, who’s now the CEO at Salus Health, and he’s a wonderful mentor and leader for our team.

but very, very focused on retention. And so we were very focused on engagement. This was very much like socialized community. And when I came in and when we started thinking a little bit more about what does growth look like and how are we going to expand, at the moment that it became, and that it aligned with sort of internal reorganizations and sort of reallocations of responsibility, I actually sat on, we moved the team onto our comms team.

So I was reporting to our SVP of global communications and being able to be aligned with the PR team in that way and to have more visibility and be earlier in the conversation in terms of all of our external messaging made a certain kind of sense. And I think ultimately when we took the opportunity in the last, I don’t know, 18 months to shift onto the brand marketing org, which was…

Jess Phillips (16:29.24)

Jess Phillips (16:46.052)

Kate (16:56.47)
Somewhere that I, it was a change I’d been thinking about for a really long time. I’m a very firm believer that like, if you’re smart in your professional life, you choose managers, not jobs. And so I was very much watching who I was working for and sort of where in the organization was a really healthy place to be. And I think as the marketing org really reformed,

Jess Phillips (17:08.12)

Jess Phillips (17:12.386)

Kate (17:21.922)
There was a point at which I was sort of like, this is the right thing to do both for my own growth and in really seeing social as an extension of brand. And also for my team, to give them additional growth opportunities that ultimately, while being aligned with PR and all external comms made sense for the company, it was harder for my junior team members to see a path forward and a path to growth if they weren’t interested in comms work themselves.

And so moving into something that was really like a marketing focused integrated environment allowed them to see much more how their creative and strategic skills could be applied elsewhere.

Jess Phillips (17:59.02)
Oh, that’s really interesting. And is that where the social team resides today? Interesting.

Kate (18:03.51)
Although, I mean, it’s been a couple of weeks, I don’t know, you know, things change fast. But yeah, the marketing team approach of sort of a unified marketing team where we’ve now broken down those silos between brand and acquisition and we’re really all pulling together as one marketing team was a really wonderful environment to work in. And I think has been.

Jess Phillips (18:08.18)
Yeah, well, yeah, I guess anything is possible, but yes.

Kate (18:25.694)
has been really fun for the team to get to be much more involved. I think that’s the fight of every social lead at every brand, is how to get social in the conversation sooner and how to be in the room when decisions are made and not being handed, I’ll use the nightmare phrase, cut downs for social at the end of the campaign ideation process when everything’s already gone through post-production and they’re like, here, here’s your 30 second edit that you didn’t ask for.

Jess Phillips (18:51.298)

Kate (18:52.05)
And I think over the years, and that is one of the real gifts of having had years to build relationships and to advocate for our work in that environment, we were able to get in the room very early, increasingly early. And for most of the brand work that was coming out of Peloton now, I know that’s a big project for the team, is figuring out how to give it its best home on social.

Jess Phillips (19:15.372)
Yeah, I think that’s right. So does that really look like you guys showing up to, like on shoot day and having somebody from you or from your team there to take behind the scenes content or have 20 minutes with, you know, whatever it is to shoot extra content that is social first content versus, you know, marketing first, print first, TV first.

Kate (19:26.082)

Kate (19:33.374)
Yeah, I mean, it definitely looks like that, but the planning for that shoot day, I mean, that has to start well before day of. And that means that you’ve been brought in ideally even at the concepting phase, you know, for certain campaigns. I mean, it depends, right? If the campaign that you’re shooting for, if this is for, you know, you need to re-up your digital stills for your, you know, for your home mailers.

Jess Phillips (19:42.197)
Oh, of course.

Jess Phillips (19:46.904)

Kate (19:59.498)
Like, does social need to be a part of that? Like, not necessarily, you know, that’s not. But if the goal of the campaign, if this is a brand campaign or if this is, you know, a special event or a holiday campaign that has a CTA that involves sharing to social, or that is expecting to drive traffic to a specific landing page via social, involving your social team in that thinking and even understanding something as simple as like, Hey, where’s the channel where we see the most, like the highest CTR?

You know, it’s, it’s a, used to be, we used to see great CTR and Instagram stories, and then we had to pivot very quickly on a, on a recent campaign in the, in the last year or so, because all of a sudden our reach on stories just dropped, along with everybody else’s, like it wasn’t just us. But all of a sudden I was like, I can’t, I can’t tell you in good conscience that we’re gonna get the same kind of visibility that we normally do. And this isn’t the channel we want to concentrate on. I think we need to take a different approach.

Jess Phillips (20:29.124)

Kate (20:56.51)
and re-strategize. And without that kind of local knowledge of what’s working on channels, it’s very, very hard to come up with a strategy that’s going to be successful because where you put it makes a difference. You know, where you allocate spend and how much you allocate to different channels. If you’re really relying on organic, then that’s something that you need that insight in order to plan.

Jess Phillips (21:08.undefined)
Yeah, oh, of course.

Jess Phillips (21:19.524)
And so I take it from the way that you’re speaking about it. You guys did really rely on Organic and you saw a lot of good success.

Kate (21:26.542)
I think we work very closely with our paid team. And that was some work that I’m very proud of over the last couple of years especially, was really starting to align and try to look for opportunities where we could really be synergistic in our thinking. And we were able to share insights with our paid team to say, hey, like, listen, this kind of lo-fi creative is really working. Do we wanna test some of this against our sort of normal creative and see how it performs? Or…

You know, like, hey, like we, you know, we’d love to know what you’re planning on promoting here. Like, is there something really funny we can do on Organic that plays off this thing that we know is going to get a ton of visibility because we’re spending a ton of money on it. And, and those, those I think collaborations were some of our most successful and really gave both teams a lot of insight into where we needed to go directionally and what kinds of things we wanted to make. So it’s, it’s definitely not that we were super reliant on Organic.

I think it’s just that organic was really always part of the conversation in terms of where campaigns were going to show up.

Jess Phillips (22:28.26)

Jess Phillips (22:32.628)
Yeah, that makes sense. So it’s almost like if you’re a brand thinking about how to integrate social into your marketing division, would it be a fair thing to say, look, you’re gonna have your marketing leads, but then you need to have right up there, the person who’s heading paid, along with the person who said it heading social, right? Like organic social, paid social, paid media generally. Like all of these people need to be in the room talking and making sure that they are using best practices from.

Kate (22:40.174)

Jess Phillips (23:01.656)
from all three really, right? And did I miss any of those, any other people you’d put in the room?

Kate (23:04.35)
I mean, I think it’s even, I think ideally, and this is more of a, I don’t know, this is more of a relational thing than a business thing, although I don’t know all business is relationships. But ideally, I think you can push to go a step beyond just, you know, we need all of these people present and accounted for and we need all of them, you know, kind of thinking to, like aware of what the other one is doing. But can we get them thinking together? Can we build a bridge between paid and organic?

Jess Phillips (23:11.328)
Okay, sure.

Jess Phillips (23:30.265)

Kate (23:33.01)
that really make, because ultimately your end user, they don’t know that this paid ad came from one creative team that’s using this external agency to build their creative and that what they’re seeing on TikTok came from a completely different team who’s never even met the agency rep who made that creative. It’s all one brand of that. And so ultimately, if you aren’t looking for every opportunity to unify your approach, to create efficiencies and to look for opportunities,

Jess Phillips (23:51.918)

Kate (24:01.186)
to work together and to play together. I think you’re missing out on what can be both a really fun work environment and an opportunity to test things you wouldn’t otherwise test, to have access to A-B testing for your organic that you might not otherwise bother doing, and to have the kinds of creative insights that I think paid teams are sometimes slower to adopt because they have all this pressure on them to hit specific KPIs and goals.

and they have different levers that they’re pulling, and they’re not necessarily thinking about it from that baseline creative stamp.

Jess Phillips (24:32.436)
Yeah, definitely. Now, did Peloton, did they do paid internally or were they using a media agency?

Kate (24:39.09)
It was a combination. I don’t want to speak to the larger strategy because it wasn’t working.

Jess Phillips (24:41.464)
Sure. Yeah, of course. I’m just thinking like, you know, because a lot of times if you have that agency, it does add a layer of complication. Right?

Kate (24:48.678)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, no, there was, there were pieces of it, like, you know, our influencer program was more in-house, our business as usual kind of paid creative was done in partnership with a media agency. And there were, and really, I think every combination under the sun over five years, I mean, that’s, that changed a lot over time.

Jess Phillips (25:07.86)
Yeah, as we talked about, right? It was a different business every six months. I think that’s a great point. So what is, I mean, what’s your number one takeaway from this time and this experience at Peloton?

Kate (25:12.386)
Thank you.

Kate (25:20.314)
Oh, one takeaway. Honestly, no one’s asked me that yet. That’s a really interesting question. I think if there’s one takeaway, I think it’s that at the end of the day, like at the end of the day, the audience is all. That’s really it. Is that no matter, if you are making something that people want and that people are excited about.

Jess Phillips (25:22.784)
Yeah, I know. It’s a lot of pressure.

Kate (25:46.702)
However you get it to them, it can be perfect, it can be messy, it can be somewhere in between. But if you’re getting them the right product and the right message, it will resonate with the right people. And if you haven’t refined that quite yet, it’s not going to work. And I think that was the lesson of the product in a lot of ways. There were plenty of people out there who have very negative relationships with exercise, who were not interested in finding a better way to exercise because exercise for them is a…

form of torture or something they do because they have to, not because they want to. And so the notion that this product was enjoyable in any way was confusing and wasn’t resonating. But for people who we had found like this product market fit, that this was really something that was giving them something they weren’t getting in their lives elsewhere.

It was like, yeah, we made a lot of mistakes and there was some silly creative and, you know, like we didn’t necessarily do everything right along the way but there was a rightness to it and a truth to it. And I hate to overuse this word, but an authenticity to it that you really, I think you can’t fake, you can’t fake that connection.

Jess Phillips (26:58.404)
Totally. I think that’s well said. And I think that is really important, especially in 2023 and what we’re going to see beyond because recommendation algorithms on social are making the individual, the creator, who’s making the content less relevant. And so if it doesn’t matter who made the content, as long as it’s interesting, we’re going into the sea of one hit wonders possibly. It’s going to be a lot harder to build an audience. But the reality is those who do and those who have.

Kate (27:05.219)

Kate (27:23.272)

Jess Phillips (27:27.38)
are going to be incredibly powerful and incredibly important to brands as part of their overall influencer marketing and social strategy.

Kate (27:35.478)
Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really, I think it’s a crucial piece of what’s happening. You know, like everything tends towards the middle, right? Everything gets genericized, everything gets copied. And it happens faster and faster in digital than it ever does in real life. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t new things happening all the time. You know, like you look at like the cat, I don’t know, I think about it in terms of like, I heard I was watching the other day, but it was…

Jess Phillips (27:42.638)

Kate (28:05.278)
I was looking at it and I was like, my God, Jennifer Eniston has been famous as long as I’ve been alive. And I watch now, the humbling moment, I think, for every social media person over 35 is having to watch the VMAs every year and live tweet the VMAs red carpet. I was so glad when I didn’t have to do it anymore because it was just an exercise and you’re like, who are these people? Why do we need more celebrities? Don’t we have enough?

Jess Phillips (28:11.012)

Jess Phillips (28:20.964)
I’m going to go to bed.

Jess Phillips (28:32.385)

Kate (28:33.366)
But there’s always new people coming up. There’s always new ideas and new faces. And that’s something that people thrive on. And I think that’s gonna be true in the creator market, as well as in the traditional entertainment market. You know, we’re always seeking the next big thing. And I think it’s harder to break in. It’s harder to break through, but it’s far from impossible. I don’t think it’s very necessary over time. Yeah.

Jess Phillips (28:47.961)

Jess Phillips (28:54.68)
Mm-hmm. Yes, and that’s a great way to put it. Far, far from impossible. I like that a lot. And how, I mean, if you think about how influencers played into the strategy at Peloton, can you just tell us a little bit about like, how did you guys sort of define influencer? And then how did you use influencers?

Kate (29:13.442)
Mm-hmm. Yeah. I mean, so for the very early days, you know, instructors were our influencers and are our influencers. They’re the most, they’re the intuitive, obvious face of the brand. They’re also in a lot of ways, the people who are really best positioned to speak to the product and to speak to the experience because they’re the ones who kind of make it. And I think it was the way that I would describe it. I don’t know if you’ve ever driven like a manual transmission.

Jess Phillips (29:34.244)

Jess Phillips (29:41.292)
Yes. Mm-hmm.

Kate (29:42.026)
Okay, not everybody has, but I was forced to learn. And when you’re learning to drive, the way that you have to operate a manual transmission is you have to ease up on the clutch as you press the gas. And finding there’s a tension point, a balance point, at which it’s okay to kind of release on one and really go hard on the other. And what we were experiencing in the early days of the brand was essentially so much earned and so much…

you so much like celebrity UGC essentially, that running an influencer program was actually sort of difficult. Like, you know, when Ellen DeGeneres gets up and does 15 minutes on her favorite Peloton instructor completely because she wants to, without any involvement from our team at all. Like that’s a placement that you couldn’t buy. I don’t even know how much something like that would have cost in 2018. It would have been millions and millions of dollars. And so when you’re getting something like that for free, like, are you also placing.

Jess Phillips (30:29.976)
Right. Yeah, a lot.

Kate (30:39.894)
you know, are you also placing individual Instagram posts with 30 day loners or somebody with 50,000 followers? Like we knew there was going to be a point at which that kind of coverage and that kind of love would start to slow. And that would be the moment at which we wanted to start like releasing the clutch and pushing down on the gas of our influencer program. Obviously with COVID, I think that actual inflection point.

would have naturally happened sometime in that period, but then, I don’t know, everything was going crazy. And I don’t think we got it right on the nose, but we’re now very much at a point where I think having, and I don’t wanna speak to the sort of the go-forward strategy because that is someone else’s opportunity to take advantage of, but at least in the way that I was thinking about it before my time came to a close was that…

Jess Phillips (31:13.668)
Of course.

Kate (31:36.702)
Our instructors are really, really wonderful surrogates for the people who have been our members for a long time and for people who love to exercise. But there’s not, from a storytelling perspective, they’re not plausible in every capacity. Every time we tried to shoot something like, like a, hey, Andy, can you show me how to do a bicep curl? That’s not believable coming from a gelatin instructor. They know, it’s their job to know it’s why we hired them.

Jess Phillips (31:50.98)

Kate (32:05.966)
And they’re the best at it. And so there are very interesting stories that you can tell with that kind of expertise, but you can’t represent the newbie journey in the same way. You can’t represent the discovery journey in quite the same way with people who have been immersed in any given world for a long time. And I think you always, as part of your acquisition thinking for organic, you always wanna have content that represents that experience of somebody who’s coming in on day one. And…

So that’s sort of an interesting thing. We talked a lot about who is our audience surrogate, not our necessarily just the influencer with the biggest reach, but who is telling a story from a point of view that certain members of our audience need to hear. And I think that’s where influencers can be really, really helpful, is that if they’re on a new journey for themselves and they’re sharing that with their audience, it’s not just believable, it’s actually happening, in many cases.

Jess Phillips (32:41.346)

Jess Phillips (33:01.708)

Kate (33:04.99)
We’ve worked with a lot of influencers and heard from a lot of people who, some of them, you know, some of them are fitness people and they love to exercise, but this is a new program for them and they’re trying to see if it works. Or sometimes these are people who exercise has not been a big part of their life or a big part of their brand publicly, and they’re ready to start exploring that part of themselves. And we get to go on that journey with them in a very authentic way, because it’s happening in real time and it’s happening in front of their audience and our audience.

Jess Phillips (33:33.76)
Yeah, no, I think that’s brilliant. It’s like you guys, again, we’re sort of gifted in much of the similar way, I think what we’ve seen with brands initially. So I think about this journey of people in front of the camera that are not the brands necessarily. I think about it in a few different ways. So one is I think we have branding like 1.0 where you have the flow from progressive insurance, some of these characters, right? The Geico gecko, like that’s sort of…

Kate (33:50.434)

Jess Phillips (34:02.792)
Influencer 101, if you will, right? That’s the face of the brand. And then you move into 2.0. So then you have things like Buzzfeed, uh, who has like a whole slew of creators. You have the WWE, you know, and they have also slew of creators, Refinery29, Bon Appetit. They all build these sort of networks of creators. And I think that Peloton is sort of at the, right at the end of this, before we pivot into something else I’ll talk about in the mo- in a moment. But, you know, when you look at WWE, they create these characters and WWE owns it.

Kate (34:11.342)
Mm-hmm. Right.

Kate (34:28.12)

Jess Phillips (34:30.348)
Right? They own the name and likeness of that character, the social properties, all of that. Now we’re starting to see some changes in there. And I think we’re even seeing them in the sports industry mirrored with like NIL name and image likeness rights. Those are shifting and the shifting is going back to the individual. And I think that Peloton was on the cusp of that, right? Because I see all of these, this sort of like instructor to creator pipeline is there. Right? And you guys were…

Kate (34:31.56)
night. Stay on your time.

Jess Phillips (34:58.236)
really smart in the way that you capitalized on it and allowed them to go forward. But like, tell me how, tell me how that works. Like when someone’s starting to grow and being, how do you support, do you do anything? What was Peloton’s philosophy on this?

Kate (35:05.354)
Yeah, absolutely.

Kate (35:12.442)
I mean, our philosophy from the very beginning, and this is going to sound so obvious, this is not going to sound like a strategy at all, but I think people forget sometimes that creators are humans, they’re real, they’re people. And being humane to humans was kind of the policy, that ultimately these were, especially in 2018, we were a much smaller company at that point. We’re only like…

Jess Phillips (35:24.749)

Kate (35:38.57)
I think I joined around 500 employees. So when I started, and there were a dozen instructors, you know, they were certainly the biggest, most visible part of the company, but these were your colleagues. These were people you work with, and you see, and you come in and out of the office for meetings, and like, it was an interesting experience to watch them become famous, and to sort of go through that, like, celebrity branding process, but.

they’re all incredibly authentic people. I’ve always said the one thing that made my job really easy over five years was I never had to report to somebody that like their fave was problematic and that like behind the scenes because they weren’t like no they’re as great as they seem uniformly to a person and I think it was always really that was something we really valued that like I think you have to look at what you have in people in your human capital and say that if we hired you because you’re great because of who you are.

Why do we want you to be something else? And so we really created and maintained like a strong sort of Venn diagram model of personal brand versus Peloton brand. And we sought out and we used branding agencies to support this, but to help the instructors understand like what does it mean to be a personal brand first of all? So where is your overlap? So this is everything that you are as a person.

And then like, here’s your personal brand, which does not necessarily include every single thing you are as a person. And we went through all the growing pains of like, how much do you talk about your personal life? You know, how much do you share about this thing that like, you know, is maybe a hobby or that you’re exploring for the first time? Like, how do you talk about that? Or, you know, how do we involve politics or social issues in the conversation? And that was all, you know, an ongoing constantly negotiated process.

But we were always very clear that the brand has its values and its priorities, and the instructors have their values and their priorities. And what we were going to explore on brand channels and what we were going to support as a company was the things in the overlap, most aggressively. That was really how we started. So I’ll take one of my favorites, for example. Emma Lovewell is an incredible gardener. She’s one of our spin instructors, and she’s one of our cycling instructors.

Kate (37:58.214)
this incredible, you know, like vegetable garden and she grows flowers and she landscapes and she has like a rich and wonderful book that’s out. And like, does gardening have anything to do with Peloton? Like, do we have any place as a brand in a conversation about gardening? We don’t. We just don’t. It’s like, there’s like maybe a tangential connection to healthy eating, but like it’s a bit of a stretch and it’s not a messaging priority for the brand.

Jess Phillips (38:17.217)

Kate (38:24.29)
So are we likely to develop gardening content with Emma on social? No, but there’s nothing that stops her from doing that because it’s a part of who she is and we want her to show up as who she is authentically. And we’ll look for ways for when she’s taking produce from her garden to make her morning smoothie, to find a way in to be supportive when we can. And when we can’t, there are plenty of other aspects of her personality and her work.

that we’re always able to support and we’re always able to talk about because they’re intrinsic to what the brand is.

Jess Phillips (38:56.332)
So your suggestion for brands who are potentially looking to hire creators, influencers, social media managers who are going to be the face of the brand would be to lean into those who share, who have an overlap in values. Focus on that and extract that.

Kate (39:11.41)
Yeah, I think you have to look for people who are an intuitive and natural fit and who represent where you want your brand to grow, who are people who you think you can grow with. And I think just to recognize the inevitability, or at least to plan every day, I mean, we said this all the time, I said this all the time, I was like, I hope they all stay forever, but we have to be prepared for the day when they don’t.

Jess Phillips (39:16.984)

Kate (39:36.694)
And we have to be bigger than that as a brand. We have to own the ideas. We have to own our own IP, our own concepts. That’s not the same thing as owning somebody’s name or owning somebody’s identity or personal brand. But I think you want to strategize on offense, as if they’ll be with you forever. And on defense, knowing that they can leave tomorrow.

Jess Phillips (39:36.845)

Jess Phillips (39:47.812)

Kate (40:01.974)
And so what do you need to have in place? What do you need to have thought about? What do you need to prepare your community for in order to deal with that eventuality? That really is like an inevitability because life happens, things happen. We were, I think we were incredibly lucky to keep the same cast of instructors for as long as we have. But it’s not a guarantee. And when you bring somebody in.

Jess Phillips (40:16.324)

Kate (40:26.378)
with the intention of making them the public face of a big brand that’s spending a lot of money to make them visible, assume that they’re going to grow and that they’re going to become famous in their own right. And you’re then going to have to manage that, that there are gonna be elements of their personality and their story that don’t really have anything to do with you that they’re gonna wanna talk about. And I think it’s just recognizing that that’s going to happen and to not try to fight it, to instead try to plan for it and to…

to have a concept in mind of what you’re able to absorb and what you’re not.

Jess Phillips (40:59.372)
Yeah, I think that’s really smart. Just having that framework is gonna be so incredibly important. And I think as you look at Peloton, you know, you guys had 50 some instructors, right? So that’s 50 personalities. Now, obviously you’re gonna have kind of the top probably what 10, 15% that really drive a tremendous amount of online engagement for you. But a lot of brands were saying, okay, I’m hiring a chief TikTok officer. I’m gonna hire three faces of the brand. You know, they’re talking about three versus 50. So when…

Kate (41:08.674)

Kate (41:17.634)

Jess Phillips (41:26.504)
one person leaves, it’s one third of their brands, like their social facing brand personalities. So how would you instruct brands or guide them or give advice to them on how to prepare a proper defense strategy for when the inevitable does happen?

Kate (41:44.33)
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s the way you prepare any content strategy, which is that, you know, you have a go-forward strategy that’s proven and that’s built around certain pillars. And then as soon as you’ve established those pillars and you’ve developed content around them, it’s time to start figuring out, like, what’s next? You know, what are we going to test next? What are we, you know, so maybe it’s not bringing in occasional guest stars, you know, and making sure that you’re testing, like, how are other people performing? Like what kinds of interactions work?

Jess Phillips (42:11.403)

Kate (42:12.706)
Like, are there other sort of side characters that are becoming popular in this narrative if we’re doing something that’s really personality driven? Or are there other things that we can explore? Like, is there some sort of more designed or like data visualization stuff that can be made without people that’s going to be just as effective in telling that story once we know what kinds of stories people like to hear? And…

Jess Phillips (42:35.16)

Kate (42:35.646)
I think you need to constantly be in that test and learn. And that’s not any different than putting together any other kind of content strategy. That once we’ve said, you know, these are our buckets, I think the first thing any social lead starts doing is kind of poking increasingly into white space and saying like, okay, but what else? Is there something else that needs to be in here? And like after, now that we’ve run this program for a little while, like, what do we have to, what’s starting to fatigue and what are we gonna replace it with?

Jess Phillips (43:05.164)
Yes, I love that. I think that’s very similar to the way that TV shows and their cast when they have a group of like five teenagers in a high school, say by the bell style, if you will, how they look at that.

Kate (43:12.215)

Kate (43:15.862)
I mean, listen, Andy Cohen, that mad genius, does this better than anybody else. You know, like, you see this on, like, Bravo shows all the time. There are always these tangential third-party characters who come in and mix it up, and like, they get elevated sometimes to full cast members, and sometimes they don’t. And like, there are people floating around in the extended universe of all of these shows who help to make the experience, and who help to pad out and to compensate.

Jess Phillips (43:21.284)
That’s true.

Kate (43:42.742)
for when you have to compromise on something with one of your leads, or when they’re not able to do something or willing to do something.

Jess Phillips (43:49.88)
That’s right, I love the Bravo connection. I hadn’t really considered that previously, but that is so right. Oh my goodness, yeah. I mean, and they’ve had crazy, crazy success there. So that’s an interesting, that’s a really good takeaway, I think, and a good way to kind of shift perception on how things are done, because my general like MO is that everything has been done before. You just need to look back in history and the right spots to find it, figure out how it proved out, and then apply it to yourself, so.

Kate (43:55.231)
Right, exactly.

Thank you.

Kate (44:08.343)

Yeah, no, listen, technology changes and mediums change and creative interest change and culture changes, but people fundamentally don’t change very much at all.

Jess Phillips (44:21.908)
Yes, that’s true. As much as we’d like to think that we do, we’re actually not that, we don’t change that much. That makes sense.

Kate (44:28.51)
I always joke that I have conclusively found the only career path that allowed me to prove my parents wrong, that writing and anthropology were not a viable foundation for a career path. But I always say, I’m like, who knew that anthropology was going to be incredibly valuable as a basis for a career that wasn’t being an anthropologist? But it really is, you know? The way that people need to feel heard, the way that we exchange gifts, the way that we show value and show respect.

Jess Phillips (44:45.292)
Yes. Yeah.

Kate (44:58.482)
and what we demand out of groups, how we behave in groups. It’s all happening every day, and it’s not that different than how it’s ever happened, you know? Like, I think there will be fascinating ethnography written about the digital world that is gonna feel exactly like, I don’t know, exploring jungles in a terrible colonial, like, way that needs to be totally re-examined and problematized, you know, does now when you look back.

Jess Phillips (45:05.528)

Jess Phillips (45:14.154)
Oh yes.

Kate (45:27.278)
100, 200 years.

Jess Phillips (45:29.76)
Wow, yeah, that’s true. I hadn’t really thought of that. I mean, what do you think? Okay, so let’s say we hit pause on the digital world right now. Okay, 2024, everyone says, forget digital, we’re going back to inner life. What do you think would be in the papers, in anthropology? Like what are anthropologists going to say about this timeframe in the digital space?

Kate (45:39.182)
I’m going to go to bed.

Kate (45:50.05)
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s the same, I think it’s really sort of the same principles that drive all of these things, right? We have a desire for connection, we have a desire for importance, we have a desire to build up our own egos and to put ourselves first. But it’s in direct conflict with our desire to build relationships with other people in a lot of ways.

You know, we want to be right about things. We want to share our opinions. We want to interact. I think we don’t, I think if we were to hit pause on the digital world for 20 years, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to give people a chance to kind of regroup and reacquaint themselves with their interior lives. And with what it means to keep that life interior rather than spill it all over the internet. But there are also like…

Jess Phillips (46:34.2)

Kate (46:41.514)
I don’t know, I think we often look at the worst case scenario of a given cultural phenomenon and we forget about the millions and millions of people who are seeking a middle ground just like we are. You know, I actually don’t know very many people who put every detail of their life on the internet. I know a lot of people who have Instagram, like pretty much everybody, you know, but it’s not a choice between being a Luddite and being, you know, like the absolute craziest spill your guts kind of influencer. We all have a private life.

We all have things that we’re not ready to share. And I think figuring out how to build viable businesses around this type of connection and this type of interpersonal storytelling is as viable as it ever was. I think this is ultimately the entertainment business. I don’t think it’s surprising when you look at what happened with Metta’s pivot.

Jess Phillips (47:10.029)

Kate (47:36.566)
towards communities and groups and then, you know, now trying to pivot back to like, essentially, I think their big bet that people want to hear from other people was like kind of wrong. You know, we like hearing, I think groups turned out to be a good tool just because like, honestly, not everybody’s built for forum life and, you know, and groups were a useful organizing mechanism on a platform that has a ton of scale. But ultimately,

Jess Phillips (47:50.66)
Hmm, interesting. Okay.

Kate (48:05.974)
Like, I’m not that interested in like my college friend sharing something that her like about like her uncle. Like that compared to like the available universe of entertainment is pretty low priority for me. So this swing towards TikTok, I don’t think it represents anything other than a basic desire to be entertained. And we’ve always had that since we sat around campfires and started making shapes on the walls. Like that’s, that is a really, really deep urge.

Jess Phillips (48:31.276)
Yeah, that’s right.

Kate (48:33.77)
And it’s not surprising to me that this pendulum has swung back towards privileging content that’s created with entertainment in mind. And it’s because it’s really just what we’ve always done. I think this moment where we were all incredibly entertained by the minutiae of each other’s lives, that was the aberration. That was not the crime.

Jess Phillips (48:42.531)

Jess Phillips (48:52.416)
Yeah. Well, it was just, it was interesting because you never quite had a look behind the curtain, right? So it was new. And so I think we definitely all leaned into it, but I absolutely think you’re right. The entertainment, I think you see it in terms of the way people are interacting in digital, right? To your point, it’s like TikTok, YouTube, entertainment, but then you have all these niche communities popping up, you know, Discord, you have broadcast channels on Instagram, which I think are kind of an interesting thing. You have all of these, what they’re calling dark social. I think it needs to be rebranded to sound a little bit more positive, but like…

Kate (48:56.172)

Kate (49:05.654)
I mean, yeah.

Jess Phillips (49:21.452)
you know, dark social things happening in the DMs and the messaging system. Like that’s where the communities have gone. And that’s where you interact with people who you do care about, right? So.

Kate (49:24.79)

Kate (49:29.71)
I think when you look at what happened with Clubhouse, with Be Real, why some of these platforms have failed to gain traction, it’s that ultimately listening to strangers drone on for two to three hours at a clip, apart from this very specific circumstance where none of us were allowed to leave the house for a year.

Jess Phillips (49:34.413)

Jess Phillips (49:41.998)

Jess Phillips (49:47.362)

Kate (49:48.378)
Nobody’s doing that. Like podcasts get edited, you know? They are planned. They are done by people like you who have a lot of experience interviewing and who have the opportunity to really curate who they’re speaking with. And with Be Real, similarly, I don’t know, it was a little grim to realize how much time all of us are just spending with our laptops on our laps. And I’m like, cool.

Jess Phillips (49:50.472)

Jess Phillips (50:02.414)
That’s right.

Jess Phillips (50:10.582)

Kate (50:11.858)
I feel a brief sense of connection to everybody I know who’s also just sitting here watching something on their laptop, but do I need to look at it every day? I don’t know. And I think that’s ultimately the lesson there, is that normal people are less interesting than interesting people, and we always elevate those people to positions of visibility.

Jess Phillips (50:20.896)
Right, exactly.

Jess Phillips (50:33.132)
Yes, 100%. I think that’s so spot on. Okay, I have two more questions for you, although I feel like I could talk to you for like three hours. So, okay. So the first big question, I just have to know from a sense of curiosity. In Sex and the City, when there was that Peloton product placement that was maybe not in the best positive light. So if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I feel like everyone, it’s happened a long time ago, but still it’s a spoiler alert in case you haven’t seen it. When Mr. Big.

Kate (50:53.57)

Kate (51:01.218)
There’s a new season out right, so people are going to be catching up.

Jess Phillips (51:04.276)
Yes, exactly, exactly. So when he hops off of his Peloton and has a heart attack and dies, we’re thinking, wow, that’s not really the best look for Peloton, even though I think we know that that’s not necessarily like doesn’t happen every time you get off your Peloton. But that’s a big moment. And that’s a moment when social is like, I’m sure you guys are sitting there saying, oh my gosh, what do we do? Right? Because you have to address it. How do you not address it on social media? So in that moment, when you are a community lead, you are

a PR firm, you are literally everything, you’re the voice for the company. What do you do?

Kate (51:39.318)
Yeah, I mean, I think there were.

I think what we felt was, what we were feeling was sort of a two-fold need to respond. And I don’t expect anybody to go back and do like a forensic revisit of what we actually did. But I will take this time, in case anybody is listening and needs this information, to talk about what we talked about the initial press release, which is the actual right answer about this, because the thing that we saw that was actually alarming…

was people saying that like they were going to cut back on cardio because they were scared. And we had, yes, which is, so we talked to a couple of cardiologists, first of all, because I’m a big believer in facts. I know that’s like weird on the internet, but love facts and information. And it’s very pithy cardiologists put it in a way that I say to people all the time, whenever this comes up, because I want the truth about this out there, which is that, and he said it in a way that was like, it was way too subtle for like a tweet.

Jess Phillips (52:14.126)

Jess Phillips (52:24.152)

Jess Phillips (52:38.527)

Kate (52:39.062)
Like it was so smart that I was like, I think this is like too smart for the medium, frankly. But what he said was, he’s like, listen, he’s like, if you want to elevate your chance of dying today, you should do cardio. He’s like, if you want to significantly lower your chance of dying for the next 50 years, you have to do cardio. And it’s like, again, like it’s like, it’s not the sort of thing that’s really designed for a tweet because you have to actually think about it.

But what he was talking about was that, yes, there is in the short term a slightly elevated risk when you jack up your heart rate. But over time, constantly exercising your heart and lungs and making sure that your cardiovascular system is strong is the best way to keep you safe. And we’ve heard so many incredible stories over the years from members who have written in to us and said to us, like, I did have a heart attack. And my cardiologist says I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t been doing all of this cardio.

Like it’s also the thing that can strengthen your heart muscle to survive something like that. And so we knew that we knew we had all of these years worth of testimonials and making medical claims for brands is very, very difficult. It’s not, it wasn’t, it was something that in a lot of ways, I don’t think we could say what we wanted to say, which was that we know that this is wrong. This is like bad, dramatic TV writing. And to do this, like

Jess Phillips (53:39.588)
Right, definitely.

Kate (54:01.738)
was like, I don’t know, it was harmful to our product, but it was harmful to anybody who takes information from pop culture. So that was really frustrating. Just because, you know, I believe honestly, we believe in our product and we believe that we were doing something that was good for people. And to have this perception out there now that it was dangerous was really, was really frustrating. So I think there’s always that sort of probably more PR driven sort of desire to set the record straight.

and to self-correct. And then for me, there was a really strong desire to say like, to kind of play with this, you know? Like I’m not like the clap back queen. That’s not my identity. We’re not, you know, a fast food brand. That’s not what we really thrive on doing. But this felt to me like an opportunity to engage with an incredibly, incredibly active fan community. You know, I grew up with Sex and the City. This was like, I know this show, I know these characters. And to have the chance to say something

Jess Phillips (54:38.276)
Hmm. Sure.

Jess Phillips (54:44.11)

Jess Phillips (54:54.317)
Oh yeah.

Kate (55:02.251)
that felt pop culturally relevant and it would put us back in the conversation. It was a really exciting opportunity and really what I had wanted to do, and nobody ever does anything alone, right? But ultimately I had this idea, our head of North American Bike Marketing supported the idea, we got it to our CMO, she got it to Ryan Reynolds.

That was, and that was, but I mean, Ryan was in my head from the very beginning because I had lived through the holiday ad debacle where he did this to us with his chin commercial. I was like, if there’s anybody who can turn this around in 24 hours, it’s gonna be him and that team. And they’re an incredible organization in the way that they work. And we were lucky to have leadership that was supportive and that wanted to do something. And it was willing to take this sort of kernel of an idea, which started out like really based in the fandom.

Jess Phillips (55:36.032)
Exactly. Yep.

Jess Phillips (55:47.842)

Kate (55:58.11)
you know, in the environment from whence the problem came, which I think is really key, is like you have to understand what the fans want out of a conflict. You have to understand what the community, it thinks about something. Like if this isn’t your, like I can’t crack jokes about everything. I can’t do formula one. I can’t do, you know, I can’t do lots of like, you know, like it’s, that’s, you have to really, I think understand a fandom in order to really talk about it. We had like subject matter experts come in when we were doing marketing stuff for Taylor Swift.

because you have to be so deep in that world. But for Sex and the City, I was sort of had this initial germ of an idea where I was like, you know, I was like, I think actually like the weird thing to me here is seeing Mr. Big as like a happily like partnered man. Like how many times did he screw Carrie over? You know, was he not the worst person for her to end up with? The fan in me was still sort of screaming at this notion that he was living this happy domesticated life.

Jess Phillips (56:28.152)
Nice. Yeah.

Jess Phillips (56:47.528)
million. Yeah.

Kate (56:56.842)
And I was like, I don’t know. I was like, he seems like he might’ve faked his own death and run off with his cycling instructor. Like that definitely seems like a way more Mr. Big Move than just becoming mislead and like dying in his bathroom. And that was sort of the seed of this idea was that I was like, can we do a PSA to say that like actually he’s alive and well, actually cardio is good for you and he’s just a bad person. And that’s why he had to do that. It evolved from there. And obviously

Jess Phillips (57:05.784)

Jess Phillips (57:20.929)
I love it. I mean the ad was brilliant.

Kate (57:27.254)
You know, they made a decision to cast him that we assumed someone had vetted, and it was a whole thing. But I think ultimately, even if the whole arc of the response didn’t go the way that we necessarily hoped, I think it was a great moment for us as a company to learn how to pull together and to do that kind of real-time response work.

which we’ve really been building up to over months and months of different initiatives and partnering to do it as effectively as possible.

Jess Phillips (58:00.792)
Yeah, well, I think that’s an important piece of the puzzle too, right? Is to have in plan a framework so that when, if and when these moments, which inevitably will come if you’re a big enough brand, you can address them. And addressing them in this way is so fun.

Kate (58:10.403)

Yeah, but it’s, you know, it is fun, but it’s hard to decide that you’re going to pull the trigger. And like, is it going to be this time? Is it going to be next time? Like, is it better if we just let it go and it will be over faster? And I think that’s, it’s, it’s never until, it never, until you have the benefit of hindsight that you know if it was completely the right call.

Jess Phillips (58:17.932)
Oh my gosh. Yeah.

Jess Phillips (58:33.1)
Yep, 100%. But at least in this particular case, I think we can say it was absolutely the right call. Yeah.

Kate (58:38.026)
Yeah. Yeah, I still think it was. I think it was good for us to understand as a team that we could pull something like that off. And I think it was good for us as an organization to have like a feeling of like a little win and to say that like, we don’t just have to take whatever narrative someone else has assigned us. We can have a voice in the conversation and we can push back.

Jess Phillips (58:45.857)

Jess Phillips (58:50.968)

Jess Phillips (58:58.868)
Yes, absolutely. And do it in a way that’s fun and not kind of clapbacky, right? Which is also can be fun and interesting if it fits for your brand. But I think.

Kate (59:05.894)
Yeah, but they’re so, I mean, I think, listen, I think the internet has learned to bait brands into fighting with each other. And that’s, that’s the kind of interaction that I’m always wary of. Like, I don’t want to get into some sort of like, pissing match with HBO. That’s not my reason for being. It’s much more about can we add to the culture? Can we create culture? Can we give people another moment that is, that’s interesting and engaging?

Jess Phillips (59:12.822)
Mmm, true.

Jess Phillips (59:16.908)

Jess Phillips (59:21.384)
Exactly. No, exactly. Exactly.

Kate (59:33.758)
rather than like, are we going to fight? Like, no, we’re like, we’re adults working for real companies. We’re not going to fight.

Jess Phillips (59:40.564)
Exactly. Yes, 100%. And I think that POV, that perspective, is what keeps brands in the conversation in meaningful and interesting ways. So there’s no doubt about it. Very interesting. Okay, that was just a personal nugget that I had to know a little bit more about, just because as you pointed out, I’m also a fan of Sex and the City, and so I thought that was a really big win, from my perspective at least. So.

Kate (59:49.132)

Kate (59:56.164)
Thank you.

Jess Phillips (01:00:05.196)
The final question I have for you is actually shifting gears a little bit away from B2C and a little bit more to B2B. So we had talked about this a little bit earlier, but, um, you know, the social standard has launched a B2B influencer brand. And I think that LinkedIn is a big spot. Twitter is probably second. Maybe YouTube, maybe Tik Tok. You as, as we explore these different channels that are historically B2C, perhaps there is room and there are probably carve outs for B2B. You’ve carved out a nice slice of LinkedIn for yourself. So,

Kate (01:00:11.179)

Kate (01:00:30.414)

Kate (01:00:34.306)
Thank you.

Jess Phillips (01:00:34.836)
My question for you is how do you look at LinkedIn and why, really why do you post there?

Kate (01:00:41.674)
Yeah, I honestly have asked myself that question too. I feel like I’m in the thing that has been the most rewarding to me in the last couple in the last real sort of I would say like 10 years of my career has been moving into a position where I’m managing a team. And in social you tend to manage very young teams. I don’t think I’ve ever been personally responsible for somebody older than 25.

Jess Phillips (01:00:55.896)

Kate (01:01:06.826)
And so it’s really, it’s the part of my job that I really find most rewarding is that kind of team building and mentoring. And I think, I think LinkedIn for me is a great channel to get to do that on a larger scale. And to get to kind of, I don’t know, I mean, to speak truth about an industry as one of the people who’s been part of building that industry. Social media as a job when I started doing it was…

There was not really a job at that point. I’ve been doing this for more than 12 years. And I always laugh when I see those posts on LinkedIn, people who are like, oh, you want 10 plus years of experience in social, like who has that? I’m like, well, not to date myself, but I have that. Like I have friends and colleagues who have that. You know, there was internet 10 years ago. I don’t know if you know that. And all of these social networks are now like past their 10th birthdays. Like they were not what they are now.

Jess Phillips (01:01:35.169)
Right. Yeah.

Jess Phillips (01:01:46.005)
Hello? Yeah, exactly.

Jess Phillips (01:01:53.464)
There was.

Kate (01:02:00.534)
But there weren’t that many of us back then. And I think people who’ve been running these sort of large scale programs for years and years, we’ve had an experience that in every time I’ve had the opportunity to meet somebody else in my position, we’ve had a really unique experience that is at the same time has a lot of commonalities. And talking about what it’s like to build a career in this industry, there aren’t that many people who are in a position to talk about it. And I feel obligated in some way as one of like,

probably a few thousand people, at least in my immediate vicinity or market, who can talk about it to do it, to really make it clear to people who are starting now that, like, yes, there is a path here, and maybe here’s what it looks like for you, or here’s how I wish I’d done it differently, or here’s how things have changed. And to be able to provide and scale some of that mentorship, you know, I think that was that question of how do you scale a person, you know, is so much what we’ve talked about with.

Jess Phillips (01:02:38.214)

Jess Phillips (01:02:57.869)

Kate (01:02:58.894)
creators, with our instructors at Peloton, with all sorts of things. And ultimately, like, I don’t know if I need to be scaled, but if I have any support or wisdom that I can offer to anybody who’s young in their career, I want to offer it. And I want to offer a sanity check to my colleagues and to other people who work in an industry that can be really chaotic and really crazy. Because you know, we all like have those moments where you feel alone or where you feel like

Jess Phillips (01:03:21.004)

Kate (01:03:27.722)
an imposter or you feel like you just have no idea which way to turn. And peer mentorship has always been so incredibly important for me and valuable for me. And to have the opportunity to do that for others and connect with other people who sometimes just need to hear like, am I crazy? And the answer almost always is no, you’re not crazy. I’m also feeling the same thing. And we’re all solving the same set of problems at different companies and in different contexts.

Jess Phillips (01:03:33.304)

Jess Phillips (01:03:53.6)
Sure. Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really wise. That’s a noble pursuit for sure on LinkedIn. And I think what’s interesting is that you have had the experience of seeing these instructors, turn creators, influencers, and you’ve had sort of a backseat view from how Peloton has said, you know, you’re here, we’re here, how we overlap, here’s how you personal brand, here’s how you do all of these things. So, I mean, do you plan on taking some of that and putting it into your own?

Kate (01:04:17.795)

Jess Phillips (01:04:22.772)
LinkedIn, Twitter, wherever you are on the internet.

Kate (01:04:23.138)
I mean, I don’t have the desire to, you know, to be a face of anything, particularly. I’ve always liked being behind the scenes. Even before I worked in social, I was very clear, like I was a magazine editor. I was not, I was not a writer. I didn’t want to be the one out in front. But I think, I think if there’s any lesson that I’m taking away here, it’s also that in my consulting practice, I’ve started taking on some more clients.

Jess Phillips (01:04:36.196)

Kate (01:04:49.87)
who are in the B2B space but are interested in more of a B2C voice. And so it’s been really interesting to learn sort of how B2B companies and how companies who operate on a very different marketing paradigm, what can they learn from what we know? And how can I package up what I know and make it valuable to other types of companies than just the consumer brands that I’ve worked with in the past? So it’s been a really interesting exercise for that as well.

Jess Phillips (01:04:55.267)

Kate (01:05:17.278)
I don’t feel the need to be a B2B marketing influencer necessarily, but it’s great to get to try out and experiment with my own voice again and to get to write as me instead of as a brand. I’m going to go ahead and close the video here.

Jess Phillips (01:05:26.496)
Yes, 100%. And it is, and it’s fun, right? I think we talked a little bit about this, but you’ve been part of these platforms’ growth and rise really for most of your career. And so now to have a spot, like a place where it makes sense for you to share, I think is really interesting. I find that to be very interesting myself. And I do think, you know, we approach at the social center, at least that’s how we’re approaching B2B is to say, how do we make this interesting? Because people are here to be educated, but there’s a baseline entertainment. It doesn’t have to be…

you know, choreographed dances from B2B influencers. That’s not what we’re looking for. But you know, there’s a way to write. Yeah, I mean, it could be fun. Maybe there’s something there. But you know, you can write in a style that’s a little bit more entertaining, that overlaps. You know, how people want to receive content and how you write it. And kind of finding that overlap, I think would be incredibly important. I mean, is that some of the ways that you guide people who are B2B that want to have a B2C voice? Or are there any…

Kate (01:06:00.undefined)
No, but it’s gonna be fun. Yeah.

Jess Phillips (01:06:22.868)
any trends or things that are interesting that you would recommend? 100%. Yes.

Kate (01:06:24.506)
Yeah, I think again, like I said, like English majors of the world unite. Like this is, in this chat GPT moment, do you have a voice? Like, do you sound like a person? Do you sound like, do you sound real? Do you sound interesting or entertaining? Because as the baseline level of garbage content available on the internet continues to rise, then the only way to set yourself apart is to sound like nobody else.

Jess Phillips (01:06:36.undefined)
Right? Yeah.

Kate (01:06:51.138)
And it’s something that I’ve, you know, I’ve loved to write since I was a little kid. And I’ve always, I speak very much in the same way that I write. And I sound unique. I sound like me. And I think teaching other people how to do that and why to do that.

Jess Phillips (01:07:00.106)

Kate (01:07:07.606)
I think it’s going to become more and more crucial. I think, again, we’re going to see a slight trend towards everything being written on chat GPT. And then I don’t know, Google’s algorithm is going to figure out how to tell that something was written by AI and they’re going to tank all those AI B2B blog posts. And then you’re going to have to go back and find somebody with a point of view and a voice to write them. And you’re going to have to go back and do that tone of voice work that you didn’t do at the beginning. And so like, sure, kick the can down the road six months. And when you have a little more budget and a little more runway, but

I don’t think that problem is solved. And I think ultimately there is not a lot of substitute out there for human experience and human voice and our ability to intuit what other people find entertaining or interesting.

Jess Phillips (01:07:50.912)
Yeah, 100%. I think that’s absolutely right. I mean, having a, it comes back to community, right? What community are you building on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on YouTube, wherever you’re, you know, wherever you’re doing that, it’s definitely community first, entertainment second on LinkedIn, I would say.

Kate (01:07:55.394)

Kate (01:08:05.758)
Yeah, and I really only want to do it if I can do it exactly my way. I really try to avoid that line breaks every sentence, like all of the ridiculous moved in these days. Like you do, as I say, there’s a strong trend towards the norm. Everybody sort of starts to move towards the middle. And I think because it’s not my business, it’s not how I make money. It’s a lot more fun to be able to say, I’m not going to do that because I don’t need this post to go viral.

Jess Phillips (01:08:15.115)
Oh, yes. Yeah. Uh-huh.

Jess Phillips (01:08:31.828)
At least not yet. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And so you can take your time kind of curating it and making exactly what you want, which I think is a long strategy. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I think that’s fantastic because you’re right. If everybody does the same thing, none of it’s interesting and we all gravitate towards what is interesting, what is entertaining. And especially in the B2B world, how can we learn from this, right?

Kate (01:08:34.474)
I don’t need this to be huge.

Kate (01:08:40.586)
Yeah, I can make something that I like.

Kate (01:08:56.522)
Yeah, exactly. I think we’re really only on the cusp of B2B brands really starting to rethink brand and to rethink voice and to try to figure out how they’re going to show up for their much more niche audiences. But at the same time, these are like audiences that are deeply invested. These are communities by default in a lot of ways. And I think figuring out how to leverage that is going to be a really interesting challenge in the next couple of years.

Jess Phillips (01:09:04.867)

Jess Phillips (01:09:17.016)

Jess Phillips (01:09:21.888)
Yeah, I agree. And I think that they have probably a lot to learn from your time at Peloton, because the reality is, is a lot of people, a lot of businesses can now elevate voices from within, from employees. And that’s effectively what Peloton had done as in social content with their instructors, right? It’s the same thing.

Kate (01:09:32.788)

Kate (01:09:39.69)
Yeah. And every business has employees that are able to do that. Like, I don’t know. I, the funniest person at Peloton is not actually like one of the instructors on screen, in my opinion, like the person who consistently made me laugh for years and years and years is somebody whose voice I don’t think anyone’s ever heard outside of the company, but we all know he’s hilarious. And that means that there’s somebody like that in every single company. And I think figuring out how to, how to bring that out of surface that.

Jess Phillips (01:10:00.312)

Kate (01:10:09.034)
and how to use that is really, that’s the art and science of it.

Jess Phillips (01:10:14.124)
Yes, 100%. I think that’s absolutely critical. And I did think there’s just one more question, just one more question. As to pivot back to kind of B2C, or really this could be B2B, one thing I noticed in the content that you guys have is it looks like you guys have a colossal content bank in which you can draw upon different pieces of imagery and video that you can use throughout social, because I would imagine, you know, you’re not out there shooting for social every single day. There’s gotta be some sort of like efficiency. So what is…

Kate (01:10:39.502)

Jess Phillips (01:10:43.608)
What’s that process like? And how do you recommend somebody setting up a content bank? Kind of quote unquote.

Kate (01:10:52.178)
Well, everybody’s going to hate this answer. But I think ultimately, like, I try to rely a lot less on the content bank. I think, I think the ultimately when you, when you’re lucky and in a business like Peloton to have an arm of your business that creates audio visual content, literally as part of the business, you know, being able to access class content is a massive advantage. And there are always photo shoots going on for the, there’s always a million things happening, but ultimately.

Jess Phillips (01:10:54.189)

Jess Phillips (01:11:00.341)

Jess Phillips (01:11:13.7)

Kate (01:11:21.074)
in this particular moment on social, it’s not created for social, it’s not designed with social in mind. And so having a really nimble content production, and if not production, ideation process, to be able to say like, you know, like, I don’t know, like, YouTube clip compilation style, like, what’s the idea here? What’s the thinking? I think your thinking still needs to be sharp, it needs to be always on, and it needs to be happening on an ongoing basis, even if your content production isn’t.

Jess Phillips (01:11:41.048)

Jess Phillips (01:11:48.33)

Kate (01:11:50.742)
because you’re constantly going to need to reframe and think about what’s out there, think about what’s trending, and make the most of the moment. And the thinking always has to be fresh, even if the content production.

Jess Phillips (01:12:01.556)
Yeah, that’s fair. I think that’s interesting. I would not have, I did not anticipate that answer from you, to be totally honest. I thought you guys were gonna rely a lot on the content bank.

Kate (01:12:09.491)
The content bank is a gift? Yeah, the content bank is a gift, but I think ultimately, and I see this in my work now, that it can also start to become a little bit of a limitation. That like, you’ve now planned yourself 90 days out, and then you’re sort of looking around at each other, you’re like, well now what do we do? And if you haven’t built that muscle for content creation and for fast ideation and for quick turn trending ideas.

Jess Phillips (01:12:21.897)

Kate (01:12:35.126)
then you’re only ever going to be limited to what’s in your content bank. And when your bank starts running empty, you don’t have a choice but to spend a ton of money to refill it if you don’t build both types of capability.

Jess Phillips (01:12:48.624)
That’s a great point, great point. Wow, well this was a conversation. I feel like I learned a tremendous amount. I hope that our audience learned a tremendous amount as well. If they want to connect with you, what is the best place for people to find you for your consultation services? Probably on LinkedIn, that’s right. All right, well we will link it for everybody here and when we share it on social, we’ll tag you in it as well. So Kate, it was a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast and yeah.

Kate (01:12:53.71)
Thank you.

Kate (01:13:03.823)
Probably I’ll make it.

Kate (01:13:15.666)
I’m so excited about what you do with the CIPL standard. It’s been so valuable for us.

Jess Phillips (01:13:20.504)
Good. Thank you so much. See you next time, I guess.

Kate (01:13:24.578)
See you soon.