Peloton: From Mechanic to Missionary

Peloton is making headlines today by publicly filing for its upcoming IPO. It's an exciting time to own one of these techie and trendy stationary bikes. There has been a lot of debate as to whether or not the product is pretentious, unnecessary, or just a tad "extra." But I'm not interested in that. What I find interesting about Peloton is the transition from what I call a Mechanic to a Missionary, or a product-oriented company to a concept-oriented company, respectively. There are 3 types of companies out there: Mechanics (product-oriented), Mothers (customer-oriented), and Missionaries (concept-oriented). Corporate DNA is inherent to your company and whether you know it or not, it effects every decision you make. It’s rare for a company to recognize its DNA make up, but it’s even rarer for it to purposefully (and successfully) change its DNA type. Although, that’s exactly what’s happening at Peloton.

In its early days, Peloton appeared to focus on creating a high quality product that they could sell to a large group of people (well, the 1% of the population who can afford a $2,000 in home, stationary bike + subscription). It was about the bike, the subscription, the connectivity. However, their S-1 sings a different tune. CEO John Foley claims "Peloton sells happiness." This is a far cry from a Mechanic’s announcement. Mechanic companies pride themselves in building high quality products and selling them to lots of people. Missionary companies, on the other hand, exist to change human behavior. They pride themselves on delivering ground-breaking, life-altering innovation. Foley goes on to say: “Peloton is so much more than a Bike — we believe we have the opportunity to create one of the most innovative global technology platforms of our time… It is an opportunity to create one of the most important and influential interactive media companies in the world; a media company that changes lives, inspires greatness, and unites people.” Notice how he doesn’t mention the product at all? Foley is staking his ground as a Missionary.

This is a great marketing technique, so long as the company is aligned throughout. Amazon, for example, went through a very similar transition recently. What started out as an “online bookstore” is now “Earth’s most customer-center company.” Amazon proactively changed it’s DNA from a Mechanic to a Mother, showcased by their purchase of Zappos. Jeff Bezos didn’t buy Zappos because he doesn’t know how to sell shoes online; he bought Zappos to integrate their renowned customer service mentality into his company.

Understanding your corporate DNA is a critical part of understanding your business and positioning it for success. I’m looking forward to following Peloton as they continue to grow. I encourage them to acknowledge their Missionary DNA type so they can leverage it at every turn.

To learn more about corporate DNA and find out what DNA type your company is, click here!

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Andy Cunningham