3 Key Lessons in Marketing From the Top Leaders at ClassPass, Bark and Peloton

During an Evolving E panel session, the executives shared what they've learned

The experienced leaders shared insight at the third annual Evolving E conference. Photo Illustration: Tenzin Tsepel
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

Experimentation and authenticity: two key factors that leaders from Bark, Peloton and ClassPass use for their respective companies.

At the third annual Evolving E conference in New York City, held by GGV Capital and Max Ventures, Graham Stanton, co-founder of Peloton, Jay Livingston, CMO at Bark and Joanna Lord, CMO at ClassPass, came together at a panel to share their knowledge about what it takes to execute and run successful marketing campaigns.

Though the three leaders work in different fields, they each have learned from ups and downs, taking those lessons as they drive their businesses forward.

Experiment and test often

A problem many companies face when they first start out is going too big, too fast, Lord said. While it’s good to experiment, it’s not always the best strategy to go all over the place.

“Make sure you have one or two scaleable channels,” Lord said.

Stanton shared a similar sentiment and warned that if a company finds the right channel, it should keep working on it even as the organization continues to grow and scale. The performance of that channel might change, but if a company diversifies where it gets its traffic or reach from, it won’t send you into a panic if one area experiences some hiccups.

For example, Stanton explained that social stopped becoming a traffic driver for Peloton as soon as the algorithm changed. However, some of that traffic drop-off was also due to using the same lookalike group to target ads to.

“Even if we keep updating our seed, it’s pretty much the same people,” Stanton said. “We had to expand the audience and come up with new messaging, new goals.”

Get out of the company’s bubble

While diversifying different channels to promote the company is vital, Livingston said what helped Bark also meant thinking outside of the New York City bubble.

“Forty-four percent of the country right now approves of Donald Trump,” Livingston said. “When I think about the kind of media we’re advertising on, I want to make sure we’re appealing to a lot of the country that’s out of this bubble.”

Lord explained a similar mindset at ClassPass; the company, for example, does not give its employees free ClassPass memberships, nor do they get better inventory of classes. This means employees have to use ClassPass just like actual members and they get to see how the product works. Additionally, the company just opened an office in Missoula, Mont., where there are only six studios in operation, to expand the company’s thinking beyond metropolitan cities.

Don’t focus too much on bad marketing moments

Most companies will experience a moment when something goes wrong and the public’s perception turns. And while it’s easy to focus on it (and you should rectify any glaring problems), Livingston suggested to not worry about it too much.

“Normally, these things don’t sink a company,” Livingston said.

ClassPass, which infamously changed its unlimited membership model in 2016 (and again in May), and experienced an uproar of outrage, suggested trying to be as authentic as possible with anything the company puts out there.

“Try to set the best expectations of what you can and cannot get from this thing you’re making,” Lord said. “Be as honest as you can when delivering it. You let the cards fall and try to get back that trust.”

@itstheannmarie annmarie.alcantara@adweek.com Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.