Gin, Bikes & the Need for Speed — your most effective marketing strategy for 2020

I have a feeling that your most effective marketing strategy for 2020 isn’t going to be conceived in a meeting room. It’s not going to be worked out on a whiteboard during a departmental brainstorm, it’s not going to be illustrated with painstaking PowerPoint slides and it’s most definitely not going to be months in the planning.

Because I have a feeling that the most effective marketing strategy of the coming decade is going to be responding intuitively, confidently and creatively to the opportunities of the moment.

Let me give you an example.

At the beginning of December the exercise bike company Peloton released a TV commercial, ‘The Gift That Gives Back’. No doubt they were expecting it would help them sell yet more of their £2000 bikes. What they were most definitely not expecting was that the following day the company’s share price would tumble, with a loss of $942 million in market value.

In the ad a woman, who looks in little need of losing any weight, is given a Peloton bike for Christmas by her dead-eyed husband. We see the woman as she exercises on the bike throughout the following year, morning, noon and night, a look of fear never far from her face and, one presumes, her leering, gaslighting husband never far away in the background. Within hours of being launched the ad for a bike that goes nowhere was being widely derided as sexist, disturbing and an emblem of the darkness at the heart of our consumerist dream.

What happened next was a moment of marketing genius as brilliant as the original commercial was appalling.

Ryan Reynolds, the actor and part owner of Aviation Gin, began a text exchange with his business partner George Dewey about the Peloton spot. The exchange gave birth to an idea. The original Peloton ad had aired on a Tuesday. By Thursday the same week Dewey tracked down Monica Ruiz, the unfortunate actor who had played the Peloton wife. By lunchtime on Friday the team at Aviation Gin had shot a new commercial with Ruiz. By Friday evening the cut was locked and just before he boarded a flight for a press tour to Brazil that evening Ryan Reynolds dropped this tweet …

There had already been other spoofs of the Peloton ad but none had the impact of this beautifully poised one from Aviation Gin, the humour as perfectly judged as the ingredients in a good martini. Over a quarter of a million likes, more than 10m views on Twitter alone and TV and press coverage across the world. A brilliant piece of intuitive, brave and fast marketing.

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In a recent interview Reynolds explained the biggest challenge for the company since December has been simply making enough gin to keep pace with demand.

There are three things we can glean from the Aviation / Peloton escapade …

The first is the extraordinary value of unearned media to be gained if you have an ear to the cultural zeitgeist and an eye to the opportunities it presents. The Peleton debacle was already blowing up on social. By moving incisively and swiftly Reynolds & Dewey fanned those flames into an inferno. Their ad was widely seen all over the world, yet they spent nothing on media.

The second is that the brands most likely to succeed over the coming decade are those who have a clear, intuitive sense of who they are and an internal culture geared to making bold, brave and risk taking work at lightning speed.

Marketing with the efficacy of Aviation Gin — and the Peloton spoof is just one of several instances of brilliant advertising from the brand — also demands that those at the top are prepared to make quick calls and put their necks on the line.

So why not make 2020 the year you ditch the agonising all day brainstorms and endless PowerPoint planning documents? Drop the stakeholder approval process, pour yourself a decent martini and plug into the zeitgeist and the opportunities it presents for your brand.

Oh, and the third learning?

Never, ever give your partner an exercise bike for Christmas.

To discover more about the courses I run in creativity click here.

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I write, think & speak about the creative process. For more inspiration go to or listen to my podcast The Wind Thieved Hat on iTunes.

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