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Nate Watkin: Welcome to the Creatives Offscript podcast, sponsored by Assemble. I am your host, , and today I am very excited to be joined by someone who oversaw a revolution in the fitness industry. Carolyn Tisch Blodgett is the former Head of Global Marketing for Peloton the at-home fitness phenomenon that has taken the industry by storm.
During Carolyn’s time at Peloton, she built the brand into a household name, grew the customer base from under 50,000 subscribers to over 2 million today, increased brand awareness from under 10% to over 65% and was a key executive in taking the company public. She has been named one of the top 35 most influential CMOs in the world, one of Adweek’s most powerful women in sports, AdAge’s 40 under 40, and was the recipient of the prestigious AdWeek Brand Genius Award.
Welcome to our podcast Carolyn.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Nate Watkin: So looking over the list of achievements that you’ve had, both in your education and in your career, it’s clear that you’re a very driven person. What drove you at a younger age to accomplish so much.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah, so I would say, when I think about my younger years, entrepreneurship has actually always been kind of a key element to it. So I think about, I was very close, I am still very close with my family. Growing up, my grandfather helped start, Preston Robert Tisch, he helped start Lowe’s Corporation.
And you know, when I look at it, we spend a ton of time together. And when I was younger, so when I think it was so much just a part of our daily conversation was building a business. And the same with my dad. He built his business as well, and so I would say drive. It was never really called being driven. It was just sort of in our DNA and a part of what we did.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. It sounds like entrepreneurship runs in the family, so I’m sure you had a lot of inspiration growing up.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah, I didn’t, you know, it’s funny cause again, I think when it’s in your DNA, you don’t think about it. You know, my daughter just turned five and as she kind of struggles with figuring out how to learn how to read, my mom was telling her a story about how the night before I went to kindergarten, I was in a panic and I was crying and I just, I refused to go to kindergarten.
I said, mom, I can’t go. I don’t know how to read. Everyone in my class knows how to read except for me. And I felt this. And she said, you know, that’s why you go to school. Kindergarten school teaches you how to read. And I just felt this intense pressure to succeed and that, you know, I think that was just sort of in my DNA and in my blood.
And I’ve always kind of felt that intense pressure. And it was just, I guess it was just so much a part of how I grew up and in me from an early age.
Nate Watkin: And so what were your goals when you were younger? Did you think you were going to be an entrepreneur? Uh, what, what was your outlook?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah, I think, you know, again, I was kind of surrounded by business at a young age, watching my family build their businesses. So I was always interested in the business world. I loved the idea of working for my family one day and following my family’s business. But I would say more broadly, I just always kind of imagined myself going into the business space.
I didn’t necessarily imagine myself in the entrepreneurial world that I’ve landed in, but I did always kind of see myself in the business world.
Nate Watkin: And so you do your undergrad at Yale, you graduate. First job out of school, you start at Digitas and get a taste of the agency world. What was that experience like?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: So I would say it was humbling. You know, I went to Digitas because I loved the idea of working for a big brand. I worked on the American Express account, and I loved the idea of helping to shape and build, you know, one of the best brands at the time, American Express. But, and I definitely got to do that, I got incredible experience, you know, working on some big campaigns for them. But what I think you don’t really realize when you graduate, you know I graduated from Yale with honors, and you take all these leadership classes and you are kind of taught, you know, I went to a progressive school growing up in New York, and it was always kind of taught to dream big and think like a leader and what would it mean to be a leader?
And that was sort of how I approached my first job. And then all of a sudden, my days were not shaping the future of American Express. And in fact, they were, you know, usually up late on a Friday night at work, rewriting or copywriting or proofreading the terms and conditions of a direct mail piece for American Express.
And it was kind of the least glamorous part of marketing. So I had this kind of big vision of what my job was going to be and what my impact was going to be. And it ended up being so small that, you know, it definitely was a humbling experience and made me realize just how much there is that goes into marketing and building a brand.
Nate Watkin: So was there a tension there? You just craved more of a leadership role that you weren’t getting in the first job out of college?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Definitely. Yeah, it was definitely humbling. I definitely craved more. And I think it was part of why I went back to, I ended up going back to business school and cause I think, you know, on the professional side, I thought about on the marketing side, I loved, again, this idea of how do you build brands, what are the big strategic decisions you make?
And even though, you know, one day I could be a more senior person at the company, I felt like being at an agency, I didn’t get the full picture, and I really craved that, you know, being part of those bigger strategic conversations. And I wanted to be much more upstream. And I felt like I needed to go back to business school to be able to be a part of those conversations.
It felt like, again, it was such a great experience, particularly at a young age, to be able to see a campaign from start to finish and really understand how that comes together was so critical and something I still think has been such a big part of who I am today and my role at Peloton. But I did really want more of that brand experience.
Nate Watkin: So you decide to go back to school, you get accepted to the Harvard MBA program. How did that experience continue to shape you as a leader?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah. So, you know, when I went to Harvard, I think I went thinking that I was going for really tangible technical skills. So I had a political science degree from undergrad. I had really never taken any quantitative classes before, and I felt like I’d never read a balance sheet, much to my father’s dismay. So I really thought that I was going to get, you know, this kind of technical experience and, but I think actually looking back while I definitely got that, and that was eye opening in its own way, I think what I really learned was much more in the classes that have been, that have stuck with me was much more on the leadership side actually.
And what I didn’t really realize, again at the time, is that when you’re doing, when you go to an MBA program that does the case study method, is that you’re basically put in a leader’s shoes day in and day out through every case trying to figure out how you would approach a situation that you’ve never been in before.
So every single day you’re learning, how do I approach a problem that I don’t know how to solve? How do I tackle something that doesn’t have a clear answer? And that experience was actually so much more valuable than, you know, learning how to read a cash flow statement.
Nate Watkin: So from Harvard, you get hired at Pepsi, where you led one of the brand’s most successful beverage product launches in the past decade for Mountain Dew Kickstart. What was that experience like?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah. So this was very different. You know, it was really, it was so satisfying, where you work on these product launches for so long, and then, you know, to be able to then go launch the product and see how successful it was, was incredible. One of the things that I think I didn’t appreciate, again, I think when you’ve come from the marketing side, you don’t really appreciate how complicated it is to launch a new product and so much of what contributed to that success of the product was so many teams that I’d never worked with before, when I, you know, when I was at Digitas. So for example, I worked really closely with the R&D team.
I worked really closely with the supply chain team. So at one point there was coconut water in the, it was one of the key ingredients in the product that we were launching, and there was a typhoon in the country that we were, that we were getting the coconut water from. So there was a chance that we were going to have to miss our launch, which was happening at the super bowl because we couldn’t get the ingredients in time.
So you really learn so much about, you know, about so many other parts of the business that I just hadn’t had exposure to before. So that was a really great experience. I would say for me personally, I still, while I wasn’t, you know, I was no longer reading the terms and conditions and I had passed that job onto someone else on my team, I was the brand manager leading this launch, and I felt like I, you know, I had earned my seat at the table. I just graduated from business school and I still really felt like my voice wasn’t heard. I still felt like, you know, I’d often look around the room and there was just, you know, people would kind of nod along to what I said, but they really only ever wanted to hear what my boss said.
Who was ahead of the brand at the time. So I think again, as I thought about kind of taking those experiences and bringing those with me into the future, I’ve always thought about, you know, how do we make sure that every diverse point of view is heard and everybody does not just have a physical seat at the table but is actually heard as well.
Because that was a frustrating experience for me.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. Absolutely. So still craving more leadership, still craving a larger voice. At this point, are you starting to think about joining a smaller company or did you still see your career path with the major brands like Pepsi or somebody like that?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: You know, it’s a good question. I think at that point I really, I felt like I went to Pepsi to really almost get like a second MBA and to really get a baseline foundation for fantastic consumer marketing, which is what I got at Pepsi. I hadn’t really thought about going to a startup at that point, but I definitely wanted to have more impact than I felt like I could have there at that point in my career.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. So let’s talk about how your Peloton journey begin. How did you first hear about Peloton.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah. So I actually, when I first heard about Peloton, my mom actually had a bike, although, but I didn’t hear about the job through my mom, but, so I, heard about the job because one of my friends from business school had interviewed there and she’d interviewed for a VP of Brand role. And she, when she was interviewing with the person at the time, who was the Chief Marketing Officer, and the Chief Marketing Officer was describing what they were really looking for in an ideal candidate. And she kind of rattled off all these characteristics and experiences like, I wish this person, you know, had an MBA from Harvard worked on a big product launch at Pepsi. And my friend was sitting there in the interview and she was like, this is not me, but I have the perfect person for you.
So, I wasn’t really looking at the time, but you know, when I heard about it, it felt like this was potentially a fantastic opportunity. So then I went in to interview for the role.
Nate Watkin: That’s a great friend.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: She is still a good friend.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. And what excited you about Peloton? What was really exciting about that role when you learned about it?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: So when I went into interview, again, I didn’t imagine myself working for a startup at that point, but I was familiar with the product and I, at that point, my daughter had just turned one and I tried the product, as I said, and I really understood how incredible of a product this could be. I mean, I totally understood.
I was still trying to figure out a year in how to balance exercise, which was so important to me personally, with being a mom, with working and my career. And I, you know, I hadn’t quite figured that out yet. So I really understood how great this product could be. But at the time it was still, you know, completely not known.
I interviewed with John Foley, our CEO and founder in a kind of side office in a WeWork on 29th street in New York. And he talked about, so I knew the product was great. But no one knew about it. And we were teeny, and he talked about this vision of, you know, we’re not just going to take over the boutique fitness industry.
We’re not just going to take over indoor cycling. Imagine a world in which we have revolutionized the fitness industry. And by the way, we haven’t just revolutionized the fitness industry in the U.S. We’ve revolutionized it globally and it felt like such a wild dream, but I completely bought into it because I knew, again, how great the product was.
I just knew that this was now a marketing challenge and that marketing, and myself in this position, had to kind of take over and really help make that dream a reality.
Nate Watkin: So it sounds like some of your entrepreneurial DNA kicked in a little bit, and you saw this massive opportunity ahead of you.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah, I did. And again, I had never imagined, like I hadn’t been in a role like this before where I had a kind of blank slate to go create that. So I didn’t know exactly how to do that, but it did feel like this vision was so clear to me and I just had to go figure out how to make it possible.
Nate Watkin: So you were the company’s first marketing executive. What was your vision?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: So the vision was, so I think what I, again, what I realized was that there was this great product, but we didn’t really have that marketing vision yet and what we couldn’t do, so what an easy thing to do would be to kind of sell this product as the convenient choice. So you like exercising, now we’re just going to show you how it can be great at home. But home fitness had been around for decades, right?
I mean, there was, there was an entire home fitness industry that wasn’t exactly doing that well, because everyone realized that it was boring, it wasn’t motivating, and it wasn’t that much fun to work out at home. It just became a clothes hanger. So we couldn’t just sell that, we had to build a greater, we had to first of all really understand who our target consumer was beyond just kind of the convenience piece, and we had to build a brand beyond that, so we had to really identify what is the role this brand can play in people’s lives? And it was, it was not just that you could again, you know, fit in a 20 minute workout before your meeting started that day or your job started that day.
But that you were actually going to show up better in the rest of your life because of the role that Peloton played in it. And that was actually a really new, it was a new thought for, it wasn’t really a story that any brand had told, especially not in the fitness industry that was so used to, you know, you think about fitness marketing from the last 20 years. It was like six weeks to rock hard abs and lose 20 pounds by your wedding. And it was, it was an industry that was so saddled by kind of functional messaging. And we were actually telling this emotional story for the first time.
Nate Watkin: Yeah, absolutely. I think that stood out so clearly in the market. I recall that, you know, Peloton I think was really recognized for even redefining the way that fitness equipment brands looked and felt, especially with your TV ads.
You know, coming from my background in production, I can tell you personally, many times we heard, you know, we want the Peloton look, you know, I think you almost achieved something similar to like what Apple did with their visual style to create this new tone for the brand. How involved were you with the creative and especially the visual direction of those ads?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah. And the thank you for recognizing that. We’ve definitely heard that in a lot of agency pitches that people have said like, we’re going to go create, you know, the next Peloton, the Peloton look and feel. And so I was very involved. I mean, I would say I still am very involved, even as my team has grown.
I think, again, I had a fantastic team, both, you know, I hired a few people under me and then we had our agency Mekanism, that I work, I still work incredibly closely with, and they really bought into this vision that I, you know, that I just shared before of, we’re not just, like take us out of the category that we’re in.
Never think about us as a fitness brand because we don’t want to be in that industry. It’s not, it’s not the type of brand we want to create. We want to create a brand that is really special to people. And you know, one of the things John had said to me in my interview is we want to go create the next most, the next best brand in the world.
We want to go create the most special brand in the world. So we were never going to think about this as kind of typical fitness industry marketing. We wanted to go create a brand that really stood for something and that really connected to people.
Nate Watkin: So let’s talk about the 2018 Winter Olympics campaign, which you’ve described as Peloton’s coming out party.
What was the most fun and challenging part of that process?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yes, it was our coming out party. So I would say from a, so kind of on the advertising side, you mentioned our TV campaign. So we had been doing TV campaigns for the past, for the, about a year and a half before the Olympics, but we were and are still very performance marketing driven, so we were buying, kind of at that time, remnant TV, a lot of late night TV. We’d never done something as big as the Olympics. So that was our biggest media investment to date. This was really, as I said before, you know, our coming out party and really putting Peloton on the map for the broader population.
From the, again on the advertising side, the way we thought about it is, again, we had spent the kind of past year and a half really educating people on what our product was, because we created a new category. We really had to connect the dots for people of what is live studio fitness at home. And most of our advertising was kind of advertising as product manual. This was the first time we really wanted to tell more of a brand story and we wanted to show people what the role that Peloton, the brand, can play in people’s lives. So we told this story through this, this one example woman of how, you know, as she went through her life day in and day out, both the good and the bad, she kept returning to Peloton and Peloton was the thing that kept her going. And that was really, again, the brand story we hadn’t told before. So, that was really exciting to be able to shift from just kind of product storytelling to brand storytelling. I would say the most challenging, but also probably the most fun part of it was that we also live streamed classes from the Olympics. So we had, at that point, we had never streamed any classes outside of our studio on 23rd street in New York, and for the first time we live streamed the classes from the Olympic Village in Pyeongchang. So there was obviously, you know, a ton of complexity that went into that.
Nate Watkin: Yeah, that’s really exciting. Such a great partnership with the Olympics. And related to that, what you were just talking about, at that time, what did you feel that you knew about your target audience that other companies didn’t.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: I would say, so we obviously, we took a really rigorous approach. We did a segmentation for the first time when I first joined, and I think what we, what we learned about our target and you know, to your point on how our marketing looks and feels really different than the rest of the fitness industry, I think we did understand about our target that they wanted more than just the physical benefits of exercise. And again, we were talking to people that already mostly had a fitness regimen, so we weren’t convincing them why the health benefits of working out, but we were convincing them that they actually, there was something bigger than that. And you know, I often, my team rolls their eyes every time I start talking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
But that is like, we were striving for something higher on that hierarchy of needs than just looking good. And that was so different than I think how a lot of other people were approaching their target within the fitness industry.
Nate Watkin: And so the company starts to grow very quickly. What were some of the challenges associated with scaling from this scrappy startup in WeWork to, you know, eventually a major public company.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah. I mean, I think if you were, if anyone that works at a growth company knows, the challenges that come with scale. I mean, we could never hire fast enough to meet all of our needs. We will always have, you know, we’ll probably always be like 30% less filled on my team than we need to be.
So, there were definitely challenges in that, I would say from the market, so there are challenges in just growing as fast as we can in terms of hiring people. I would also say, just from a marketing perspective, we really did shift our marketing strategy, from kind of a smaller target at the beginning that really understood boutique fitness, and we were convincing them about boutique fitness at home, to a much broader target. So we went from building one of the most special aspirational brands in the world, to building one of the most special and aspirational brands at scale. And if you think about, you know, a Nike or an Apple and how they went from being this kind of model brand, to being one that actually was inclusively aspirational and aspirational to a broader set of people, that was one of the challenges that my team really took on.
Nate Watkin: And what was some of the cultural differences for you between Peloton and Pepsi? Did you experience any sort of culture shock jumping?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah, definitely they are different. I would say Pepsi, as big as it is, it’s still, the marketing team at least always felt pretty scrappy and entrepreneurial and things were changing all the time and people had to adjust. But that’s almost on like, speed when it comes to Peloton. So I would say one of the big changes was just how ambitious the team was, not just my team, but the broader Peloton team of, you know, most senior teams would look at what we would sign up for in a year and say, you’re crazy, you know, do one 10th of what you’re going to, what you just signed up for, and maybe you’ll be able to achieve it. And we would, John, in particular as our founder, you know, looks at any time we take something off our roadmap, he’s like, no, put that back on. There’s no reason we can’t do that also. So, you know, I think the ambition is just so great that it takes a certain type of culture and a certain type of team of, John often would talk about, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.
And I think we really had to embrace that every day because we just, there’s so much we have to do in our jobs and we have to be so ruthless about prioritizing what’s important. But also sometimes things have to launch when they’re not perfect because we, our ambitions are so large.
Nate Watkin: And your marketing strategy helped eventually grow Peloton’s customer base to over 2 million members. How did you generate that kind of growth? What would you say is the key factor?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah, I would say, you know, I think there’s a bunch of different things, but what I would point to most is the role of our community and, and the reason our community, I’ve often said, you know, our community sells more bikes at this point. Our members sell more bikes at this point than we do.
And I would add, you know, treads and digital subscriptions to that. And the reason that is the case is because of the product. Our product team, our software team, our content team, continue to create one of the best products in the world and continue to innovate on it. So we can do, we can create the most beautiful TV advertising in the world, and we will continue to do that.
We can go create incredible events and we will continue to do that. But when you have an experience as fantastic as all of our members do day in and day out, you can’t help but tell your friends about it. And that is, I think, so much of the specialness of Peloton.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. That’s very special. Coming from the marketing team, giving props to the product team, so I’m sure they appreciate that. speaking of the community, how would you describe that community?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: The community, I think, you know, again, it’s the secret sauce of Peloton and I think our job, I recognized early on that this community is so incredibly strong and loyal and was really created out like, this community created itself. And our job on the marketing team is to foster that and enable it and help it grow.
It’s not our job to exploit it or, you know, try and commercialize it in any way. So this can, I mean, when hopefully, you know, someone that has a Peloton bike, but if you know anyone that has a bike or a tread or a digital subscription, they just can’t stop talking about it. And they want to wear the shirts.
They want to wear a shirt and talk about it. They want to, you know, they’ll stop someone on the street to talk with that’s wearing a Peloton hat or Peloton shirt to talk about how much they love their bike or their tread or their digital membership. And so this community is just, it’s so loyal to itself that it is really, you know, the secret sauce of Peloton.
Nate Watkin: And so you played a key role in taking the company public.
Can you tell me a little bit about that experience and what you learned from that?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: You know, again, thinking back to that interview with John that first day, that was one of the things he had said is, oh, and by the way, in the next five years, we’re going to be a public company. And again, I remember coming home to my husband and saying like, I, you know, laid out all the things that we talked about in the interview.
And he’s like, no one’s ever heard of this company before. You know, how are you guys going to go public in the next five years? And we actually did it and we did it in four years. And that is, you know, just speaks to the ambition, you know, of this, of the senior team. I would say, obviously it was a tremendous effort, you know, to get there and you know, more on the finance team and the legal team than anyone else.
And there were, there were obviously changes, you know, to what metrics we report on and what I can say out loud and what I can’t say out loud in interviews, but I would say in terms of how it impacted my team beyond, obviously there was a ton of marketing support for it, but how it impacts the day to day is very little.
We are still very much run like the scrappy startup that we were when I joined, and obviously, you know, maybe we have bigger resources and maybe we have bigger offices and bigger teams, but it still very much feels like a startup. And you know, it’s funny, when I interview people, like younger people to join my team, it used to be when I interview people they would say, you know, I’m leaving this big company because I want to go work for a startup and Peloton sounds cool.
And now when I interview people like coming out of college or anyone a little bit younger, they’ll say, you know, I really just want the chance to work on a great brand like Peloton. And they’re almost putting us in the camp that I put Pepsi, and when I was first coming out of business school, and it’s interesting to see us kind of as a brand that’s how people think of us out in the world, which is fantastic. Obviously, it helps us attract great talent, but I would say internally that culturally, we still really feel like that startup.
Nate Watkin: Yeah, yeah, that’s great. And so obviously Peloton is a huge media operation, live streaming classes all over the world. On top of that, does Peloton have an in-house creative team or production team for the marketing?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yes, we do. Yeah, so we, I mentioned we have an agency that we use for more of our above the line TV type creative, and then we also have an internal creative team as well.
Nate Watkin: Awesome. And are you doing any actual in-house production for the marketing side or is that all handled by your external agency?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: No, we do. So, anything that’s non-TV or non-advertising we do in-house.
Nate Watkin: Got it. And how do you see Peloton growing as a media platform over time?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah, you know, I think one of the greatest challenges for people on the outside is trying to figure out how to characterize what Peloton is. On the one hand, obviously we make, we’re a hardware company. We make hardware. We are absolutely a tech company. We have, you know, a ton of engineers that are, you know, updating, innovating on the software side all the time.
But more than anything, probably we’re a content company. We’re a media company. And increasingly, I think people, as people think about the shift of no longer just thinking about media as, you know, what you’re watching on your TV, laying on the couch. People will increasingly think of Peloton as a media company and we’re streaming from the UK, Germany, New York.
We will have more studios in the future. We are, we have, I think we have over 30 instructors now. So increasingly I think people are starting to understand us as a media company as well.
Nate Watkin: I think that really speaks again to the ambition of the founders to say, we’re going to create a company in three categories, right? Hardware, software, media, all at once, and scale it up and take it public. I think that’s a really exciting vision.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah. And I think people often, you know, there’s so many people trying to enter this space now, and they don’t realize how complicated that is. I mean, if you think about, we control the entire end-to-end consumer experience and figuring out how to be an expert in all of those things is really, really hard.
Nate Watkin: And so tell me about the live broadcast classes that you do. How many of these are going on at once? How complex is this from a production standpoint?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah. So it is complicated. As I said, you know, we are a media company at this point. We just a few weeks ago, opened our new studio Peloton Studios New York, where we will have multiple classes being streamed at once from New York, and then again in London. So, it’s complicated. I mean, this is just as complicated, if not more complicated than, you know, what you think of as a traditional media company.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. Definitely. So I’d love to, I’d love to learn more about the social impact program that you created. Where did the idea come from?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Oh, good. I’m glad you asked about that. So, one of my favorite things to talk about, so social impact. So when I joined Peloton, again, I think I saw this vision for revolutionizing the fitness industry. But what was really clear was that this is a product that changes people’s lives, but unfortunately, it could only change the lives of the people that could afford it.
So I felt really strongly that there was a ton we could do to democratize Peloton and make it more accessible. So we launched our financing program so we have, so now you can, you know, you can finance the bike with no money down, 0% APR. So that made the bike more accessible to people. We launched our digital subscription, which means you can access our app and all of our content without any hardware.
But at the end of the day, those things both still cost a fair amount of money. So I felt really strongly that as a company, as a brand, we needed to make Peloton accessible to people that couldn’t afford it at all. So we launched what’s called the Comeback Program, where we donate a hundred bikes a month to people that are on a comeback journey of their own.
And it is, you know, no questions asked. We gift you the bike, we gift you the subscription, and you have a Peloton bike in your life, and the stories are just, if you’re ever looking for a good cry, I encourage you to go to our blog and read, you know, read some of the stories that are just absolutely incredible and we are all so proud that we’re able to give back in that way.
We’ve actually extended the program recently to make one specific for healthcare workers with everything that’s going on in the world now.
Nate Watkin: Yeah, that’s amazing. Any particular stories that stand out to you?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Oh, there’s so many. I feel like I can’t pick one, but you know, I was just reading an email from someone this morning about someone going through chemotherapy and how the bike has really been the kind of rock as they went through that. We’ve heard a lot of stories of people whose children were sick and they, someone had bought a bike for the hospital, where their children, where their child, was being treated for cancer, so that not only could they use it while they were there, but parents who are going through that, whose children are going through that, they can have that kind of stability while they’re, you know, going through something as unimaginable as having their child go through cancer.
So there’s so many stories like that. But then there’s also kind of the stories of a bit more kind of everyday heroes and people going through postpartum depression or going through a divorce and people that are not necessarily, you know, they’re not the extreme stories that sometimes you hear about, but just people whose lives could be so greatly improved with Peloton.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. That’s incredible. So you were named one of the 25 Most Influential CMOs in the world. It’s a heavily male dominated field. I know you mentioned some of the diversity struggles you faced early in your career. What was it like growing your career in that environment?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah. So it’s interesting. I actually, it’s funny, I don’t think of, marketing as so male dominated, but I definitely think of tech as male dominated, which is what, you know, Peloton sits in tech. And it was definitely, there were definitely challenges, I would say. I didn’t really realize that they were challenges at the time.
So looking back when I joined Peloton, I was one of the first few women as part of the senior leadership team. And one of the reasons I joined Peloton, even knowing that, was that John from the beginning was so incredibly supportive of me being there as a young mom and what that would mean for my career there.
And, but obviously it was all new. So, you know, we talked about the fact that I would have to leave every day by 5:30 to get home to, because I had a nanny at the time for my daughter, and she would leave by six and you know, he again couldn’t have been more supportive, but then he would, then meetings were scheduled at 7:30 at night or, you know, there were times where I had asked if I could work from home with my kids at a doctor’s appointment or something, and they would say, of course, you know, you can just call into the meeting. But there were no conference rooms. So then I was calling someone’s phone and they were, you know, all standing around someone’s desk and I’m on the phone trying to, you know, hear what they’re talking about. So there were so many examples where it just, you know, again, the will was there, the support was there. It just hadn’t been done before. So I think one of the the challenges, but I would say also kind of greatest joys for me as I look back at my time at Peloton, is that, was that I was able to, you know, add a voice for those types of challenges and with the support, again, this wouldn’t have happened if John hadn’t been so supportive of me being there, and then women, more diversity in general. But I just, a woman on my team just came back from maternity leave. I know of another woman that used to work for me just came back from maternity leave. It feels now like those are conversations we don’t need to have anymore, which is great. It really speaks to, again, the organization completely supporting it, which I’m so proud of.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. So now you have two kids, another one on the way. Do you have any advice for women who try to balance family and career?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah. I’m not sure I have successful advice. I would say it’s hard. And I think one of the mistakes I probably made early on in my career was thinking that it wasn’t hard and realizing, and I think I would say over the last particularly last few weeks, but over the last few years, I realized that it’s, there’s just nothing glamorous about it.
And I think particularly in a world of social media where sometimes you only see, you know, the good parts of it. What you don’t see is the, you know, the waking up really early to fit everything in. You know, not being able to do things like see my friends that much, as much as I used to or, make it to every, you know, there are many things that happen at work that I have to bow out of.
And it doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to be in that meeting. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to be a part of a decision. But it was, you know, even just yesterday, it was my son’s third birthday and I wasn’t going to not spend the day with him. So that meant missing a few really critical meetings at work.
But that was a decision that I made. So, you know, there’s, and then there’s countless examples where I’ve missed the thing for my kids cause I had to be at work. And so I think, you know, I’m not really giving any good advice. I’m just empathizing with, it’s really hard, but I think being open to the fact that it is going to be hard and that you are going to make sacrifices and just knowing that that is, you know, the life you live as a working parent.
But then, you know, the flip side is I’ve gotten so many chances to let my kids be a part of my work, which has been so fantastic to see. And I brought them to a few of, two different commercials that we are shooting. They came and they got to be on set and see what that was like. And you know, we don’t watch TV that much, but we were watching the NFL draft the other night.
And the commercials came on and Theo, my little one who just turned three, every commercial that came out, he goes, mommy’s commercial, mommy’s commercial. And he doesn’t realize that other people advertise also. But, so, you know, just having them see that I do work and that it is a struggle for me.
They know that the minute I put them to bed, I log on, you know, seven days a week, every week. I then open my computer and start working again. And they know that, they always kind of joke of when I’m rushing through the end of bedtime, that it’s time for me to go work. And so I think, you know, just kind of embracing the, not prettiness of it, but also really letting your kids see it and letting your office, your team see it as well, I think is how I would approach it.
Nate Watkin: Yeah. That’s great advice. So according to social media, you have officially had your last day at Peloton. How are you feeling?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yea I would say bittersweet. Peloton in a lot of ways has been kind of my child and I was gonna say my third child, but it was my second child because I had Theo, my son, while I was there. And you know, I have no regrets. Looking back on the past four years, it has been such an incredible experience helping build this brand.
Thinking about, again, those early conversations with John in WeWork about, you know, we’re going to revolutionize the fitness industry and then actually seeing that happen. Seeing us, you know, ringing the bell when we first went public in September and seeing us, you know, really become this household name.
And that has been such an incredible journey to be a part of, and I’m so proud of it. And then I’m also excited for my next chapter and, you know, we talked about work life balance before and kind of the lack of it. And I’m excited. I felt like this was a chapter where I really did for the most part, have to put my career first and I’m excited to potentially, you know, start a new chapter where maybe there’s some more balance there.
Nate Watkin: Looking back on your career, what was the lesson you learned the hard way?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: I would say the biggest lesson was about advocating for myself. I mean, there’s so many, there’s so much research about, in particular, women not always advocating for themselves, whether it’s a title change or a comp change, or even just, you know, having a seat at the table. And I think, you know, it’s easier for me, you know, now in a leadership position to be able to advocate for myself.
But, I think there were many times where I just kind of sat back and assumed that someone else was going to do that for me and it, and they often didn’t. So, you know, I think that’s something that I will definitely, I often talk to my team about is, you know, I will never get annoyed with you asking when you’re getting promoted or I will never get annoyed with you asking why you weren’t included in something.
Because you have to, whether you know, whatever your gender is, whatever your background is you have to advocate for yourself because no one else is going to. So, I think that’s something that I’ve kind of learned along the way.
Nate Watkin: That rings so true. And very similar to the interview we had last week with Margaret Johnson.
She’s the Chief Creative Officer over at Goodby Silverstein. Said a lot of the same things that, you know, you have to advocate for yourself. You have to push for yourself, and ask for what you want. So that’s, that’s really incredible advice.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah, and I think as part of that, it’s also not being afraid to take on things you haven’t done before. So when I think about, you know, even this role, I had never, I was kind of propelled into a much bigger leadership position than I ever imagined being in. And that was really scary at first. There were many nights, my husband is probably so tired of me crying to him and saying, I can’t do this. I, you know, I don’t know what I’m doing and you know, but just really believing in yourself and, and realizing that you can take a risk and it’s okay if it doesn’t work perfectly, you know, the first time, but really pushing yourself to take on things that you may not believe that you can take on, or maybe the world doesn’t believe that you can take on.
But really kind of, again, advocating for yourself, but also pushing yourself.
Nate Watkin: Yeah, definitely. What are some of your proudest moments at Peloton.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: There are so many. Let me think about some highlights. Well, I mentioned before about, you know, being able to bring my kids on set. I think that was definitely, you know, a highlight for me. Cause again, I think so much of being a working parent is invisible to them and they don’t know what you’re doing all day.
But being able to really share the joy of my work. Some of the most exciting and fun parts of my job. Being on set shooting a commercial with them was fantastic. I would also say that the day that we went public, again as I thought, you know, I was so emotional on stage, I seemed to be the only one standing there crying, ringing the bell.
But when I thought about just what it took and the sacrifice it took to get to that point. And you know, now people can sit back and say, you know, of course Peloton was going to take over the fitness industry. And of course you guys were going to become a household name, and of course you were going to create this great brand, but none of that was assumed, right?
And none of that, you know, there was no path for that. And we did that as a leadership team. We created this brand, we created this revolution. We created this new category. We revolutionize the fitness industry. And so standing there kind of looking, taking stock on that and looking back and realizing, you know, now we’re here and we have arrived and there’s so much more we’re going to do in the future and I’m excited, you know, for us to do that.
But just kind of celebrating that accomplishment was probably one of my proudest moments.
Nate Watkin: And you’ve taken on a mentorship role for up-and-coming marketing professionals. What do you often discuss with them?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yeah, I would say a few things. I would say, you know, on the kind of career development piece, as I mentioned before, I do think, you know, advocating for yourself is so important. I would also say, being open to taking a kind of more circuitous path. So I think, people will often ask me, should I go to business school?
Should I work at a big company? You know, kind of asking about some of the building blocks that I had. But I don’t think I, you know, I started out my career thinking I was on this really linear path and it didn’t go that way. And I would certainly have not been at Peloton if I hadn’t taken a more kind of roundabout path.
And if I hadn’t really kind of taken a risk with my career. So I often talk to them about, you know, go and find a couple different types of experiences and be open to things that don’t necessarily feel like they’re exactly what you thought you wanted to do next, because you don’t know where that next great experience is going to come from.
Nate Watkin: Speaking of the next great experience. Now that your time at Peloton is over, what’s next for you?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Yes. Good question. Well, so I am pregnant, so I will be having a baby in the next few months. But beyond that, hoping to catch some sleep in between having a newborn and two other toddlers. But I would say, so I am staying on with Peloton, in an advisory role to help with certain key projects and then also just to transition into new marketing leadership.
But I would say more broadly than that, I’m really excited to spend some time, I’m really first of all open, to kind of what the next few months of having some time to think and space to think brings me. But I’m excited to spend some time in the thought leadership space and potentially do some more speaking, maybe writing, and really be able to kind of help other companies like I have with Peloton.
Again, I think, there aren’t that many times in your career that you can build a brand from scratch. And there aren’t that many opportunities to really start from the beginning and build something. So I’d love to be able to bring that to other companies, whether it’s an advisory role, a board role or in a, you know, official role with the company.
Nate Watkin: And being that you’re now such a successful executive in the tech industry, what kind of startups are you interested in? Are there certain industries that really excite you now?
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: I would say I’m open. Definitely I think once you’ve worked in the tech industry, it’s probably hard to leave the tech industry. So definitely interested in the tech world. But what I think I’ve learned about what I’m passionate about since I’ve been at Peloton, is when you’ve worked for a brand that people are as passionate about as Peloton, it would be hard to not work for a, to not at least, you know, go be able to create a brand like that.
So said another way, I think, you know, something in the consumer tech space, something that people can really become passionate about is something that I would be excited about.
Nate Watkin: And so last question, if you had to start your career all over again, 20 something fresh out of undergrad, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: I mentioned this a little bit before in my advice, in the question on advice, but I would say, you know, be more open to that nonlinear path. I think, again, I felt ten, fifteen years ago, I felt like I could draw out my entire path, you know, with a ruler. And I no longer feel that way. So I think, you know, I would be more open to, you know, open to things that weren’t necessarily exactly what I thought they were going to be.
And I would also encourage other leaders to think like that. You know, I think even just in my early days of when I was hiring my team at Peloton, I was so focused on, you know, I need someone with this exact experience and this exact background. And I think over the last few years, I just have realized how much I’ve benefited from the diversity of backgrounds and experiences and diversity of thought that as my team has grown, that we’ve built out.
So, you know, really encouraging other leaders to continue to think about, you know, the benefits of diversity, of different types of experiences. And leaders within a team and that really gets you to a better place.
Nate Watkin: Absolutely. Well, that’s all. Thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate having you, and these were incredible insights that you shared today.
Carolyn Tisch Blodgett: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.