The fitness apparel industry is an arena in which it can be particularly difficult for newcomers to rise through the ranks and take hold of their own piece of market share. Lululemon, a Canadian-based yoga apparel company, is an example of a brand that has proven themselves as marketers not only in their niche, but across the retail sector as a whole. In 2012, they were reported to have the third highest revenue per store square foot in retail, ranking behind the likes of Apple. Aside from an incident with some see-through pants, Lululemon arguably makes a product rich in quality and caché. So, how did this Canadian retailer go from boutique storefront to locker room favorite? They started by selling a lifestyle, not just a product.
When many people think of Lululemon, yoga comes to mind. But the company built their empire on a much more encompassing concept. Lululemon constructed a brand persona that embodies all of the things that their target market can identify with. They like to sum up their ideals with the manifesto “Dance, sing, floss, and travel.” So while some of their target consumers have an interest in yoga, and that’s a big part of their focus, they would have been foolish to keep the scope so narrow. How are they delivering a bigger picture message?
Lululemon is taking the lifestyle identity they’ve created and turning it into pure brand loyalty online. Looking at their blog, three of their most recent pieces include a healthy recipe, an exercise round-up, and a spotlight of a unique artist. At first glance this might not even be a commercial blog; these are all pieces that could have been written by any individual blogger. From a consumer perspective, the beauty of this content is that none of it is plugging a Lululemon agenda and yet it’s all highly relevant to their target consumer.
For any brand that wants to build trust with its audience, an authentic blog is a great place to start. Offering unique and engaging content that isn’t all-branded all the time, allows a company to flex their authority on a subject.
Authoritative Online And Off
Another way Lululemon has gained their positive reputation is by building authority both online and in their showrooms. Offline and in stores, Lululemon is living out the ideals that they highlight on their blog. Store employees are committed to the brand and the Lulu lifestyle. With employee titles like educators and key leaders, rather than sales associates, customers are able to engage in a uniquely branded shopping experience and witness brand personality come to life. Consumers can read about yoga on Lululemon’s blog, and visit their local store to speak with an educator who more than likely practices yoga regularly.
Similar to their in-store efforts, Lululemon emulates digital authority as well. Ranked number 1 for “yoga apparel” and “workout clothes” the retailer has successfully risen to the top of the SERPs, driving thousands of search queries to their site monthly. Lululemon has also capitalized on the popularity of Twitter and Instagram, adopting #theSWEATlife hashtag and republishing select posts to their blogs and social accounts. Their “ask a yogi” section of the site provides information from well-trained, experienced yoga instructors and offered up for free – no subscription required. By maintaining authority throughout all aspects of their business, Lululemon has become a trusted resource for information as well as athletic gear.
Lululemon focuses on community and capitalizes on exclusivity. Products are not sold in athletic retail warehouses like Sports Authority, which means customers must actively seek out Lululemon and go to their location. Products in store are only offered in limited quantities of certain colors and sizes, promoting the mentality of buy it now or miss out later. That sense of urgency combined with a high price point cultivates an exclusivity that is working for the brand. But as any international brand knows, exclusivity relies on a large consumer base vying for a limited number of products. Lululemon uses their social profiles to tell consumers about their latest styles and deals, emphasizing limited availability to successfully drive sales.
Even further, stores attempt to engage their local community by offering educational events such as free in-store yoga classes. This gets consumers into stores, and has the added benefit of providing perpetual fresh content for their blog. Lulu uses a brand ambassador program to connect stores with local fitness gurus like yoga teachers and personal trainers. Ambassadors are given some gear and have their posters featured on store walls. This creates another local connection for Lululemon and helps garner authoritative word of mouth promotion that thrives on the web.
Make it Work for You
Lululemon has managed to succeed in a competitive market traditionally monopolized by much larger retailers, by selling a lifestyle not just a product. When thinking of ways to better connect with your target market, try these on for size:
1. Give Your Brand a Personality
Most brands aren’t able to bring customers into their stores for a free weekly class, but they can give something else of value away for free: content. You can show that you value the interests of your employees and consumers by showcasing your unique personality on your blog and social media accounts. Selling a lifestyle makes your brand more approachable and allows you to stay connected to your consumers, online and off.
2. Mass Appeal
Your brand likely appeals to more people than you think. Get to know your consumer community, and find a way to hone in on their related and parallel interests. Are there aspects of your brand that can help you bridge the gap to previously untapped markets? Expand your related audience by offering a breadth of content that plays to your brand personality.
3. Capitalize on the “Feeling”
Remember the Marketing Hierarchy of Effects? There are stages in the conversion funnel that follow think, feel, do. Spend more time in the feel-stage, by focusing more on your customer’s interests and less obviously on a sales agenda.