Lululemon Marketing Strategy: How To Thrive In A Saturated Apparel Market
When talking about gym wear in the 2000s, not many names would come up except big brands like Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas. And the apparel design was not efficient either. But, who can take on the giants? The answer is Lululemon, a Canadian yoga wear company that is worth almost seven billion dollars nowadays, with annual revenue of around three billion dollars.
They did this by becoming a lifestyle brand that goes beyond being some products to buy. By promoting a healthy lifestyle, it could create a community of active enthusiasts who love the premium quality. With sustainable growth over the year, the brand keeps proving to be a strong apparel company that even giants can’t touch.
In this article, let’s take a look at Lululemon’s marketing strategy that helped it get to its current position. Discover the keys to its success and what you can learn from the brand to grow your business or even tackle fields that seem to be dominated by big players.
Table of content:
- Lululemon introduction
- Lululemon 4p’s marketing mix
- Lululemon marketing strategy & campaigns
- What you can learn from Lululemon
- Before you go
Lululemon was founded by Chip Wilson in Canada in 1998 and sold the first pair of yoga pants that year. Although it took two years to open the first store in 2000, just eight years later, the company started selling $350 million worth of products in 113 retail stores in 2008. In 2019, it was reported to have 460 stores worldwide, with more than 15,000 employees.
The company sells athletic apparel, including yoga pants, shorts, tops, sweaters, jackets, and undergarments, as well as yoga mats, bags, hair accessories, and water bottles. In 2012, Lululemon had the third most productive stores in the US, which is remarkable from a single store in British Columbia.
On the homepage of Lululemon, you can find its vision to be a community hub where people could learn and discuss all the physical aspects of mindfulness, healthy living, and living a life of possibility.
Lululemon 4p’s marketing mix
In this section, we will look at Lululemon 4p’s marketing mix, which includes Products, Place, Price, and Promotion to better understand the Lululemon marketing strategy.
Lululemon is now an international company that provides athletic apparels. It makes different kinds of athletic wear including shorts, pants, performance shirts, yoga accessories, and lifestyle clothes. With a diversified range of products, Lululemon can provide for women, men, and girls. The signature material is Luon - a durable and lightweight material that gives absolute comfort during activities.
The company promises to deliver an athletic fit that maximizes functionality and ensures moisture retention. It has also collaborated with many leading suppliers to create advanced material with innovative features. The apparels can have special pockets to hold credit cards or keys, a digital audio player, clips for heart monitors, and elastic bands attached to zippers.
Not only that, but Lululemon also provides service for health care, yoga training, and life goals settings. Keep the vision as a lifestyle company, the brand keeps pushing its products to improve and promote a healthy way of living.
In 2019, Lululemon grew its portfolio by acquiring more male customers and plans to promote brand awareness among men. The products now have more variants for men as well as future directions for marketing.
Started in Canada, over time Lululemon has spread its presence in the international markets with stores now placed in the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Australia, and China. The headquarters is based in Vancouver, Canada.
With a strong distribution infrastructure, Lululemon can distribute its products well in both domestic and international markets. The storefronts can be in malls, on the streets, or be lifestyle centers that offer the maximum brand experience. Product placement also has its own strategy to gain the utmost attention.
Customers are allowed to browse and test the products to their wishes, so they have the satisfaction of choosing the right ones to take home. Lululemon’s employees are well trained to give impeccable service and be buyers’ best friends. The staff are encouraged to discuss exercise goals with visitors and give personalized recommendations.
It has an official website to sell products and also make sales via fitness center, yoga studios, and health clubs. The diverse channels keep Lululemon’s number of sales always high by reaching many potential customers.
The worldwide revenue of Lululemon is $3.98 billion, which is very impressive. The company is known for high quality and stylish apparels, so it tends to target middle-class individuals from urban areas - who are conscious about health problems and want to exercise or play sports regularly. These often have a secured income source and can easily afford sports apparels as part of their monthly routine.
Thanks to creating its own material, Lululemon can achieve a high brand position and does not have many serious competitors on the market. High value equals high prices, so Lululemon adopts a premium pricing strategy for its qualitative products. This suits high-end customers who value the brand’s quality more than money.
It has also created a special pricing policy that offers discounts, incentives, and free shipping to maintain a loyal customer base. The pricing strategy has been consistent over the years to remain a premium product status, so Lululemon’s products keep receiving attention from buyers.
As a prestigious brand, Lululemon has used exclusive marketing to promote its brand and products. For the company, word of mouth is actually one of the most important advertising tools. Sales representatives offer personalized recommendations and encourage customers to visit the stores and try out products. Through the experience and leisure provided by the stores, Lululemon can provide exceptional customer service which lets customers spread the word about the brand.
On the official website, visitors can receive many educational videos and tutorials on fabrics, events, and lifestyles. It also has a user-friendly interface that helps access relevant information easily. Without any promotion events, the experience is what keeps visitors stay on the site and increases the chance of sales happening.
Lululemon also participates in many public relations activities. Every year it chooses eighth charitable offerings to donate and builds a great image of the brand. Athletes and influencers are selected as the brand’s ambassadors to create positive brand awareness as well as expanding the community of fitness enthusiasts. We will get into details about this in the below section.
Lululemon marketing strategy and campaigns
In this section, I’m going to show you the core elements of Lululemon’s marketing strategy. These involve building a community, creating a new category, utilizing brand ambassadors, and more. In each element, I will give a noteworthy campaign that Lululemon did to further promote brand awareness. Let’s get started.
Inventing new and better product
I have mentioned that in the 2000s, most athletic wears on the market belong to Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. So the timing for Lululemon to enter the market is quite incredible. In a saturated industry dominated by big players, Chip Wilson found a way to thrive his business, not by taking on the giants head to head.
The stroke of genius was avoiding to make a dent in a crowded segment, but instead created a whole new market for Lululemon. It invented a brand new category of apparel that combines the functionality of workout wears and a premium look and feel of streetwear. This move transformed both the sportswear and clothing industry, making Lululemon the pioneer in popularising the term of athleisure fashion. This is a change that we still feel today.
By positioning its products as lifestyle wear that performs excellently during exercise but still looks great in daily life, Lululemon was able to be the first in their own category. Having an apparel design background, Chip Wilson designed the yoga pants to be comfortable and flattering to the female bodies.
Not just that, Lululemon’s products have brushed, reversible, and texture fabric with Silverescent tech and water repellent finish. The founders invented their own technology with an engineered fabric called Luon, Nulu, Luxtreme, and Nulox, depending on their compression levels and the garment’s intentions (yoga, train, or run).
Focus on building a community
It is not easy to become a lifestyle brand. You have to resonate with the customers’ needs in the hopes of becoming a social phenomenon. For Lululemon, it takes the ideology of a healthy lifestyle to build a large community centering around total mind and body wellness.
And Lululemon doesn’t just talk about it, it runs a wide variety of health and fitness events for the brand’s members. Some experiential stores have fitness studios, bars with nutritious food or smoothies, and chances to try our new apparel at different classes. Lululemon gives its customers stores that provide everything a fit lifestyle needs.
Being a pioneer in the athleisure industry, Lululemon pushes itself to be one of the most iconic fitness brands in the world. By dedication, the company could attract many types of customers from active millennials to professional athletes to wear their products to class. With success, it also needs to re-emphasize the brand’s values of wellness and healthy living.
A notable campaign is the “Sweat With Us” classes - with hundreds of small events running in Lululemon stores. The company proves that they want to deliver top-notch exercise as well as top-notch apparel. Their stores also host free yoga classes and weekday run clubs. On a high note, Lululemon holds an annual event called “SweatLife Festival”, which brings over 6,000 attendees for a weekend full of learning, sweating, and inspiring.
These events increase customer engagement, encourage repeat visits to the stores, and promote the company as a top-of-mind brand for fitness and a healthy lifestyle. With a community like this, who wouldn’t want to join?
Create a lifestyle
But Lululemon couldn’t attract that many people with just cool events, it really needs to pursue a lifestyle that is worth-doing for customers. Then, buyers would recognize that they didn’t only buy sportswear, they bought a way of life. A pair of yoga clothes can be a new year’s resolution, a fresh start, a return to exercise, or a new way to spend time with friends. By inspiring buyers to buy for these powerful emotional motivations, Lululemon successfully penetrates customers’ minds.
By treating audiences as a community of people that are brought together by the common purpose of pursuing a healthier lifestyle, Lululemon can create deeper connections with customers. This is obviously better than considering buyers just anonymous people and interchangeable individuals.
This approach needs a great focus on the marketing strategy. Lululemon has to push the message through every channel, promotional materials, web presence, social media, and brick-and-mortar stores. And the experience has to be all-inclusive and consistent. This can be seen through the brand’s support over individuals’ stories or athletic achievements on social media, or the eco-friendly reusable shopping bags that have a manifesto composed of inspirational slogans.
Through this, customers would feel like they are supported by Lululemon to continue pursuing their healthy lifestyle. As mentioned, the community - also known as the ‘Luluheads’ are encouraged to come together and help each other in real-life events. The potential value of this is significant since groups of people are introduced to each other and become better, thanks to Lululemon.
That is a lifestyle that anyone would love to pursue, not just fitness enthusiasts. The two sides of the Lululemon’s marketing strategy that involves personal success and group belonging reinforces the promoted lifestyle in customers’ minds. The end result is that people are more engaged with the brand than any normal apparel company.
Making use of the brand ambassadors
Influencer marketing is one of the most successful marketing strategies for rapid growth. Lululemon invented its own ambassador program by partnering with local fitness and yoga coaches to promote its products while helping them grow their reputation at the same time.
Instead of spending millions of dollars on the biggest icons in sport like Adidas or Nike, Lululemon turned to smaller influencers. There is a clear necessity to put a charismatic celebrity as the brand ambassador, but the niche Lululemon targeted was narrow. The strategy worked out great because both sides received benefits - the brand and small influencers.
The local yoga and fitness coaches got more customers, had access to high-quality products, and grew their businesses. In return, Lululemon had them put in a number of hours inside the stores and run free yoga classes to represent the brand. Since Lululemon kept getting bigger, the ambassadors received a large surge of new followers as well.
According to a yoga teacher from Australia, the ambassadors got a lot of support from the brand to pursue any initiatives and events that they desire. Apart from local coaches, now Lululemon also has world-class Olympic athletes as members of the ambassador program. Many trainers and coaches are trying hard to become Lululemon ambassadors nowadays.
Engaging on social media
In the modern world, if you want to make your brand a lifestyle icon, you need to connect with customers and appeal to their beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. Today shoppers are looking for inspiration on social media more than ever, so that is where you should be. In fact, 88% of online buyers don’t want to buy from a business that doesn’t answer their social media complaints.
Lululemon realized that it needs more than just good content. It had to acknowledge and engage customers on social media. For example, Lululemon’s Twitter account replies are all encouraging messages to devoted customers. Having one million followers, the brand still replies to as many customers’ tweets as possible, creating a real and emotional human connection with the community.
These social interactions are just one way that Lululemon inspires customers to live a life of health, wellness, and possibilities. Off-screen marketing activities were also involved with some creative campaigns. For example, you can see real ambassadors practicing yoga at the store’s window in New York. This makes the brand stand out and encourage viewers to share online.
And that is not all, Lululemon is also promoting the brand on many other channels. The Pinterest account of the brand has over two million followers, and the Instagram account has more than three million followers. You can find its Spotify account and listen to various workout playlists as well. Through this, Lululemon could create many touchpoints with customers and influence them even more.
What you can learn from Lululemon
As a quick recap, here are what you can learn from Lululemon’s marketing strategy:
- Dig deep into the values that your target customers live by, and create a new lifestyle out of that.
- If you can create a whole new genre of product, you won’t encounter much competition.
- Your company should embody and communicate the values you preach in all of the marketing efforts.
- Try to create a positive and engaging community with many touchpoints to interact with your brand - both online and offline.
Before you go
Lululemon has always been a brand that can connect the products with the values that inspire customers. People buy not just because of the quality, but also because of the positive messages that Lululemon embodies and expresses. And, that may be the most powerful marketing strategy of all, as the brand can be more than just a seller, a good friend.
What do you think about Lululemon’s marketing strategy? How would you apply what you learned into your own business? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!