Written by A. Selway Ryan
The athletic wear company Lululemon, a staple among affluent Canadian women whose behinds look especially perky when they’re exercising, defied expectations in 2011 by roaring to extraordinary profits despite the general economic downturn.
A niche brand that charges a hundred dollars for stretch pants flourishing during a recession? That’s mysterious indeed – until you learn about their social networking model.
It’s a success story that could only happen in the digital age, with a leadership geared to exploit new technologies while branding itself in the distant past. At Lululemon, ancient eastern teachings meld with Ayn Rand quotes for some truly potent image-making.
But for CEO of the year Christine Day, it’s all about good old-fashioned community-building. Her company is, she says, “part of, and contributing to, a bigger macro-trend that affects consumers from their early teens to their 70s. Investing in your health will pay big dividends for individuals and society...elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness.”
You might think that investing in your health and buying stretch pants aren’t exactly the same thing. But you’d be missing out on the fun and the fellowship Lululemon creates for its customers, whose loyalty and dedication to the company is truly astonishing.
Walk into any store and you’ll find women of all ages talking to each other about good gyms, the right shirt, breathing exercises, Vitamin B deficiency. It’s a vivacious, stress-free salon for health consciousness (with no men around!). And through intelligent use of social media, the company has managed to harness and channel all that energy through its corporate apparatus.
Went to a location, and couldn’t find the shirt you wanted in your size? Post to their virtual Facebook store, and more than likely you’ll find what you’re looking for before long. The supply chain has been fully integrated into the consumer experience, allowing for suggestions and requests to be addressed in real time. For Lululemon, the communication goes both ways: they talk and they listen.
All this helps create a deep marketing impression of a shared ideal, a common understanding of good health and ideological goals. It’s not about shirts and pants, as seductively flattering as they may be. It’s about peace, love, and understanding; values their customers share. Lululemon agrees with you. Lululemon is behind you all the way – and everyone will like what they see.