Growing Beyond Your Niche

Global Brand Strategy & Creative Platform

Back in 2016, lululemon came to Red & Co. with the ambition of being a $4 billion company by 2020, doubling its revenue within just four years. By June 2020, lululemon is a $3.84 billion company (with 6 months to go!). How did it happen? What were the hurdles, insights, issues? Was there a magic moment? A core insight? A brilliant marketing strategy? Duke Stump and Mira unravel the tale.

lululemon came to Red & Co. at a critical juncture. The lifestyle brand was working to reestablish itself after a number of public scandals in 2013. They had managed to retain core yoga enthusiasts due to its premium performance products, but the brand had taken a hit in perception with the general public. lululemon was commonly viewed as elitist and superficial. The brand was saddled with the perception of “westernized” yoga—a gym class for skinny rich women.

The company knew it could not get to the “next level” ($4 billion in sales by 2020) by only appealing to hard core female yogis. It had to make the brand more accessible to a wider variety of active people without losing its aspirational connection to its core community. lululemon needed to put a stake in ground and, not only define its brand purpose, but communicate it to the world authentically.

What did we do?

We interviewed employees, ambassadors (athletes, instructors), retail associates, yogis and non-yogis alike. We set our sights on understanding what made lululemon’s heart beat hardest. We also took a long, hard look at what lululemon was doing to cause its disconnect with the broader active consumer.

We found issues with the brand’s:

Mission: lululemon had stood silent as the Western world reduced yoga to a physical practice rather than guidelines for a meaningful and purposeful life.

Voice: lululemon had talked in platitudes (e.g. “do one thing a day that scares you,” “when we run, we become”) that came across as preachy or morally superior.

Value: lululemon hadn’t told its product story well (built for durability and longevity), which left it vulnerable to price comparisons with non-performance “athleisure” apparel.

What was our task?

We had to find a strategy that made the brand more inviting, without losing its aspiration. (We are still talking about $100 yoga pants, after all.)

The Big Idea:
Take Yoga Off the Mat

Inspire active people to live and practice a lifestyle inspired by yoga’s core principles, whether you do asanas or not.

Why lululemon?

Authenticity. lululemon walks the walk. Their business practices are based on the teachings of yoga, their corporate culture revolves around it, and their (internal and external) community lives it. Yoga is not a physical activity to lululemon. It is a way of life, one that is best practiced off the mat.

The Result

lululemon embraced Red & Co.’s strategy and partnered with Vice to produce its first-ever mass media campaign. The anthem spot does not include any yoga mats or pants. Instead, it consists of documentary-style glances into the lives of real people—young creative types and athletes who embody “principles of yoga,” but who are not yogis (e.g. P Money, Jian Pablico, Kerri Walsh Jennings).

Media Opportunity

One of our key creative recommendations was to use their biggest piece of media, their iconic reusable bag, to highlight their big brand idea going forward. The “This Is Yoga” bag is handed out with every purchase in every U.S. lululemon store, and soon across the world (translated into different languages).

“Red & Co.’s gift is their ability to cut through the barbed wire of complexity and deliver simplicity with profound cultural impact.”

Duke Stump, CMO of Lime MicroMobility (Ex-EVP, lululemon Brand and Community)

Relevant Work

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