It’s all in the bag

17 Mar

(Guest post by Ciara Capozzi, former Copeland Media intern)

Quick! Which company does this logo belong to?

Ding Ding Ding. If you answered Lululemon (which I’m guessing almost everyone except a few non-Canadian readers) probably did, you are correct. Now think for a second… have you ever seen an ad for this company on the radio, in the newspaper, or on TV? Surprisingly, other than the occasional yoga magazine, this company chooses not to advertise using the traditional forms that first come to mind when we consider advertising.

So, if they don’t buy traditional media space, why do you still feel saturated by this brand EVERYWHERE you look? The answer is simple. Owned media. This often overlooked media channel is amazingly powerful and highly undervalued by most companies. These forms of media are often less expensive and more credible in the eyes of a consumer.

Lululemon’s carefully selected use of bags; storefront displays; word-of-mouth; local brand ambassadors; savvy sales representatives; free in-store classes; and strategically placed clothing logos work wonders along with a strong company brand that is integrated into every customer encounter they can think of.

Add a personalized social media strategy where each store (who knows their local customers better than head office ever could!) is empowered to tweet, blog, Foursquare, or Facebook with their clients however they see fit proves to be far more effective than top-down delegation. For such a large company, this decentralized approach allows faster response time and real conversations to emerge.

This company lives, breathes, and thinks their brand and makes sure their customers do too.  By embracing these overlooked media channels, it has allowed for differentiation in a highly competitive market and the belief that their product is more than just overpriced spandex; It’s a lifestyle choice.

Whether or not you like the company, with their impressive revenue in the millions along with substantial growth even during the recession, it may be time to think outside the box (or bag) with your own advertising strategy don’t you think?

Side note: following the trend of Copeland’s recent logo-interpreting blog posts – this simple, yet recognizable logo is not meant to represent the outline of a woman’s hair, the female reproductive organ, or a horseshoe as many out there may have guessed. The Lululemon Athletica logo is actually a stylized “A”, which stands for “Athletically Hip”, one of the many names considered for the company. Thankfully, the name “Athletically Hip” didn’t make the cut, but the logo did.

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9 Responses to “It’s all in the bag”

  1. Reg March 17, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Smart post, Ciara, and well researched.

    To note, lululemon does not even use the word “marketing” for its approaches to branding or what we’d all call ‘marketing’, and even their employee group that works in what most of us would call the “marketing department” do not have marketing titles — it is all called “Community Relations”. Their Director of Community Relations, Eric Petersen, spoke at last week’s BCAIM luncheon — a funny, articulate and intelligent guy, but also laid back and, in essence, an ambassador for the brand itself.

    This non-use of “marketing” may seem a bit hokey to some, but they passionately believe in their approach, so much so that the corporate headquarters is called the “Store Support Centre”, since everything is focused at the store/community level (as evidenced in Ciara’s post); even their in-store reps are known as “educators” — there again lululemon strongly believes in educating people about yoga, running, fitness, and healthy lifestyles, not “selling”, per se.

    Does that make me a disciple? Yup. But it’s clearly an approach that they have honed over the past 10 years, and stuck to, and at the heart of it is their earnest belief in it all being authentic, or it just don’t work. From a one-store shop ~10 years ago to nearly a billion $s in 2010 (and this when the retail industry in North America has been extremely challenged), and huge growth in the US and expansion into overseas markets, you gotta give them credit. I don’t think it’s for everyone or every company (or marketer), but their commitment and zeal have shone through, and it works.

  2. Bryan Dwyer March 17, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Reg raises a great point about Lululemon being authentic. The idea of being authentic in marketing, is actually what got me interested in this field (Seth Godin’s All Marketers are Liars). I might not get their brand, but Lululemon seems to. And more importantly, their customers get it. Their customers are probably the only reason I know about the company to any detail. Every marketing class there is always at least one ambassador who who features the company for a case analysis.

    As for the logo, I still don’t see the stylized “a”. To me, it has always looked like the omega symbol.

  3. Terry Dee March 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Great post!

    Coming from a household that has a manager of a lulu store, I’m privy to some of the goings-on of the company. I greatly respect the culture and how lululemon approach their audience & how they empower their staff. Employees definitely help spread the culture that lululemon has built…it becomes a lifestyle (and a healthy and positive one at that).

    They use their social media channels excellently. I don’t see many companies using their Facebook half as effectively as them. And as I understand it, they have just one print/newspaper ad a year. Certainly a unique approach. They’ve effectively created a ripple effect of spreading and maintaining their message…and not with a barrage of “Look at me” advertisements. They planned and built for the long haul based around long term commitments of their staff and consumers who are loyal to the brand. It should be said, that it helps that they were/are a niche market and were able to capitalize on their market share.

    Also to note, in the wake of a recent tragedy in the US at one of their stores, from the top down, they are taking care of all of their people in a way I’ve also not seen from a corporation that size. Again, a testament to them on how they see people…as unique individuals and not corporate statistics.

  4. Taylor Lundy March 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    This is a very well written and interesting post, Ciara. Too bad we didn’t get to work together longer at the Ministry of Health! Hope your co-op is going well 🙂

  5. Ciara Capozzi March 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Thank you all for the great comments.

    Reg – It sounds like you are well informed on the company and an interesting event to be a part of! Lots of great information and thank you for expanding on their use of non-traditional marketing titles, it definitely is a unique approach. The overall strategy seems to be working well for their purpose, but I do agree that it is not for everyone. As you illustrated, to be successful at this it takes an entire company buy-in and the commitment to ride it out until you see results, not a quick one-off attempt. Traditional forms of advertising are tried and true – with often more predictable outcomes. Utilizing owned media takes a company out of their comfort zone and requires a bit of faith that their ideas will pay off in the long-run. Owned media can often take more time to build up a presence versus a few high impact “bought” media spots.

    Bryan – I also am a big fan of Seth’s and would love to get into one of his books to see his view on authenticity as you described. I agree with your point and I think it’s important to highlight the value of a company developing a unified and cohesive brand in all aspects, as Lululemon has done, by having a very sound understanding of themselves as a company. It helps to create a strong and more authentic presence with their customers.

    Terry – This post was inspired by a presentation I attended by Christine Day (CEO), as well as from a handful of friends who work at Lulu so I can relate. Knowing someone involved with Lululemon is great to see how as an employee, they continue to lead a life outside of the workplace that is basically reflected in the company’s manifesto.

    Taylor – Thanks! It was great working with you and I hope things are going well with the new position. Hopefully we get a chance to work together again someday or to get together for a visit when Russell is in town 🙂

  6. Christi March 23, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Very interesting! I never thought of it or realized their “lack” of traditional advertisement!

  7. Ciara March 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Thanks Christi. Another famous company you probably know of with a non-traditional advertising strategy is Starbucks – although I think they are finally starting to put a few print ads and tv spots in these days.

  8. Anonymous March 29, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    Hi Ciara,
    Love your blog! Well written and so interesting!
    I saw a show recently with the founder of Starbucks. He said they are taking the words “Starbucks Coffee” right off of their logo so they can expand into other product lines. Another very recognizable logo!

  9. Ciara Capozzi March 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Hi there, great comment! Starbucks has definitely done a good job creating strong brand awareness and loyalty with their customers – hopefully enough to withstand this new logo and strategy. It will be interesting to see how it is recieved by their devoted coffee drinkers.. it’s an interesting idea, thanks for sharing this!

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