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Active Minds Need Challenges: How Lululemon establishes community to build their brand

My friends and family tend to call me a “gear snob”… and I will openly admit that any day. I am very particular about my ski goggles, my sneakers, and my running leggings way more so than my every day wardrobe. I stick to the brands that I love (shout outs to Nike, Patagonia, and Asics) but there’s a new brand in the mix for me these days.

Lululemon, the high-end technical athletic apparel company known for their yoga pants has suddenly wiggled its way into my work out ensembles. More than any other, this athletic brand continually grabs my attention.  After only a short “retail relationship” with them, I can say with confidence that it’s not just their tangible products that have me keeping a close eye on them. Instead, it’s the way I became a valued member of their customer community the second I stepped foot in one of their stores, and visited their website. I wasn’t just a “shopper”, I felt like an individual that was going to influence the future success of the brand by simply living the lifestyle they promote and stand for.

Lululemon is constantly asking questions to help themselves penetrate a market that, if I had to guess, is probably one of the hardest to break into. Gear snobs like me are pretty tried and true to the logos we’ve always sported. However, in just 11 years, Lululemon’s uncanny ability to reach out to their consumers in different ways, has helped them create an identity and business model that isn’t only sustainable, but exemplary.  Here are two really nifty things that this brand has done to dazzle me just in the last month:

1. Free community events. What better way to bring your customers together than to invite them to do free (and fun!) stuff? For the month of September the store on Boylston here in Boston hosted “run to down dog” every Sunday morning. This was a program where anyone could show up in the Boston commons, go for a group run, then do a 45 minute yoga practice lead by a local Yogi that volunteered their time. Each week the group grew by 5-10 people as word spread that doing yoga outside was quite possibly the coolest experience ever. By offering free events that are tailored to specific locations nationwide, Lululemon customers are physically brought together – thus forming a very literal community that not only gets outside to be active, but builds an affinity for the brand, and programs that support the brand, on a local level.

2. Promotions that encourage you to get up and move.  Lulu has been working to diversify their products over the last few years and recently came out with a new version of their classic running pant. Since I’m signed up for the Boston Half Marathon, I figured I’d treat myself to a new pair of snazzy Lululemon leggings (See? Gear snob.) to get me amped up to run. As I was browsing their small collection of running products, associate informed me that if I can show I’m registered for the race, I’d get a discount on any of their products with the word “running” in the title. Genius. They wanted serious runners who would be training extensively and competing in races to test their new products by enticing them with a discount. Not only did I buy in to this promotion, but when I received a follow- up email asking how I liked my pants, and wishing me luck in the half marathon, I was reaffirmed that I made a great decision by purchasing their product.

It is not uncommon for performance and athletic brands to have a relationship with their customers. It is imperative that they listen to the people that trust and rely on their gear to get them through long runs, hours at the gym, hikes, bikes and swims. However, Lululemon seems to be ahead of the curve on the way that they communicate and more importantly, the way that they listen to their customers. Their products, services, and dynamic culture are all a direct product of what consumers have voiced as a need in the market and I am excited to see how Lululemon continues to grow over the next few years.

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