Online Brand Communities: Lululemon Athletica

Less than 50 years ago “people confused yoga and yogurt,” says Sat Khalsa (2013), who opened one of the very first yoga studios in America. “They were both brand new and nobody knew what either of them were.” Yoga has since evolved from the fringe into the mainstream. Today, it is over 20 million practitioners-strong, and worth $27 billion.

It has also fueled – and been fueled by – lifestyle brands such as Lululemon Athletica. Tom Guarriello defines a lifestyle brand is “a variety of objects that are surrounding a particular cultural way of living a modern life.” Lululemon is a yoga-centric retailer of athletic apparel that is specifically designed to facilitate and promote the Yogi lifestyle. Over the past few years, it has grown exponentially, evolving into a premium lifestyle brand with a cult-like following.

In their book “Lifestyle Brands: A Guide to Aspirational Marketing,” Saviolo and Marazza write that lifestyle brands generate a social benefit: “when I buy or use this brand, the type of people I relate to are….” They define them as “brands that are the bearers of an ideology, which dictates the rules, or that indicates a way of life, and are able to express it in an original way in different categories Saviolo and Marazza.”

One of the keys to Lululemon’s success as a lifestyle brand is its focus on creating and fostering a well-connected community. It has pursued a grassroots strategy of marketing through word of mouth and an army of local ambassadors who “embody the Lululemon lifestyle.” Saviolo and Marazza write that this approach is characteristic of lifestyle brands, and describe it as “convincing an increasingly growing number of people that their adoption would reinforce and amplify their ethos, their culture and their social identity.” Other characteristics that they identify are:

  • high contribution of products to a particular lifestyle
  • a compelling brand narrative
  • a creative and visionary founder
  • the existence of a rallying call to action

The video below demonstrates Lululemon’s focus on lifestyle branding.