I’m a moderately enthusiastic yoga enthusiast, which at times feels like a requirement of an SF resident.Â I used to go to classes in the Haight, I occasionally frequent a studio in the Mission, and my “home base” studio is in the Marina.Â For the sake of simplification, let’s characterize these neighborhoods by noting that they are home to, respectively, hippies, hipsters, and future Stepford Wives.Â Â SoâŠthey’re different.
But despite the differing levels of body art, dreadlocks, and jewelry on display, the presence of Lululemon attire holds constant across these different environments.
There must be dozens of brands that produce reasonably stylish, functional, well-made yoga clothing â and thereâs a pretty good chunk of them providing it at price parity to Lulu. So why then, do all these women (and a growing population of men), who differ so greatly in their attitudes and styles, all gravitate toward the same brand?
Because while other brands may make a great yoga product, only Lulu sells a product that serves as a badge* of dedication and commitment to the âyoga lifestyleâ.Â Â Put on Lululemon gear, and youâre proclaiming to your fellow yogis (and world at large), âIâm serious about yoga and all that it stands for.â
How do they do this?Â I see a few key ingredients in crafting a badge brand:
1. A well-defined brand âmuseâ: At Sterling, we define a âmuseâ as the âsingle person you come to work for â the person you want your brand and the outside world to believe the brand is built for.âÂ Lulu builds its brand for the true yoga devotee:Â an individual who practices yoga daily and balances her practice with a âportfolioâ of fitness activities, but more importantly, a woman who embodies the teachings of yoga not just physically but spiritually.Â In everything Lulu does, you can see her shining through â you can tell that she inspires each decision the brand makes.Â And in doing so, they not only catch her â but all the other women and men out there who aspire to be like her.
2. Prove focus in your product: Aside from some pieces designed for cross-training (running, cycling, dance), Luluâs product line and store experience are devoted to the practice of yoga.Â It doesnât just pay lip service to a tight, focused position â it delivers an experience and product set that backs it up.
3. Tap into macro trends: While Lululemon may be eating, sleeping, and breathing yoga, the brand recognizes that itâs also in the business of fashion.Â Lulu has an outstanding awareness of macro fashion and style trends, and it does a great job of translating them into performance wear.Â The clothing stays ahead of the curve relative to other performance apparel brands in silhouettes, textures and fabrics, color palettes, detailing.
4. Build out a values-based experience: Getting the product right is important.Â But a badge brand transcends the product, building an experience online and offline that speaks to the values and beliefs of its target. In Lululemonâs case, itâs about holistic health and well-being, positive energy.Â To that end, the company posts its âmanifesto,â which encompasses these values, on its bags and throughout its store.Â It hires individuals that embody these values and convey them in-store.Â Stores offer free yoga classes.Â Stores are actively involved philanthropically with like-minded causes in their local communities.
Because this phenomenon fascinates me, here are some other interesting badge brands to consider:
-Harley Davidson (the free spirit lifestyle)
-PBR (the hipster lifestyle)
-Chubbies (the frat boy lifestyle)
-Bonobos (and the grown up frat boy lifestyle)
But Lululemon, in my humble opinion, has truly cracked the code.Â So itâs unsurprising to me to see so many others on-board with the brand when Iâm out and about.Â Putting aside my own very narrow purview of the brandâs success, though, allow me to call out Luluâs (LULU) stock performance across the past 5 years:
The company has been increasing sales at an average annual rate of 40% since its inception.Â Pretty sweet.Â A sign, Iâd say, that their brand positioning and approach is working for them.
So the end game advice:Â take a step back from your brand.Â Think about your âmuseâ and how usage of your product or service connects to her lifestyle, her values, who she is.Â Reframe and reground in that broader context.Â And then, my personal suggestion, would be to build a forward-looking position for your brand using the âformâ inspired by Luluâs approach.
*Side note:Â Status brands like Luis Vuitton are also deemed âbadgeâ brands.Â ButâŠother than proclaiming, âIâm richâ, they don’t showcase a lifestyle â so they don’t fit the definition of a badge brand that Iâm addressing.
Sara Linderman, Strategist