At Lululemon Athletica, successful branding is as much about selling a lifestyle as it is about selling clothing apparel. Through careful, deliberate branding, Lululemon has come to represent a close-knit, daily-sweat craving community. From the humble beginnings of a multipurpose design and yoga studio in Vancouver, Lululemon has spread its wings - now designing and retailing athletic apparel across four continents. Despite such success, the company stays true to its yoga-loving foundations – placing emphasis on balance, mindfulness and healthy living.
There are few industry gurus like Eric Petersen, senior vice president for global brand and community at Lululemon Athletica. He knows what it takes to build successful, communal brands and has been doing it for 13 years. Peterson, who was the keynote speaker at Brand Forum 2017, takes the time to breathe in, breathe out, and demystify the challenges of marketing.
Q: Apparel is a congested industry. What makes Lululemon different?
Eric Petersen: We started a category that before did not exist. Our roots are in yoga and the practice of yoga both on and off the mat. Over the years we have expanded our product offering to other forms of sweat and product to get you to and from your workout.
Q: You hope to rival Nike and Under Armour for market share in apparel. Must something change at Lululemon to enable you to compete at that level?
Eric Petersen: We are not concerned about competing with Nike or Under Armour or for that matter any other retailer. We are focused on making the most technically advanced athletic apparel for our growing collective of athletes around the world. Our product design is informed from the vast network of these athletes and ambassadors we have around the world. Our relationship with them is vital to keep us both informed consistent in quality and innovation.
Q: Lululemon Athletica endorsed the Canadian Beach Volleyball Squad and a handful of other Olympians in Rio. How important are athletes to your brand strategy?
Eric Petersen: Athletes and the great relationship we have with them is vital for gathering information and testing product. Our relationship with elite level, world class as well as local athletes is very unique. It is not a typical sponsorship that most of the industry follows. We engage with the athletes and ambassadors to help them on a much more personal level off the training field. They have tons of technical coaches, timing goals, medal goals, and mroe. We like to work with them to create a more well rounded individual that looks at their vision and goals and individual purpose beyond the pitch.
We are there for them when things go bad, when they retire, when they need to find a career. Of course we want them to have the best product to train and compete in but at the end of the day, if we can help them become better people, everyone wins.
Q: Yoga appeals differently to people across suburbs, let alone continents. Did Lululemon need to change its strategy for Asian markets?
Eric Petersen: We have not yet had to change our strategy but in every new market we enter, we adapt to the local cultural subtleties and share best practice around the world to make sure we stay relevant to the specific market.
Q: Lululemon Athletica is strongly identified as a yoga wear company. In what ways has this reputation been both advantageous and a burden as you look to grow?
Eric Petersen: Yoga is at our core both literally and figuratively. Yoga has never been a burden for us a growth company. In fact it has kept us grounded and focused on who we are as a company and prevented us from straying into categories and opportunities that would have been nothing more than a shiny object and a distraction.
Eric Petersen was the Keynote speaker at the Brand Forum 2017. In 2018, the Chief Marketing Officer of Global Brands for Levi Strauss & Co. (USA), Jennifer Sey will headline the event.
Brand Forum 2018 will be 21 & 22 February 2018 at Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney. For more information including early bird registration please visit brandforum.com.au
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