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Aspiration & Advocacy: How Can Lululemon Help Redefine the Good Life?

Image credit: Lululemon

SB’17 Detroit is bringing thousands of sustainability professionals together this week to ask one question - what is the role of business in fostering and creating the Good Life?

On Day 1 of the conference, BBMG and Lululemon explored this question with a group of curious, passionate sustainability professionals. Using BBMG’s methodology, we all became designers for a few short hours to develop programs and promotions that would authentically connect with the brand’s consumers and enable both to live their purpose.

How might Lululemon authentically live its purpose such that it can grow revenue and profit, stoke customer loyalty and have positive social and environmental impact?

For the last 7 years, BBMG and GlobeScan have been conducting research on culture and consumerism. Focused largely on the rise of the “aspirational consumer,” the research has revealed telling and ultimately useful insights on the messages and approaches that appeal best to different psychographic segments, and how brands might use these insights to better connect to and serve their consumer basis.  

One significant insight emerging from the research is around psychographic segmentation and the rise of the aspirational consumer, in contrast to the advocate consumer. Both care deeply about contributing positively to society and tackling the world’s significant social and environmental challenges. However, their approach and outlook differ significantly. In its latest report, BBMG found that 40 percent of consumers fall into the aspirational category – motivated both by materialism and social and environmental values, they are optimistic about the future, and believe that brands are a large part of the solution to the significant challenges that we face today. Advocates (22 percent of consumers), on the other hand, are motivated primarily by their values, express themselves via protest and activism, and believe that brands are part of the problem.

These insights come at a particularly interesting moment where, as BBMG’s Raphael Bemporad explained, “doing what’s good and doing what’s cool” are merging.

So what might this mean for a brand such as Lululemon?

In 2016, after 20 years in existence, and with nearly 3,000 employees and the goal to reach a total of 1 billion people in its global “collective” (which includes employees, customers, vendors, suppliers,and everyone who “touches” the brand), Lululemon launched its first global brand campaign. “This Is Yoga” explores the idea of “practice,” taking it off the mat and into our everyday lives. Diversity, globalism, exploration, passion – all themes that came through strongly in the campaign’s compelling anthemic video. But how might Lululemon take this energy and its values to create messages and experiences that connect with its consumer base to drive business value and create positive social and environmental impact?

It was with this backdrop that BBMG led our workshop through a rapid design process to develop and propose promotions, initiatives and projects that would appeal to either an advocate or an aspirational audience. After being split into the two groups via a series of revelatory questions (e.g. “I expect brands to do what they say” v. “I research the practice of brands” or “I connect my identity with personal style” v. “personal style is not a primary expression of my identity”), we got to work and made our way through the design steps:

  • Step 1: Walk a mile – In the first step of the design process, we were asked to consider what engages and excites our target consumer. What one word describes what motivates them? What is the best part of their day? The worst? And what do they expect from a brand such as Lululemon to contribute to progress on waste, water use, human rights and more?
  • Step 2: Make it count – In the second step, we considered how Lululemon might act on these consumer insights to create compelling and authentic messages, campaigns and activations. What might the point of sale promotion look like? What would the Super Bowl ad look like?
  • Step 3: Develop pitch – Finally, in this last step, we brought all of the generative thinking together to narrow down on several specific pitches. The resulting campaigns ranged from take-back programs that sought to #passonthepractice; a vertically integrated inclusion program inspired by the belief that everyone, regardless of geography, age, race, body type, health and more should have access to the benefits of yoga; and a store activation through which shoppers can connect with the men and women that made the garments through in-store video and other immersive experience.

In the end, all of the session’s participants walked away with insights, ideas and, perhaps most importantly, a new set of design skills to practice in our everyday lives.


Katherine is a Stakeholder Communications Director with 10 years’ experience inspiring audiences at Fortune 500 companies to change behavior through compelling storytelling and reputational risk strategies. Most recently, Katherine was Client Director with Context Group, a boutique corporate sustainability consultancy, where… [Read more about Katherine Hand]


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