Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bravo Lululemon

Lululemon Athletica front entrance
Boylston Street, Boston
April 17, 2011

As a marketing guy, I am fascinated by oxymoron brands. Take McDonalds. Parents take their kids to McDonalds because kids like to eat the food. But McDonalds' amazing marketing feat, as chronicled in the often overlooked first section of the book Fast Food Nation, is in making parents feel good about bringing their kids to the golden arches. The marketing oxymoron is hidden there: Somehow a company can convince rational grown-ups that shoving fatty food down their kids' throats is good parenting.

Well, my marketing oxymoron award of the year goes to Lululemon. The company sells high-end yoga gear. Really, Lululemon sells sweatpants. Very expensive ones.

Since my friend Annmarie first alerted me to Lululemon's symbol, which resembles an upside-down horseshoe, I have seen Lululemon apparel popping up in my gym. Lululemon has made sweatpants fashionable. And when you consider each pair of sweatpants costs roughly 100 dollars, Lululemon must be making a fortune.

But that alone is not what amazes me about Lululemon's marketing success. What amazes me is that Lululemon seems to make women feel better about working out. My good female friends say that the pants make their derriere regions look better. And here lies the brilliance of the marketing oxymoron. Lululemon makes people feel good about sweating and, in reality, looking horrible.

I have also spotted the Lululemon horseshoe popping up around town, outside the gym. A New York Times story last month outlined how sweatpants are becoming accepted attire in the workplace, too. Psychologically speaking, if Lululemon's pants make you look good in the gym, where everyone looks like disgusting pigs, then they must make people look absolutely fantastic everywhere else.

Today, I visited the Lululemon store on Boylston Street in Boston, behind the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel there. The place was a zoo. Women inside were trying on Lululemon pants and jackets by the armfuls. I made my way to the small (but hardly insignificant) men's section. I admit I got caught up in the madness, forking over 64 dollars to buy a shirt that I am looking forward to wearing to the gym this week. I have a thousand t-shirts at home, but somehow the Lululemon shirt is now at the top of the pile in my closet.

It must have been the sales guy in the store. When I grabbed the shirt, he nodded his head, quickly noting that the shirt was made of some special fabric (the adjective he used for the material began with multi-, but I forget the rest). The key, he explained, was that the fabric cut down on odor.

How about that, a shirt that makes me smell good while I work out. A true miracle, indeed.

1 comment:

ben said...

Right on Ross. I'm still convinced that the logo is actually Marlo Thomas from "That Girl" era.