Fight the urge to be mediocre!
Chip loved technical fashion. He wanted to make the best yoga clothing in the world. And yes, it would cost 3 to 4 times the price consumers were already paying for lower-quality clothing. That was an interesting part of the book, when he asked the folks at a local Yoga studio if they’d spend 3 to 4 times more on yoga wear if it fit better. The answer he receive was a resounding YES.
Chip knew all along he had to price it in the premium category otherwise the economics wouldn’t make sense. He’d be competing with everyone else in the athletic apparel space. But pricing it above Addidas, Nike, Reebok, Under Armour, is making a statement.
He was the quality assurance department
The other reason for the high price point was the clothing was that much better quality. He paid major attention to how his garments were made. It’s pretty inspiring that he’d inspect the clothing all the time and not delegate that task to someone. He was the quality assurance department.
There was even the story of how the dog walker pants came to be. A shipment of pants wasn’t sewn up to standard and they weren’t going to sell these pants, someone got the idea of sewing the defective pants into another set of pants as a liner, and low and behold, a new pant style was born. This was the lululemon way, use what you were given to make Lemonade. Just know you won’t be given lemons.
They only had one customer, the SuperGirls.
From a target market perspective, Chip was a genius. He had only one target, the SuperGirls. Not only to sell this new style of fashion to but to hire to work in every aspect of the company from executives to frontline staff.
Why Focus on the SuperGirls?
At the time, Nike, Underarmour, Reebok, and Addidas, all focused on male athletes and sports. No major high-performance brand was targeted to women first. lululemon would change that.
The SuperGirls had an identity, a better place to work, and now, a better friend circle outside of work.
Why lululemon Athletica?
When he had to settle on a legal name he wanted something different that would stand out. So at the last minute, he added an “a” to the end of Athletic to make it a much more unique sounding as “Athletica”. lululemon Athletica was the original brand name.
When they opened a brand new store on Robson Street, downtown Vancouver, Chip had the idea that they’d put out an ad in the paper promising a lululemon outfit for FREE to whoever showed up naked on the day of the opening. Reminding himself that this was VANCOUVER, and realizing that showing up naked may end up being much more popular than he first thought. He then had to run another ad printing a retraction saying only the first 30 people showing up naked would get the free outfit. Sure enough on opening day there was a crowd of naked Vancouverites brimming with excitement over their brand-new lululemon outfit. It was stunts like these that earned lululemon media attention, rarely having to pay much for the amount of reporting they received nationally and internationally.
Each day I walked into the office and asked myself, “If I had to compete against lululemon, what would I do?” This allowed me to cannibalize what was working today for what would be best for the future. -Chip Wilson
This sounds very familiar to the Steve Job adage “Put yourself out of business or else you’ll find your competition putting you out of business.” You get the feeling that Chip and his team really did strive to create the best products possible. The only real weakness in the company came when Chip stepped away from the company. Quality dipped but has since recovered (or so I think based on the trousers I’m currently wearing).
I started to understand that just a logo was much more powerful a branding statement than a name alone. -Chip Wilson
The original stores never had a name on them, just the lululemon logo. That makes a statement when you can build a store and have not a single word on the outside of it but people know the symbol immediately. This was intentional, a little bit of Chip being counter-culture at it’s best.
The runner’s high is a sensation that occurs after thirty-five minutes of a sustained, high-rate heartbeat. The brain releases hormones which take the athlete into an energized mental and physical space. The sensation usually lasts for about four hours. The amazing thing about an athlete’s high is the person’s past disappears and is irrelevant. -Chip Wilson
Our branding emanated from my experience in the surf, skate, and snowboard industry where brands were created by being anti-establishment. This created a “tribe” who then created a social movement that others wanted to emulate (this is not really different from the luxury company whose advertised tribe is jet-setting models whose lives are unattainable by 99 percent of their customers). These are the subtleties of how word-of-mouth branding works, as described in the book The Tipping Point. -Chip Wilson
Chip realized that maternity leave was something that most companies rarely cared about let alone championed for employees. lululemon was different. They wanted to attract the best female talent letting them know they’d get longer than average maternity leave AND their “job” would still be there when they get back.
Live in the moment.
Chip’s father was an interesting fellow, never sat still, and was always doing something. He did provide for his family and Chip sounded like he had a great relationship with him. The best part was when his Dad told him he figured out the secret to life. “Live in the moment.” That was it. I think Chip believed him.
Another cool story from the book was about how Chip felt about the team he had. When they went public on the stock exchange and their executives were ringing the bell to announce luluLemon was hitting the stock market. Chip paid for a giant electronic billboard in Times Square to not adverse on but to showcase pictures of their staff. In a heartfelt gesture, on one of the biggest financial days of his career, he focused on putting his people on a pedestal so the world could see who these “SuperGirls” were.
If you complain about something twice either act on it or shut up.
In the first years of lulu, every executive worked the floor of a store once a month or a week. If you don’t know what it’s like in the store, how can you make high-level decisions for the company? This was something everyone looks at as a way to connect with the people, to understand what customers are actually saying. After they went public and more “seasoned” executives joined the ranks, this practice was no longer followed. In Chip’s eyes, this could have been the very reason for lululemon’s downfall in quality, customer service, and store experience.
Coke, Pepsi and all other pops will be known as the cigarettes of the future.
Chip did NOT like Soda
And maybe that’s a good thing. One of the first manifesto he came up with declared that Pepsi and Coke will be the Cancer of the future and it’s hard to disagree with that. When lululemon first began, you would never see people drinking “pop” at work, or really ever. Later on, when Chip was on his way out of the company, a sign that things had changed around the office was people drinking pop. That would have never been part of the original lululemon DNA.
Do you drive the same way home every day?
Chip met with an executive that had quite the resume, and during their conversation he bragged about driving home the exact same way every day so he doesn’t have to use his brain to think about directions and (supposedly) can use his brain for higher level thinking.
Chip thought that was ludacris. “Who would want to drive the same way EVERY day?” Not someone he’d want to work with. Chip thought to himself that creative people will always try to drive a different way than they had before.
What does the Men’s ABC Pant stand for?
Anti Ball crusher pants. The lululemon fun side seemed to have died after Chip left the company. He would do things on purpose that would get attention so he wouldn’t need “marketing”. It’s genius. Similar to the idea that Seth Godin talks about lots in Purple Cows in marketing or Hugh Macleod’s theory on Social Objects (though he will say he stole the idea, I had never heard anyone talk about Social Objects before Hugh Macleod, so they are his).
Chip’s idea around making products so good people had to talk about them, plus marketing and a brand that was highend from the beginning was the perfect storm. Sure there was so drama when he had to leave and Chip saying some things that the media took and ran in a negative way with, they sure built a remarkable company.
I hope you like this book as much as I did.
Thanks for reading.