Late last month over 2000 yoga-pant-clad fitness fanatics descended on Western Springs for Wanderlust. The event is described as a mindfulness triathlon that offers different workout sessions. This includes a walk or run, yoga, meditation and even hula hooping.
I was invited along as one of Lululemon’s guests and spent the day wogging (a combination of walking and jogging) the 5km session, shakily finding my strides in the yoga session and almost falling into a blissful snooze at the end of it all in the meditation session.
To my great relief, Wanderlust wasn’t just catering for the extremely health conscious.
Alongside the paleo, gluten-free food options on offer for lunch there were big, juicy burgers being sold at two of the food stalls. It’s all about the balance in life.
When I wasn’t breaking a sweat, most of my time was spent relaxing in the sun in Lululemon’s outdoor lounge area, as well as trying out the ‘the bubble experience’.
This was event activation done right, as people came in swarms throughout the day to investigate what the hell was going on inside the eye-catching bubble tent.
It was completely transparent to the outside, with plants and beanbags encircling the interior.
Meanwhile, wireless headphones played three different sounds tied to the event theme of mindfulness.
The ‘love frequency’ I found quite grating to hear (it just sounded like radio static) but the two other sounds were surprisingly peaceful. I forgot where I was for a few moments.
As outlined in a previous story, consumers are increasingly interested in experiences more so than material goods.
Experiences are easier to share socially and don’t degrade like something material, AUT marketing and retailing lecturer Dr Sommer Kapitan explained.
Lululemon could’ve taken the easy route and had a couple of clothing stands on display at the event, but it chose to do something far more memorable.
People were drawn to the mysterious bubble like bees to honey. They snapped photos, took videos and booked 15-minute sessions hours in advance to experience it.
In the process, they’d end up perusing the clothes and staying for a free drink and a perch on its lounge set.
In a similar crowd-drawing move, Lululemon hosted a free spin class inside a tent on the beachfront at the Wanderlust Sydney event.
Its presence at these events shows the athletic apparel retailer has truly found its sweet spot in the consumer market: young, health-conscious women.
As I huffed and puffed my way through the 5km run, person after person dashed past sporting tops, bras or tights that featured the immediately recognisable stylised symbol of Lululemon.
For many, this symbol is worn like a badge of honour, denoting their belonging to its tribe.
Lululemon is also cleverly tapping into the growing ‘transformational economy’ and the consumer movement towards health and wellbeing.
Wellness tribes are growing in New Zealand, with Nike’s Britomart store hosting a run club every Wednesday. Lululemon also offers free yoga classes in its Takapuna store on a Sunday morning.
As Interbrand says: “The quest for wellness has become more prominent, and people have taken more active roles in their health—from wearing a Fitbit to seeking out more personalised insurance plans. But it’s also become more popular to “show off” your healthy side and use brands to display allegiance to a community with a distinct set of values. Smart brands are taking hold of this trend and building their own communities, either within stores, in the local area, or online.”
Seeing as Lululemon promotes its clothing as integral to getting sweaty and exercising (#thesweatlife) and outdoor pursuits, it captures consumers’ aspirations to be healthier, happier people.
Admittedly, outdoor or athletic retailers have a natural advantage at this when compared to to other apparel retailers. Their products can be easily linked to an experience, like being worn on a hike or to a yoga class.
However, The Experience Economy author Joseph Pine reckons it’s not much of a stretch for other fashion brands to start looking at offering deeper transformations than just ‘looking good’.
He said to Business Of Fashion, “Brands must remember that consumers are looking to become better people. If they’re buying physical goods, it’s to achieve aspirations, whatever they might be.”
So to other retailers, here’s my advice: More bubble tents, fewer product stands.