Instead of mimicking bigger brands like Nike and Adidas by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on fancy campaigns with star athletes, Vancouver, British Columbia-based lululemon athletica went grassroots to generate buzz--and major sales of its $100 yoga pants. Since its founding in 1998, the company has implemented an ambassador program, recruiting local athletes and fitness instructors (unpaid, but given $1,000 in clothing and gear) to test products, wear the brand in front of impressionable students and lead classes in local stores. "We will go where our ambassadors tell us to go," says Eric Peterson, director of brand innovation in
new markets--a smart move, and a lucrative one, considering 2012 revenue projections are around $1 billion. The campaign, says Tom Gierasimczuk, editor-in-chief of Marketing magazine in Canada, "strengthens the brand because the ambassadors are so accessible to the community, and show that the company is giving back to its buyers."
Lesson: Woo "citizen influencers."
Find a way to turn your best customers into brand evangelists, and you've got it made. "I love that lululemon is letting customers carry their story--not movie stars, not celebrity athletes," says Schaefer, whose book on marketing via citizens, Return on Influence, is due to be published by McGraw-Hill next month. "It's one thing if a brand tells you they're great, but it's much better when another customer tells you so."
Image courtesy of Lululemon