Beer, Spandex and Lululemon for Men

August 11, 2015 10:00 am

(Note: This post was edited for typo, addition of interesting story on 8/11)

Before you read ahead, close your eyes and tell me what you see in your mind’s eye, when we say “lululemon” (note: this is not capitalized because lululemon is always lower case per brand standards)

  • Spandex
  • Athletes
  • Ponytails
  • Yoga
  • More spandex
  • Cool athletic gear
  • booties, in spandex
  • and spandex

… but Beer? 

According to The Motley Fool:

Lululemon is releasing a beer called Curiosity Lager, a limited-edition brew that will be served at the SeaWheeze Sunset Festival and Half Marathon, an event Lululemon puts on every August in its hometown of Vancouver, as well as in liquor stores across Canada. Only 88,000 cans will be produced, and Stanley Park Brewing Company describes the lager as having hints of lemon-drop and Chinook hops.

The new, limited run craft beer is just one part of lululemon’s move to position the brand as more relevant to men, through line expansion, the creation of lululemon’s menswear stores and the development of targeted multichannel communication to men.   The company recently created a new @lululemonmen account on Twitter and opened the first, of what will be a number of Men’s stores launched in 2015-2016, in Manhattan’s Soho District.  The store looks like this:

image:  lululemonMen on Twitter

Looks like an Abercrombie from the side.  Wonder if they use scent technology?

image:  Getty Images for Lululemon Athetica

Looks a bit like JCrew from the front.

image credit –

Upscale and masculine – with the possible exception of the silver and grey quilted jacket on the right!

Lululemon’s early success in menswear, specifically the success of lululemon’s “ANT” (Anti Ball Crushing) pants has been promising.  Beyond the brand’s other men’s product successes, the $128 pants alone, according to The Motley Fool  article, are credited with a 16% year over year increase in same-store sales.  Buzzfeed claims that more than one out of every seven dollars spent in lululemon is on menswear.

Lululemon has attracted a lot of controversy in the past:  Much of it garnered by former CEO and Founder, Chip Wilson, who became notorious for comments that drew negative headlines for the brand.  Even without Wilson around – the beer announcement has been met with a fair amount skepticism.  Blogger YogaDork posted recent commentary, including this comment:

…Also, not for nothing, but ladies drink beer too, FYI. But maybe they’re not the right size/prototype/muse for this special man brew?…

After doing a little research, we view the beer as a simple hook – but a potentially effective one – designed to get people talking. We believe that combined with other efforts, this could drive a small, but potentially useful uptick in buzz that may help underscore the message that lululemon is serious about catering to a male demographic — despite a fairly feminine beer can.

The move is definitely turning heads based on recent media exposure – and it got us talking, too!

We loved Buzzfeed’s recent article highlighting the plight of lululemon, as it attempts to increase brand share with males.  In addition to highlighting the cultural caches, branding and awareness challenges faced by the brand, the article calls attention to “Duke” persona representing lululemon’s male audience:

Duke is a few years older than Ocean, a “mindful athlete” who’s competitive, well-rounded, and likes a variety of physical activities, executives say. Felix del Toro, who heads up Lululemon’s men’s efforts, has described Duke as “discerning” and “someone you’d want to be friends with and someone you’d want your sister to marry.” Like Ocean, he’s willing to pay a premium for clothes he can wear to the gym and hang out in, while looking good at the same time.

(Note:  Ocean is lululemon’s female persona — an 32 year old, unmarried but engaged, affluent, professional, active woman)

The question remains, will Duke be drawn in by a manly store?  Does Duke like feminine looking craft beer?   Will lululeMEN succeed?   Time will tell.

From a challenge perspective, lululemon faces some real issues with regard to its feminized identity and stores.   In response, it’s attempting to segment –  keeping the brand identity — but tailoring the logo treatment color  (white on black) and toying with logo placement on men’s clothing.  It’s also focused on tackling the deterring factors that keep men from their stores (too many females/perception of being a girl’s store) by creating men’s only stores.   While opening a whole new line of stores thing is a really expensive and risky undertaking, it’s possible that the men’s stores will work to build awareness that will draw an increasing number of men into the baseline stores which carry items for both men and women.

What we like the most about lululemon’s move is this: the guys that are using Lululemon products really love them, once they try them.  This can be witnessed in the success “Game On” Underwear, Pace Breaker Shorts and ABC Pants as well as history on the brand’s growth in mensware sales.  Despite the snaffus of the past, lululemon has consistently gotten many things right, including delivering high-quality, good fitting products, providing great customer service and conducting outstanding, highly focused community outreach.  These are all tenets of great customer experience, and if lululemon can keep this up without foibles like this, (a potential male rival to the see-through yoga pants recall disaster) they may well have a shot!

P.S. (This came to us after we published this article).  Here’s an amusing story about luluemon making a custom wedding tux for a brand evangelist!  Word has it from close colleagues that luluemon also excels at creating a culture of empowerment and innovation that we don’t hear about so much — enabling employees can pursue things like this. We’d say that’s another great CX win!

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