Lolë knows how to bring out the yoga crowd. Since 2011, the Montreal-based activewear retailer has attracted more than 50,000 people to its annual White Tour, a series of grand-scale community yoga sessions. Participants are required to wear white, a symbol of peace, and they’re given yellow yoga mats to use during the session.
This summer, the tour stopped in Paris, Montreal, Toronto and New York, the latter of which attracted a record 10,000 people to Central Park. The final stop will be held in L.A. on Nov. 7. Next year, the White Tour will travel to Asia for the first time, with a stop in Cambodia.
Lolë, which stands for “Live Out Loud Every day,” is also expanding its retail footprint around the globe. It currently has 49 retail locations in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and plans to open 75 stores worldwide in the next three years. Lolë is also sold in 200 “shop-in-shops” in retailers such as Sporting Life and Nordstrom, and is available at 1,600 other retail outlets worldwide.
Marketing talked to Bernard Mariette, president and CEO of Coalision (which owns Lolë), about the brand’s winning marketing moves and how the brand can stay authentic as it builds a bigger following.
For those outside of yoga circles, how would you describe the Lolë brand?
Many people compare us to Lululemon and Northface, and others compare us to surfing brands. In fact, Lolë is a brand that appeals to a state of mind, not to an age category. [It’s for] the woman who is very self-confident, but not arrogant. She wants to exercise and she wants to feel good by helping people, but look at herself first. It’s an inclusive brand… you don’t need to have a specific shape. If you are doing yoga, perfect. If you don’t, fine. So that’s the kind of person we touch. [But] we don’t even target this person. Before, marketing was all about targeting your consumer. Now the opposite is true: with the internet, the consumer is targeting you. Once they find you and find the brand resonates with them, they’re the ones who are doing the promotion for you.
What was the thinking behind the White Tour?
Lolë is a lifestyle brand, which means clearly we want to [practice] what we preach. We believe that yoga is a very strong way of living, not only physically, but mentally. So we wanted to promote this. Lolë is also about design, style and something pure, so we also wanted this event to be really clean and aesthetic. This is why we have [everyone wearing white] and the yellow mats everywhere. It’s very calm and peaceful because of the colours and of the unity between each other. All our events are done in a peaceful environment and it has to be an exceptional location. What really grounds everything is the concept of peace. We truly believe in peace, not peace only in a position of war, but peace with yourself and the people around you. That’s a big pillar of the philosophy of Lolë.
Why do you think it’s been such a success?
I really believe this is what people expect at the moment. Time is going fast, we never stop and people are very lonely. A lot of them spend more time on Facebook or other social media than together with real people. [The White Tour] is a big coming together without anything else, just a bit of gratitude and feeling good and feeling present as a group. All of the events have the same feeling, this collective energy, and it makes people feel so comfortable. I think this is a need that people have at the moment and they’re really at peace.
We added another dimension to the yoga session [this year], which was a lunch afterwards. One thing we realized was that people were connecting during this event, even if they didn’t speak to each other. To be next to someone was making them connect and they just needed an excuse to stay together longer. So our team had the idea to do a picnic after the yoga session. It was a huge success. People want to be a real part of a real community.
Does Lolë do any traditional advertising?
We’re spending tons of money on [The White Tour] and up to now we’ve spent very little on traditional advertising. But we are at the point now where we have to make people realize that we also sell clothes. So we’re going to mix these events and the spending we’re doing with traditional and digital media. This year, we picked Havas [New York] as a main agency, but we’re always looking for agencies in more specific fields.
The main focus for the next six months is not on advertising, but to make sure that we are consistent and we make our direction simple and clear. We [hired] Havas to help us harmonize everything and make sure the consumer understands what we’re doing.
A lot of retailers are getting into yogawear and activewear. Is the market getting saturated?
You’re right. The mass-market guys are coming in, but the market is not saturated if we are careful to play [in the right] space. For example, Lolë is an affordable luxury brand. It’s not a luxury brand, but it is an expensive brand. As long as we promote the lifestyle, well being, meditation and yoga, then plenty of women will be touched by this lifestyle.
As any niche brand gets more popular, there is a risk that you lose your cult status. If everyone is walking around with Michael Kors bag or a Canada Goose jacket, for instance, those brands lose their cool. Is that a concern for you as you grow, and how do you balance that?
That’s a big concern of mine. We have to make sure that we are true to what we say we are, and remain authentic and committed to the space. I think it’s not a question of size, it’s a question of attitude and making sure the people who surround you have the same aesthetic… As long as we’re employing the right people and investing in the community, we can grow. We need to always reinforce aesthetic. If we don’t do that, it becomes a purely commercial exercise. It becomes [a situation where] people don’t recognize themselves in the brand anymore, and then the people who believed in you are starting to drop and that’s the beginning of the end.