Case study // lululemon

lululemon's Secret Sauce (it's all about culture)

Culture is such a critical part of lululemon and this book captures it so well. It's been a huge hit amongst our staff, who now feel even more connected to our story.
— Chip Wilson, lululemon founder

CHALLENGE: Communicate culture at a crucial time

In 2007, yoga retailer lululemon athletica had a problem that most would be happy to have. The company was growing explosively, opening as many as three stores a month. Founder and CEO Chip Wilson was worried that the pace of expansion would dilute lululemon’s famously unique corporate culture (we lost count of how many employees told us: “Working here has changed my life.”). On top of that, the company was on the brink of going public. Could story (and a culture book) help lululemon bottle its “secret sauce,” accelerate the onboarding of new employees, and convert prospective investors into raving fans?

SOLUTION: Custom publishing that tells the right story

A book about culture must reflect the employees’ authentic voices, so we knew we had to let the raw, bold and dynamic personalities of the company’s characters take center stage in the book. We opted for lots of short reflections written in a catchy, intimate tone, all grouped by a loose chronology and brand-supporting themes like “Why We Are Luons” and “Keeping It Fresh.” We wanted the reader to feel like they had walked into a backyard party of lululemon folks and invited right into a conversation that was inspiring and real.

Lululemon didn’t have many photos so we maximized the ones they had, used ads from the previous years, and tied it all together by treating each page with consistent graphic elements. We chose a square dimension to evoke the modern feel of the brand, and we had fun with a playful, fresh and irreverent design to reflect the brand’s cheeky personality. We made sure to feature several inspiring pull-quotes to speak to the aspirational side of the brand too.

RESULTS: Employee retention

To this day, all new employees get a copy of the book (it’s now in its fifth printing). The company credits it with helping to improve the performance and retention of new hires. And that IPO? The book was a boon on the road prior to the big day, selling institutional investors on lululemon’s culture, story and people. Priced at $18 US, Nasdaq’s new kid on the block closed the next day at just under $30.

One more cool thing about this project

For a book about its people, the project would have bombed big-time when it first launched if employees didn’t feel reflected in the story. We came up with the idea of closing the book with a series of photo spreads featuring thumbnail photos of every lululemon employee working at the time. They felt honored, and management had the buy-in they needed to drive lululemon to the next level.