Most companies eventually develop their own lingo, but the Vancouver-based apparel maker has taken company-culture speak to a whole other level. Here’s a sampling of Lululemon language.
AMBASSADOR: Rather than sponsor celebrity athletes, the company gives gear and discounts to local fitness instructors such as personal trainers and yogis. These ambassadors become walking ads for Lululemon (LULU), and provide feedback about the clothes. In return, the association with Lululemon helps the ambassadors build their brands. (Their photos hang in local stores.)
CAPSULES: Small lines in areas such as tennis, golf, cycling, and swim that are helping build future product lines. They’re not revenue drivers, but these mini-lines allow designers to push the envelope. An example: A ballet capsule recently included a “Rehearsal Tutu.” (Clearly not all capsules are hits.)
EDUCATOR: Employees working the floor in Lululemon’s stores aren’t salespeople — they’re educators. They explain the technical elements of each item as well as fit. This past spring educators got super-close with customers: They helped guests judge if their yoga pants were sheer.
GOAL-SETTING: Employees set one-, five-, and 10-year personal, professional, and health goals. These are posted on Lululemon’s office walls, the idea being that the more public the goals are, the more likely people will be motivated to help you.
THE GRIND: Fondly called “Nature’s Stairmaster,” this heart-pounding vertical trail climbs Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain. It’s commonly littered with Lululemon employees (including founder Chip Wilson) and Luon-clad athletes. The company uses the Grind as a metaphor for challenging projects.
HOLDERS OF THE FLAME: Members of the Lululemon community that “elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness” (part of the Lululemon vision) and embody the company’s culture. Holders of the Flame have their own bobble heads in the lobby of headquarters, and the exclusive group includes the founding employees.
LANDMARK: A for-profit leadership-development company started in 1991 by former employees of Werner Erhard & Associates. Erhard is best known for developing est training in the 1970s. Founder Chip Wilson has sewn it into the company’s cultural fabric and says Landmark has helped Lululemon develop “a linguistic abstraction that allows us to talk in a speed that other companies I don’t believe can.”
THE LULULEMON MANIFESTO: Inspirational sayings — many of which come from founder Chip Wilson — that guide the company’s vision and decorate those iconic Lululemon bags. They don’t shy away from controversy. (An example: “Children are the orgasm of life. Just like you did not know what an orgasm was before you had one, you won’t know how great children are until you have them.”)
LUON: Lululemon’s popular trademarked Lycra-nylon blend. A bad batch of Luon was responsible for the company issuing a warning of a yoga pants shortage (a crisis, according to Jimmy Kimmel) and could cost the company up to $67 million this year.
OCEAN AND DUKE: Ocean is the fictional 32-year-old muse that inspires Lululemon’s designers. She’s fit, educated, and affluent. Her 34-year-old husband, Duke, inspires the men’s line. We like to imagine Duke is an architect and Ocean is a graphic designer.
THE PAST: Something you don’t talk about at Lululemon. Through their training, employees are encouraged to let go of the past so they can create a future that wouldn’t otherwise exist. This thinking also affects their market research strategy. “It’s past based,” says Deanne Schweitzer, SVP of creation. “It won’t tell you the future.” Therefore the company doesn’t use it.
PEOPLE POTENTIAL: Lululemon-speak for the human resources department.
POSSIBILITY: One of the six core concepts of goal-setting (see above). By looking 10 years ahead when creating your vision, constraints like “I don’t have enough time,” or “I don’t have enough money,” are said to fall away. This thinking mixed with the training that has employees erase their pasts is supposed to create a clear space to imagine any future they desire.
SHOWROOMS: These pop-up locations help the company soft launch into new markets. They carry only core items and gauge local interest in the brand. After success with this strategy in North America, the company is using this approach overseas in markets like London and Hong Kong.
STORE SUPPORT CENTER (SSC): Lululemon’s headquarters located in Vancouver’s trendy Kitsilano neighborhood.
TIME INTEGRITY: A common phrase heard around the SSC. Meetings at Lululemon start and finish on schedule. It’s extremely important that employees respect one another’s time and is part of being a good cultural fit.
WINNING FORMULA: A term Landmark (and therefore Lululemon employees) uses to describe behavior that makes people successful up to a point but eventually holds them back. The three-day Landmark Forum seminar offered to employees after a year at the company helps participants recognize winning formulas, break them down, and better communicate.
WOW ITEMS: Cutting-edge products that are in stores for four to six weeks and aren’t replenished. Because customers know they won’t last, wow items help drive traffic to the store and keep markdowns low.