Lululemon Athletica Lululemon Athletica

Interbrand recently released its 2012 Best Canadian Brands report. Not only have the top 25 increased the value of their respective brand assets by a cumulative $14 billion, it has taken place across industry sectors. The most intense growth came from Canadian wunderkind Lululemon. The athletic apparel company saw its brand nearly triple in value during the past two years and is now more than $3 billion, overtaking such historic darlings as Canadian Tire and Bombardier.

Focusing on the value of the brand as a core asset is what enables companies to separate their products and services in a competitive landscape. Without a strong identity, companies face the risk of being perceived as an easily replaced commodity. Lululemon’s brand power, among other things, has resulted in an ability to well exceed industry standards in operating margin—last year it reported 26% versus the 7% experienced by its competitors.

So what can small and medium-sized business owners learn from this?

Be more than your product. Lululemon isn’t simply a clothing line. It’s a lifestyle. With a clear brand personality, it shares its values and sense of humour easily—and is able to make strategic choices about how it approaches marketing. The company’s audience has grown to expect and understand a clever grassroots approach since the company’s inception in 1998. Last year’s “Sh*t Yogis Say” viral video was one of the first parodies of the wildly successful “Sh*t Girls Say” and reached more than two million views, clearly demonstrating the brand’s engaging, never-too-serious personality to existing and new fans alike.

Consistency and independence. From simple messages posted on Twitter to its on-product label descriptions, sponsorships to customer service strategies, Lululemon is consistent. This builds customer understanding of the brand. It also inspires loyalty—when a company consistently shares its values with customers, customers will trust it.

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