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Naming News: How much can we l-l-love lululemon?

Posted by: Paola Norambuena on March 05, 2010

By Paola Norambuena and Emma Cofer

lululemon athletica has a devoted following among yoga fanatics and sporty trendsters who value color and cut in their sportswear—but it also has a naming appeal that hooks everyday window-shoppers.

Let’s face it: the name is captivating. Even before you know what this brand is all about, you’ll pass a storefront and toy with the sound. Lulu. Lemon. L-L-L. The name trips lightly and playfully, infusing the brand with a delicate rhythm that seems oh-so-appropriate for the dually fashion- and Zen-savvy company. But its rationale was purely abstract. There’s a long version of the story involving the Japanese love of “L”s, which don’t exist in the language, but the short version is this:

“In essence, the name “’lululemon’ has no roots and means nothing other than it has 3 ‘L’s’ in it. Nothing more and nothing less.”

Thanks, lululemon.com, for getting right to the point. It’s all about the sound. But how far can the yogi retailer stretch our affection for this naming technique? Well, we’re about to find out.

In September ’09, the brand launched lululemon Lab, a joint retail store and design studio, in their home-base city, Vancouver. Newest L-count: four.

That same week, lululemon launched a line of activewear aimed at a younger generation—ivivva athletica. This name is more abstract, evoking the idea of life with a nod to “viva,” but the trope of letter repetition is again at the forefront.

Then, in related news, lulemon has a new partnership with YYOGA, a Vancouver “yoga and wellness destination,” to provide complimentary lessons in various YYOGA studios. This is neither a joke nor a jjoke. One must wonder whether the cause was inspired by a mutual love of LLs, VVs and YYs, or a mutual philanthropic goal (we suspect the latter).

There’s (literally) value in consistency, and lululemon athletica is a much-loved retailer that has earned market distinction with a catchy name and a strong brand. There’s also a consumer patience threshold for calculated cleverness.

What you think of their naming strategy. Are they at risk of exhausting this approach? Is it something consumers will notice?

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