Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Fresh off the heels of Lululemon's first line of shoes introduced on International Women's Day earlier this month, the athletic apparel company launched a new campaign on March 22 to spread the word of its entrance into the footwear category.
A 75-second anthem spot serves as a poetic ode to women's feet and celebrates the nuances of designing a shoe specifically for female runners, a nod to Lululemon scanning 1.2 million women's shoes to develop the shape of its new Blissfeel sneaker.
"A woman's no-it's-not-a-smaller-version-of-a-man's foot," a female voiceover says in the foot-focused ad depicting women of all ages and walks of life throughout their running journeys. "Every woman's foot deserves a shoe made for women first," concludes the voiceover.
The ad by Droga5 New York — the creative shop was named Lululemon's agency of record in November 2020 — intentionally cast a diverse group of women to show that running isn't exclusive for marathoners and is often an imperfect, "messy" experience than spans exhilaration and exhaustion, according to the agency's Group Creative Director Marybeth Ledesma.
Ads in the uber-competitive sport shoe category typically depict women done up with makeup while effortlessly running, she said.
"The film shows different types of runners, different types of women at different stages of their life, and I thought that's what makes it a little bit more human, a little bit more real and approachable," Ledesma said. "That's why you see the film is a bit more poetic. It's sometimes even a little bit flawed to show that a run isn't perfect. Sometimes it's hard, sometimes it's invigorating."
Nuances of a foot
The full 75-second version of "A Woman's Foot" will live online through digital video, with shorter clips appearing on social media and on broadcast TV in New York, Houston and Chicago. Lululemon earlier this month ran product-focused out-of-home (OOH) ads to drum up excitement for the shoe lineup among the retail brand's loyal following. As of press time, three of the eight colors of the Blissfeel were sold out.
The brand also launched a Snapchat Lens to allow customers to try on the shoes in augmented reality, tying the campaign to a mobile-focused commerce effort that could help to encourage purchases.
Directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison and with support from Melina Matsoukas' production company De La Revolución, "A Woman's Foot" arrives after the brand ran a countdown clock on its website to notify when customers could begin making purchases. Lululemon and Droga5 are also rolling out a series of shorter social films focused on individual brand ambassadors, including athletes like Colleen Quigley, Kadeena Cox and Zhang Changning who were featured in the anthem spot. Each short film examines the ambassadors' individual experiences with running and nuances of their anatomy, adding a layer of storytelling to the campaign that helps to humanize Lululemon.
"It really dove into each brand ambassador's story about their lives. We had individual interviews with them about [their] running experience, [their] journey, and wove some of that into the voiceovers," Ledesma said.
Animations and other mixed media elements were incorporated into the anthem spot and shorter ambassador clips to more artfully portray the essence of the shoe lineup and Luluemon's work to develop the footwear, she added.
"We were really trying to capture the design and the creativity that went into making the shoe, and then capturing the feeling of the run that's not only the visuals, but the sound design played a big part," Ledesma said.
If Nike has 'Just do it'...
Lululemon had been prepping to enter the footwear space for years, now putting it in more direct competition with brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour. Following the Blissfeel sneaker, the company plans a cross-training shoe and post-workout slide this summer and a training shoe in the fall. The athletic apparel brand applied insights from its previous products based on research around how women uniquely move. By developing a shoe specifically for women's feet — whereas the traditional approach is to start with a man’s shoe and recalibrate it for women — the brand says it's filling a hole in the market. The move may help to nurture Lululemon's already cult-like following, while providing a sales opportunity to reach brand loyalists as they try to match leggings to sneakers.
"Footwear is the natural next step for us to expand and apply our long history of innovation in fit, feel and performance, and it represents an exciting moment for our brand," CEO Calvin McDonald previously said in a statement. "We are entering the footwear category the same way we built our apparel business — with products designed to solve unmet needs, made for women first."
"A Woman's Foot" marks a more focused approach on a specific sport or activity, a shift from Lululemon and Droga5's past work broadly encompassing all active lifestyles and targeting both men and women. The new campaign aligns with the themes underpinning Lululemon's biggest global ad campaign in August 2021 around the idea of "feel," a wide-ranging creative platform that can flex to fit an array of products and marketing efforts.
"That is how they create new product and reinforce and evolve their product around this science of feel," Ledesma said. "If Nike has 'Just do it,' [Lululemon] has feel."