Growth. The one thing every brand wants. The one thing most brands get wrong.

For this episode of the podcast, Paul sits down in conversation with Matt Lerner (Growth Specialist and Founder @ SYSTM) to uncover the secret sauce to massive brand growth. 

With a unique approach rooted in deep customer insights, fast iteration, and quantitative analysis, Matt shares tactical advice for driving true brand success through growth marketing.

Delve into this dynamic world as Matt discusses:

  • Uncovering Growth Levers: Matt shares insightful stories and strategies, including finding PayPal’s growth levers, and emphasizes the importance of understanding your business – inside and out – to find your own.
  • Matt’s ‘Growth Model’: Explore Matt’s Growth Model, which focuses on finding and unblocking bottlenecks to surprise and delight customers, turning them into Advocates. 
  • Agile Marketing: Explore Matt’s approach to in-the-moment marketing plans, and gain valuable strategies for fast iteration and continuous improvement.
  • Collaborative Leadership: Discover the importance of this in driving organizational success, and learn how to empower your team to achieve remarkable results.

Listen to gain insights into top-tier growth, marketing, and Advocacy strategies. Use them to help your brand grow. 

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Building Brand Advocacy 062: 


Lessons From lululemon: Amplifying Community, Overcoming Advocacy Obstacles & The Tactics from Successful Brands

Verity - Hi and welcome to Building Brand Advocacy. I am Verity Heard and I'm your host for today's episode. I am absolutely thrilled to welcome my good friend, Lisa Gault. She is previously LuluLemon for almost a decade and now the lead brand advocacy strategist at Duel, consulting with hundreds of brands on their global strategy across social commerce, brand advocacy and community. Welcome Lisa. 

Lisa - Hi Verity, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

Verity- I know there are so many things that we could talk about on today's episode, but I think there are three key things that we really want to pick your brains on. So first of all, like Lululemon, absolute powerhouse when it comes to community. So we'd love to kind of tap into your experience there, hear about how they built their community. Also want to understand how brands are amplifying community in 2024, because you speak to hundreds of brands and how they're using their community to achieve KPIs and drive revenue. And also like, let's hear about the many brands that you speak to. What are the challenges that they're seeing and how are they trying to drive brand advocacy as well as the success stories that you are hearing about every day. So Queen of Community, why do you love this work? 

Lisa - Oh, V, I could say many things. I think when it comes down to it, it's really about the power of people, what you can create when you really curate the right environment for connections and just natural creativity to happen and especially how that has a domino effect into business growth. That's where I truly geek out about community is once we've brought people together for similar reasons, similar values, and creating amazing experiences, how you can actually leverage this to affect different business measurements. So that's probably why I love it. 

Verity - Yeah, amazing. So what were you doing before Lululemon? Like, and where was the shift from Lululemon to Duell? Like, how did you move? 

Lisa - So I've always been in more marketing and advertising roles, always client facing. And, you know, I started in traditional advertising, actually. So back in the day when we had really aging myself now, but radio spots and a lot of OOH opportunities. And we were creating brands first websites and it was quite something. So started back in traditional advertising and then moved more into experiential marketing, really creating those incredible moments for brands where they can connect with their consumers, surprise them, show them what they're truly about. And then of course came along came along Lululemon. And when I realized that they're much more than just, you know, stretchy black pants, and they were up to achieve massive things in this world, I was absolutely hooked. So then I was with Lululemon for almost a decade, as you mentioned. And how did I move from Lululemon to Duel? I had a chat with Paul, our CEO, and we you know, had a little connect about community. And what blew me away was the way that Paul talked about community and how he had built this platform to do what Lululemon was doing, except in a digital space and at scale, which were things that, you know, back then community was really about that location that you were in, right? Community in the true sense of the word is is that physical location and that's what's connecting you and bringing you together. And then you've got your like-minded values and interests layered on top of that. But when we think about this day and age in the 2020s, we are truly not defined by our physical location. So when Paul had said, you know, we've created this platform to help brand scale, brand advocacy and community at, you know, globally, I was very interested and, and then they created a role. And here I am now, I'm just so happy to be here to talk, be able to talk to so many different brands about how they can really scale their communities globally and use a platform to be able to really measure the success of so many different KPIs.

Verity - So Obviously we've talked about community and said the word community already so much in the last five minutes. But one thing I've noticed is that many brands talk about community. It's definitely been a hot topic, especially over the last year. But so many brands get it wrong. And I think, you know, sort of like this, many brands think they have a community, but actually they've just got an audience. And also building a community is hard work and many brands are lazy when it comes to getting this right. I suppose let's go back to the basics. What does community mean to you? And more specifically, a brand community? 

Lisa - Some great points what you've said in there, Verity. OK, so I guess the most simplest definition of community to me is just a space where people can share like-minded values and interests and really feel a connection or a belonging to something. You mentioned there that some brands have an audience and not a community. And what I like to ask brands when I'm talking with them is, you know, would your audience identify themselves as being a part of your community? I've been invited to several dinners or several events from different brands. And afterwards, I remember a number of them that said, oh, it's so great to have you in the XYZ community. And I thought Oh, am I actually part of this community? I've just come to one of your dinners. So you really wanna make sure as a brand that your intentions of building a community are aligned with your audience and they actually know that they are a part of something or really it's just an audience. And I think more specifically, when you mentioned brand community, it's really people coming together because of the love of the brand's products or what the brand represents. And I think the true magic really comes when both of those things are living and breathing together, not just people that are crazy fans of the products, but what does the brand stand for beyond the products? That's when you can have really have the brand shift to be able to stand for their values and what they are about beyond the products. 

Verity - Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's the difference between, I suppose we, you know, we have, you know, we love many brands, we wear brands and, you know, happy to have their logo, but the difference between that and being part of a community and feeling that like sort of unity to a brand community is I'll wear a logo, but I won't necessarily go out and talk about the brand. Whereas the brands where I feel like I'm part of and truly identify with them is the brands that I'll talk about on a daily basis to my mates and DM people and share them links All of that stuff. 

Lisa - So yeah, you hit the nail on the head. I, my partner was wearing a logo the other day and I said, what's that brand? What is that about? And he couldn't even tell me. And I thought, wow, you know, you're walking around with a, some big name on your shirt and you don't even know what that brand is about or what they care for. I've also had really funny experiences where I'm from Toronto originally. And I've seen someone with a Raptors basketball hat and I say, Oh, hey, are you from Toronto? And they're, they have no idea what brand, what logo they are wearing on their head, what team represents, what country, what city. So I just think, you know, that's a great example of when you can have a brand, you can have a logo and you can have a product. But then when that true brand community is formed, that person is going to know at least, you know, five things about what that brand's up to in the world and what they stand for. 

Verity - Exactly. Okay. So Lululemon, as I mentioned, big powerhouse when it comes to, They are so well known for that as well as the black yoga leggings. Um, but I suppose let's get a bit tactical. How did they, you know, during your time there, how did they build their community and the brand? 

Lisa - Hmm. Okay. Well, I think it's important to share my time at Lululemon ranged from 2013 to 2022. So I witnessed and led teams through quite a lot of changes, but what the company does an amazing job at consistently over almost that decade of time while I was there were really three things that I can break it down to. And these three things really allowed them to scale their community globally. So one is their values. As I mentioned before, their stores started as community hubs. They had different stores globally, but their brand was showing up in similar ways in different markets. And what they really tapped into were those nuances that specific community was gonna care about in one city that maybe they weren't gonna care about in another. The unlock here was the employees lived and breathed these core company values as well, right? They were ingrained into everything that the company did both internally and externally. So...When you think about building a brand, it is really about what people say about you when you're not in the room. And you can create that alignment really successfully of what you want to stand for in the world and having people talk about that brand in the same way, then the more powerfully the brand will show up. 

Verity - Yeah. I mean, it's so many companies, they all have values, but they're so flaky. And they kind of just, these words just kind of get plastered on walls in the, in, you know, sort of like the staff areas in the canteens and things like that. But they don't actually mean anything to anybody because may do like way at the top lead at these run, you know, the leaderships, the directors have kind of pulled these random values together, but there's so much more that needs to be done. And it sounds like LuluLemon really, yeah got that alignment right. Okay, what's the second step that they did? 

Lisa - So the second thing that they do consistently is they speak to different segments of their brand network in different ways. So they identified right from the beginning of when they started the company in 1998, they recognized early days, there's gonna be different groups of people who are gonna like the brand for different reasons. And this is usually all cases across the hundreds of brands that I talk to. In Lulu Lemons case, you had instructors, you had ambassadors, then you had customers, you had employees. So different strategies were created for these different groups. And this is something that a lot of brands still don't do. They don't recognize there's different groups of people within their whole brand network. They treat everyone the same. And when you can unlock those different groups, You can tailor messages differently, and you can build stronger relationships. 

Verity - I love that. And Lisa, you and I, we've run brand advocacy, marketing masterclasses together. And I think that is such an interesting part of the masterclass, like when you see the light bulb moment happen with these brands that kind of they do the activity where they look at their brand network and seeing them identify this goldmine of opportunities that they hadn't recognized before. It's just incredible as they start to unlock that and an activity that many brands don't do. We interviewed Fiona from Wild last month and there's always something quite surprising as well when brands do this and she had identified that they had a community of horse riders who loved their product. And as we know, Charlotte Tilbury, as they've done this, they unlocked a massive community of gamers. So yeah, I just think it's incredibly exciting to see those opportunities unravel. Was there anything surprising at Lululemon with that sort of segmenting their network? 

Lisa - I think this is one that goes for all brands, actually. A lot of the time I ask brands, you know, when they have the segment to their network, who are the different audiences that they're talking to that love their brand? And a lot of them share with me about their top spenders. And my advice is always to segment by engagement and not spend. How do they wanna engage with you, not how much money are they spending with your brand? Because most brands think that the customers that spend the most money are the ones that will advocate the most for them. And this is usually not the case, right? someone can spend hundreds and hundreds every week on products, but maybe they're not telling their friends and family about you. Maybe to them, it's not a big deal versus someone who, you know, in Lululemon's case, the leggings were $100, a hundred pounds for one pair of pants. So sometimes we'd have students that would come in and be saving for the month. And at the end of the month, they'd be able to purchase that one pair of Lululemon pants. And they would go and share that story with so many different people. And bring their friends back into the store about the great experience they had and how they've been invited to a free yoga class. And that's the true advocacy piece, right? Is making sure that person has the most incredible experience and then they will start advocating for you, for your brand on their behalf. So I would say that's the biggest thing that I think a lot of brands find surprising. Truly try to segment your network by engagement instead of spent. 

Verity - My two favorite brands, Ganni. I always talk about Ganni being one of my favorite brands. I can't afford everything. I can't afford Ganni basically on a day-to-day basis, but you know how much I talk about them and I engage with them on social media and look at every single email that comes through. And I'm the same with my other favorite brand at the moment, Damson Madder. Absolutely love everything they're doing. And I think with those two brands in particular, when you see someone else wearing a product, like we were, I can't remember where we were a few weeks ago, but there was a girl in the Damson Madder leopard print trousers and you recognize them straight away and you almost feel like you've got a connection with this person, even though you don't really know them, but they're wearing something that you're like, I love them, you look so cool. And you start to have this conversation and it's yeah, it's just really interesting how how it all plays out when the brand gets it right. 

Lisa - Yeah, love that. 

Verity - Okay, so number three. 

Lisa - So the third and final thing that I think Lululemon did really well was establishing this culture of feedback, both internally and externally. And the impact of creating a culture of feedback is really that people feel listened to, they feel heard, and you strengthen these relationships. So at Lululemon specifically, this started with the product. They were creating for the yoga community. They knew exactly who their audience was and they would be asking them constantly, what's working well, what's not working well, what can we change in the product? And this intentionally cascaded into their company culture. How did, like tactically, how did they create those feedback loops? So, you know, and this is where I talk to brands. They say, oh yeah, we've asked for feedback surveys. Great. You've got half, you're halfway there. Right. But What Lululemon would do is they actually would implement the feedback that the customers gave and that their community gave. And when you can actually have your audience see the changes that they vocalized, that is something special. Right. It's actually one thing to be listened to and heard. But when you can actually act on helpful feedback from customers, you're really starting to build that trust. So just small examples, right pants should come out in a different color. Oh, we think that this, this product should have a certain draw string here or there or an extra pocket. Um, and this feedback that, you know, the store teams would get daily was actually curated back into the product teams. And maybe it would take, of course, months to innovate something new for the product. But that light bulb moment when that guest comes back into the store and they say, Oh, I was wanting these pants in blue a few months ago, and here they are, is quite incredible. The store teams would go as far to write the feedback that the guests would say visually in the store on a blackboard, which seems a little dated now. But you would go into that store and truly feel a part of what they're creating, that co-creation. So, you know, again, that trust, co-creation, listening to your customers, key in building community.

Verity - Yeah, and it makes them feel so valued when that happens. And it's actually in the digital space that we're in now, it's so easy for brands to do. I mean, Instagram stories, for example, that's just one simple tool that they can use to capture some feedback and reshare it and sort of show to their audience that they're listening. But I love that about the store and how they would visualize that and use the store employees to create a feedback loop there as well.

Let's dive into the now. We are fully in the social commerce era and this era has dramatically shifted the way brands need to operate and in my opinion is forcing them to think and behave in the way that you've just described Lisa and you know a term and you know we keep talking about the old ways the new way. In your opinion what are some of the emerging trends or some of the best practices and in brand advocacy that brands should be aware of right now?

Lisa - Great question, Verity. So I've been delivering a talk on social commerce and advocacy trends in 2024 to a lot of fashion and beauty brands globally, which as an impact have created incredible robust conversations off the back of them. I can definitely share a few key tactics that we've seen really move the needle in this space. The first is how to amplify community. So we've just talked a bunch about community. Hopefully as a brand, if you're listening, you've been working on building community in the last number of years, but a few stats to share with you. 76% of consumers wish that their brand had a community and 77% of consumers say that they would use an online community to purchase product through directly. So they want to join and they want to buy. So if you're a brand listening to this right now and you don't have somewhere where your advocates and your fans can go to sign up to be a part of something, this should definitely be a red flag, right? Brands have been building community for years. It's nothing new, but 2024, this year, we are really seeing brands activating through their communities, strategizing them, engaging them, and essentially driving social commerce through them. Amazing. 

Verity - And I think What brands forget is that this now in this in this digital age, it leads to monetizing a community. I actually saw an Instagram post the other week and it was kind of like recapping an article from Vogue Business that actually went slightly viral, which was titled like Gen Z Broke the Marketing Funnel. And a few stats from that, there was 54% of Gen Z say that their favorite brands are the ones that make them feel like they are part of a community. And that's something that we've been talking about for a while, and a great quote from that article is also, in the old world, brands were the center of the consumer journey, today people are. And I think that's so lovely and really kind of encapsulates everything that you're saying today. 

Lisa - I love that. It's funny that because the second trend I was going to mention was really about relinquishing control of your brand. So you just mentioned brands were at the center and now it's people. And I think this is the biggest shift that a lot of brands have to start to make is, you know, everything is not going to be this picture perfect image of exactly how they want the brand to show up in the world because the people actually own the story of your brand. It's 10 times more powerful when others say something about you instead of you saying about saying it about yourself. It's much more authentic. And that's what we're seeing today as a brand, the more you can positively influence what others are saying about you, the better, of course, because then they're going to talk about you. You know, they're going to talk about you anyways. So why not engage with them, create experiences for them, educate them, and then they will do the talking. Yeah, I love this one. 

Verity - And I think a great example of this is Abercrombie and Fitch. And actually, we recorded an episode with Katie Adams from Abercrombie back in January at Social Commerce London. So it's a great episode to listen to because she talks exactly around how they have relinquished control of the brands given the narrative back to their audience. But yeah, we'll link that episode in the show notes so anyone can listen to it. 

Lisa - Such a great example, Verity. And then the third trend that we're really seeing right now in terms of social commerce in 2024 is this concept of the rise of your nano army. So what I'm allowed to share, working with the many brands that we do, is the average revenue driven by advocates with 1,000 to 10,000 followers is the same or more than people with upwards of 10,000 followers. Could that sink in, right? These people have their own communities that are so trusted. People know them or they feel like they know them. They know, you know, people can see through massive influencers right now when they're not being authentic or when, you know, they're being paid to, to promote your product. And of course there is a place for them in this, in this ecosystem. Absolutely. If it's working well for your brand, great. If the influencer is authentic, amazing. However, a lot of the times it's these people that are maybe don't have such a big following that you trust the most. I know for me, when I need to buy something and I want a recommendation, I ask my friends and my family first. Maybe I'll ask someone online that I've been following for a while and I know that they're knowledgeable in that space. But when you have this concept of the rise of the nano army, it really is these people with their own trust and network that are starting to amplify the message and monetize from that for the brand. Absolutely. A brand that's doing an amazing job of this is Lush. I was talking to them the other day about how they do everything through the lens of their brand values and how they show up in the world and even the power of their physical stores, how they have all of those values come through with the employees and what they're doing in the stores. 

Verity - Okay, great. I suppose when it comes to building brand advocacy, it's a longer term strategy, right? It doesn't just happen overnight. What are some of the challenges or obstacles that brands typically face when trying to drive brand advocacy? 

Lisa - Mm, this is a juicy one. I think there's two that I can think of right away. First is getting their whole organization behind the fact that customers are now seen through that typical influencer. They know they're being paid to promote products in a lot of cases that they don't even use themselves. So Reddit actually came out with a really powerful stat in 2023, 32 billion Google searches had Reddit added to their search behind it. Why? Yeah, because people want to hear from people. They want that trust. So that would be one big challenge. And then the second is probably not valuing their customers enough and asking for far too much from them. You want to treat your customers like gold. If you want to turn them into fans of your brands and eventually into advocates who will advocate for you, you have to treat them like they are the most important thing to you because they are. So you've got to serve them. I like to advise brands on the good old 80-20 rule when it comes to value. You want to give, give, give, and then ask for something in return. REFY is a great example of this. The proof is really in their success. They state that they create for their community and they're committed to listening and developing ways that they can serve their community better. And they do this. And it's a huge reason why they're so successful today. Abercrombie is a great example of this too. One of the biggest shifts is advocacy is now a key pillar of their business, of their operating principles. Through advocacy, they now do everything through the lens of their advocates. 

Verity - Yeah. Love those examples. I mean, REFY, absolutely, probably one of the hottest brands around right now, right? You know, again, we spoke to them on another podcast episode you know, the offline stuff that they're doing, these activations, it's purely for the community. And you genuinely see that through the work that they're doing. So consulting with all these brands, Lisa, who are the brands doing incredible things? Like, can you share a success story or a specific example of a brand that has effectively leveraged brand advocacy to drive business growth or achieve its goals?

Lisa - Yes, absolutely. I think what we're seeing right now is a lot of brands are catching on to UGC and seeing the success of having real people take real photos in their product and it driving sales more than these perfectly curated photos perfected photoshoot content. So they doubled down on this and they were being tagged from all of their advocates to now be featured on their website. And this now powers a full gallery on their site. They actually cut over half of their production budget because of this. So you can really start to see the impact trickling through the business. That's an incredible story. And you can see how that would work so well and how that can be so powerful using the power of UGC. 

Verity - Okay, Lisa, so everything we've talked about today, what can you share with brands who are listening now that are trying to cultivate brand advocacy? 

Lisa - So if you're a brand listening to this right now, you currently have brand advocacy or you don't. And brands that truly drive advocacy have put in the groundwork to do three things. One, they've established what their brand is known for beyond their product. So think back to those values. Make sure everyone who comes in contact with your brand knows what they are and knows how they are implementing them in the company and just scream about them from the rooftops. So Patagonia is a great example of this. Their out of home ads are rarely featuring product in the center of it. Instead, they choose to tell the world what their mission is and they In doing so, they attract the attention of like-minded people who understand the creation behind the product, and then they make a purchase. The second thing that brands have done who create advocacy is they have done the work to turn their customers into fans already and then fans into advocates. And these are two different steps. One is about the product experience. And this is where a lot of brands think their work is done. They've got the attention. They've got the experience a customer, someone's made a purchase, okay, great. But the ones who keep the relationship going, they provide experiences, they ask for feedback, they show that that customer matters, they give them value. Those are the ones that will reap the rewards. I was talking to Brompton Bikes the other day. They do an incredible job at driving community and creating advocacy, and they've created a system to have different rides and different ride leaders around the globe. So that after you've purchased one of their bikes, you're truly part of their community. And now you have access to a group of like-minded people and you can do different bike rides together. You can share different tips about the city that you're traveling in. They do a really great job at this. That's cool. And then thirdly, you know, you've got to build community. The brands that are driving brand advocacy have some kind of base community. It doesn't matter what if you're on a platform to drive this community, or if you have an incredible brick and motor community strategy, that can also be great, but you've got to meet your community where they are to learn as much as you can about them first. Then you can start thinking about creating more of an application-based program for them when the demand is there. Trini London is an incredible example of this as well. They use Facebook communities. They have over 60 set up a different, different cities that works really well for them, but that's not going to work for all brands. So you need to understand. Where your advocates are and where they want to hear about you and drive from there. 

Verity - Amazing Lisa, that has been so useful and love, love, love the tactics. Thank you so much. It has been a blast. If people wanted to get in touch with you, where's the best place? 

Lisa - For our North American listeners, I'm actually gonna be in New York. We are hosting the Social Commerce Summit there, May the 8th, and I will have a little bit of time in person to talk to brands before and after. So if you're North American based, and if you're anywhere else, just drop me a line on LinkedIn. I can absolutely take some of my time to connect with you. This is what I do. So I'd love to hear about what you're struggling with as a brand and how we can help. 

Verity - Great. We'll link Lisa's LinkedIn profile in the show notes. So yeah, thank you so much, Lisa. It's been a blast. 

Lisa - Thanks so much for having me.