Lululemon lets customers trade knock-off leggings for the real deal 

Athletic apparel brand's two-day event in Los Angeles was a long-term play for hearts and minds

Brands have always had to contend with cheaper knockoff products designed to lure price-conscious consumers, but in recent years the internet and TikTok have elevated the hunt for ‘dupes’ – or lookalike duplicate products – into an obsession.

Rather than fight this trend, Lululemon has leaned into it, organising a Dupe Swap event at its store in Los Angeles’ Century City Mall. The Align Legging Dupe Swap lasted two days (6-7 May 2023) and offered participants a compelling deal: bring in one pair of off-brand Lululemon lookalike leggings and swap them for a brand new pair of the brand’s coveted Align originals.

With the legit Align Leggings retailing for $98 versus the $20 cost of credible dupes, the event drew in crowds of fans keen to take advantage of the offer. On reaching the front of the long queues, fans were shown into a custom-built space designed to replicate the bedroom of Lululemon ambassador Naomie Yeo, star of the brand’s new campaign, Get Into It.

The Dupe Swap brought that call to action to life in a powerful way, giving fans a chance to experience a product they typically covet from afar.

Contagious Insight 

The trade-in trade off / There are plenty of reasons why brands should avoid getting consumers hooked on discounts, deals and freebies, but the Dupe Swap is a different play with longer-term goals than simply shifting units.

Lululemon reports that 50% of people who attended the Swap were new customers, while half were also under the age of 30. By making the brand accessible to a wider, younger audience, the brand is paying the way for future purchases. Although it’s less overt than the classic L’Oreal ‘worth it’ tagline, this activation is tacitly telling people the brand values them as much as they value the product.

It's also about showing rather than telling. This is an extreme form of product sampling, and one that explicitly reminds their target audience that dupes can never live up to the originals without being preachy about it. It’s a warm welcome into a brand that may still feel like a ‘maybe one day’ purchase, and it comes with the feel-good factor of feeling seen – and not judged.

Aligned with culture / This feels like a flex from a confident brand that understands its audience and its place in culture. Lululemon chief brand officer Nikki Neuburger is pragmatic about using the dupe phenomenon in a proactive way – as she told Fast Company: ‘Dupes are going to happen, so let’s not fight with it, let’s not arm-wrestle. Let’s have some fun with it, and actually really deeply understand our consumers and how they’ll actually have fun with it, too, by starting the conversation.’

That conversation has been now been picked up and widely shared, delivering news coverage and a social bump that exceeded Neuburger’s expectations and may now lead to further Dupe Swap events in other markets.

Consistency woven in / This idea for this activation was borne out of the brand’s new Get into it campaign. On one hand the tagline conveys the brand’s go-getting embrace of life, but on the other it’s simply a call to literally ‘get into’ Lululemon’s pricey yoga wear. The Dupe Swap puts that within reach for a wider community, but in a way that still rings true to the brand’s existing identity. As Neuburger says, ‘Every customer touchpoint, from an email to in-store to product names to any event we put on, people need to walk away and feel that these experiences are consistent with who we say we are.’ By staging the event in a recreation of brand amabassador Naomie Yeo’s bedroom, the brand is not only making it more memorable, it’s also weaving together elements of its identity in a way that’s consistent and coherent.

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