In Ep. 38 of Earned, Conor sits down with Angelic Vendette, VP of Marketing at Alo Yoga. The influencer-favorite athleisure label continues to expand its online community and inspire impactful conversation, driving $247M EMV between January and October of 2021—a 33% YoY surge—and ranking among the top 10 apparel brands.
To kick off the episode, Angelic walks us through her impressive career journey, from her time at Canadian luxury fashion retailer Holt Renfrew, to starting and selling her own digital marketing agency, to leading marketing teams at Sephora, Dolby, and Stitch Fix—where she served as the global head of social and influencer marketing—before landing her dream role at Alo Yoga. We learn what drew Angelic to the brand, and how Alo Yoga’s “highly entrepreneurial” and “purpose-driven” business philosophy spells success on- and offline. Next, we dive into Alo Yoga’s influencer marketing strategies and organic approach to relationship-building, which has inspired partnerships with A-list celebs like Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber. Angelic emphasizes the importance of prioritizing genuine, long-term relationships with people who love the brand, and believe in its mission, over transactional, one-off activations. We also hear how Alo Yoga unites its community by hosting nearly 90(!) events around the world each month, and discuss how investing in brand-building—without expecting immediate ROI—fuels sustainable growth.
The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.
How Alo Yoga’s Organic Approach to Relationship-Building Inspires Long-Term Partnerships
Angelic Vendette: Folks come to us and ask, “How do you have Kendall Jenner work with you? Why is she always wearing Alo? How are celebrities like Hailey Bieber or Maluma all wearing Alo?” And the truth of the matter is, a lot of it is organic. They love Alo as much as we love Alo. So if someone were to look at their budget and say, “how do I get there too?”, I would say it's not about the money you spend with influencers or celebrities or with PR—wherever that budget is allocated for that tier of talent or that tier of influence. It's actually about having that purpose and mission and ensuring that your community knows that purpose and mission.
Don't be fooled, a lot of our relationships are organic because there's just so much love. Kendall has said numerous times, “I've discovered Alo, I'm part of the Alo fam,” and we're like, of course you are. We really pride ourselves on those relationships. We're not throwing dollars at whoever comes our way. It's people that are part of the community, who are really big on mental health advocacy, or mindful movement, meditation, yoga, that come to us, and we build those relationships holistically as opposed to one-and-done deals.
Conor Begley: That’s really consistent with what we see work across brands. People really underestimate that organic component. How do you think about that interaction between organic and paid partnerships? Because you do have a group of people that are ambassadors to the brand, where there's some financial relationship there. So first, how do you decide who to work with? And then once you do decide, how do you think about that interaction between organic and paid?
Angelic Vendette: We're really big on community and ensuring that we create events for community members. We host something like 90 events a month, Conor, and that's worldwide—you might be in Israel or in Mexico or in France. That's a ton of events, but we truly believe that all of us have the power of influence. You don't have to have 12 million followers, or 32 million followers, or 2 million followers to be influential or to be considered valuable for a community. We have folks who, during the pandemic, were on Alo Moves and were like, how do I continue my practice when I can't go to studios? Or you have folks that are aspiring to be yoga teachers or are yoga teachers. So, looking at those relationships and understanding the value in each and every one of them is truly our approach.
So yes, we do have a large influencer marketing team, or partner marketing team, at Alo. Because again, it's not about someone's following, it's about yes, their influence, but also, are they aligned in their mission with us? They might want to host an event on our behalf, or they might want to join us at a retreat, or they might want to bring us to their clients, whether they're at the dog pound or whether it's Harley Pasternak treating his celebrity clients in Hollywood. How do we partner with those folks to ensure that they're wearing the most performance-based clothing to do their workouts, or that they have the most advanced equipment to do their practice?
So we partner with a variety of folks that are influential in their own regards, whether that's fitness, fashion, health, wellness, you name it. The relationships are not only, to your question, based on, how do you pay who, and then what does that look like, and how do you identify [partners]. It's how do you partner [with someone] in a way that's beneficial for them as well? It could be allowing them to have our equipment in their studios or stores, or allowing them to create yoga retreats with our knowledge and background and equipment, so it takes on a slew of different meanings and ways of showing up in the world as opposed to your traditional, pay-to-play transactional—I'm going to give you a fictitious example—here's a $500 check, post us on your feed that one time and never bring it back up.
You and I know as marketers within the space that that doesn't really work. You can go with it if you're looking for volume, and it can have spikes in sales, it can help for that. But if you're looking for long-term relationship-building or longevity, it's not your one-and-done transactions, it's relationship-building, and it could take multiple years. I would say to anyone listening, if you do want to win in the long term, take that long-term approach as well. It's okay if it takes three years to build out that relationship, because it will be so much more valuable.
“Becoming a household name doesn't happen by growth through acquisition—it happens by investing in the brand”: Angelic Vendette on the Importance of Brand-Building
Conor Begley: I think what's interesting about your community-based events is that they aren’t activities that are particularly easy to measure from a return on investment perspective. Like, how do you measure the value there, right? Okay, you sell a few pieces of clothing, but that's not why you're doing it. How do you balance that as a marketer in a world in which so many things are measurable, and those are the things that tend to get emphasis? When the reality is that often the things that you can't measure are the ones that are the most important. How do you balance those two types of activities?
Angelic Vendette: Yeah, it's interesting because it is a debate. There’s sometimes two types of marketers: marketers that only believe in growth data or pay-to-play—and they forget about building a brand. As you're building a brand, you go back to word of mouth, you go back to, “What are you wearing today?” “Oh my gosh, I'm wearing Alo!”. Or, “Hey, you're wearing Alo too, how did you get that color drop, it was so hard to get,” if [you meet someone] at a studio or whatever. Word of mouth and brand-building is so, so crucial, and a lot of new DTC brands these days, you know the ones that kind of pop up and fizzle out, they tend to forget that. They invest everything in hypergrowth. It's all about acquisition and retargeting, and they forget about building a brand.
I would say to those types of marketers that don't believe in both—and I'm a data-first marketer and I don't hide that—but as you're building a brand, there's ways to track what that looks like. It might be an uptick in UGC, it might be creating a brand health study, or brand lift study. What are inbound requests from some of these celebrities? Is the media picking us up organically? In our case, all of it is organic. And if you don't invest in the brand, if you don't invest in those relationships, if you don't invest in these community events or larger events like Alo House, or you don't invest in building a community—we have clean and green skincare and body care, so it goes beyond just apparel or yoga equipment that we have, we truly are a full holistic lifestyle brand—so if we don't invest in some of those beauty associates, you're never going to grow and scale. No one's going to recommend you organically. So the way that we break it out is, we track both sides, but we also understand the value in that brand lift and investing in brand.
And it's not always going to show return right away, but I guarantee, Conor, if you start building a brand health or brand lift study, over that course of the year, you will see that upward traction. Becoming a household name doesn't happen by growth through acquisition—it happens by investing in the brand. So it's longer term. It's back to our conversation of influencer, is it pay-to-play or do I invest in the two- or three-year relationship? It's the same thing with the consumer. I don't always want something back from my consumer. You don't have to convert right away, but come get informed, come learn, come take one of our Zoom classes where we walk you through holistic eating, or it might be a takeover with Rodney who's walking us through our doshas. Whatever it is, let us give back to you, too, and then you can understand if Alo Yoga is a brand for you.
Want to hear more? Listen to the full episode below, or watch the entire interview here. You can also tune into the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. To catch up on our other 37 episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Milk Makeup, Gymshark, Gucci, and Summer Fridays, visit our Earned Podcast page.