This is an ad by a popular yoga outfit brand lululemon athletica and I want to present a semiotic analysis of this ad. There are different parts to semiotic analysis and first, we have to figure out the “signifiers,” which are “the material vehicle of meaning” in order to figure out what they “signify” or what they mean (Leiss, Kline, Jhally, and Botterill 164). Some “signifiers” that can be located in this ad are: the female model, Aarona Pichinson, performing a seemingly high-level yoga position in an organic setting, the spandex brand Lycra logo, a slogan that says “You either have it or you don’t” and two texts, “Aarona Pichinson lululemon Ambassador” and “When lululemon atheltica is powered by Lycra, it fits our body and your lifestyles too.” The next step is to analyze what these signifiers “signify”; in other words, what meanings to they try deliver to the ad viewers.

The text “Aarona Pichinson lululemon Ambassador” delivers a pretty straightforward information to the audience that a person named “Aarona Pichinson” is lululemon athletica’s ambassador or model. And after receiving this information, some viewers may throw a question such as ”Who is Aarona Pichinson?” It is because Aarona Pichinson is not a “well known” public figure as Brad Pitt or President Obama to most people. However, for those who practice yoga and retain some knowledge about yoga may recognize Aarona Pichinson as a popular yoga instructor. So, the ad, by choosing Aarona Pichinson and appointing her as the brand’s model narrows the brand’s targeted audience to the members of the yogi community. Therefore, to such narrowly targeted audiences, the model Aarona Pichinson can signify legitimacy and trustworthiness of the brand and the product. And Aarona Pichinson is just blankly standing there but is doing seemingly difficult yoga position in an organic setting. This can further add the legitimacy and trustworthiness to the product, the yoga outfit, by giving the audience an impression that with the help of yoga outfit that she is wearing, she is able to do some “crazy” and high-level yoga positions in a seemingly exotic, nontraditional (not in a typical yoga studio), and natural setting that looks like as if she is in India, the birthplace of Yoga. The purple Lycra Logo may represent high elasticity of lululemon atheltica’s yoga clothes because the clothing material is a high-quality spandex, “Lycra.” The slogan “You either have it or you don’t” is an interesting one because it reflects yoga philosophy—”you either can enact the posture and sustain or you don’t—which can be identified by the active yogis. The slogan, while embedding such philosophy, is urging the viewers to take an immediate action and purchase the product. Last but not least, the text “When lululemon athletica powered by Lycra, it fits our body and your lifestyle too” suggests that wearing lululemon athletica yoga clothes can not only help you with your yoga skills but will also imbue vitality to one’s lifestyle. Such establishment of product to real life connection may increase the consumers’ personal attachment to the product and the brand.

The signifiers and their “signifieds” or “meanings” explained above all hold similar purpose that they assign the brand lululemon athletica with strong sense of legitimacy, trust, consumer loyalty, effectiveness, and high functionality. And these qualities are fairly crucial for brands such as lululemon athletica since the brand’s products are largely sportswear and sport-related goods that require high performance and physical support. Moreover, having similar goals, these signifiers also promote societal norms and values in our society. For instance, presenting a single female model may suggest that Yoga is a sport that is practiced by more females than males, which may not necessarily true. And also Aarona Pichinson is telling her female audience that as women, they should desire such great flexibility. In addition, the ad also promotes individualism and nonconformity that is highly prevalent in our society today. Just like Aarona Pichinson who is performing yoga in “public” not really caring about others’ attention and thoughts, we, as audience, should follow such “carefree” and “liberating” attitude.  

As I mentioned above, the ad is narrowing down its audience to mainly active yoga practitioners and the yoga community. However, not only the ad is pitching to the yoga community, it is also approaching the female audience; because, most likely the female audience will be able to identify what “Lycra” is besides it being a brand name. Since Lycra is a kind of spandex material that is largely used to make women’s bras, the female population would know better and can relate to “Lycra” better than male audiences. Moreover, the ad may grab more attention from upper-middle class that reside in most cities. Sports like yoga or pilates are perceived as more of an city culture than rural or even suburban (Right below lululemon athletica’s logo, there is an information about the opening of the new location in Lincoln Center, NYC). So, city dwellers that are more likely to get exposed to yoga or pilates maybe the targeted audiences for lululemon athletica. Also, yoga, unlike running, is not a free sport that one needs to pay monthly or yearly fee for classes and needs to purchase a yoga mat and other necessary equipments. So, this sport and as well as the brand maybe more appealing to upper-middle class that are more likely to pay for yoga classes, yoga mats, and also the yoga outfits than the lower class.

An alternative interpretation of this ad is that the ad may possibly stereotyping Indians and yoga culture. Even though the ad viewers may not be able to identify the race and ethnicity of the model but to some viewers, like me, she can pass for being Indian or Asian. Having an Indian or Asian-looking model may increase the sense of authenticity of the brand as a yoga outfit brand since yoga originated from India; however, at the same time, the ad is stereotyping Indian and yoga culture by injecting thoughts in consumers such as, ‘Everyone in India should do yoga’ or ‘Yoga is distinctively Indian culture.’